LONDON, Oct. 18 -- A special commission of the worldwide Anglican Church on Monday called on leaders of its U.S. affiliate, the Episcopal Church, to express regret for consecrating a gay bishop and proposed a moratorium on further ordination of gays and the blessing of same-sex unions.
In a compromise report designed to heal a rift that has threatened to tear apart the Anglican Communion of 77 million worshipers, the panel did not call for the resignation of the bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, or for formal sanctions against the U.S. church. It faulted opponents of Robinson's consecration for seeking to set up "a parallel jurisdiction" within the worldwide church.
Archbishop Robert Eames, head of an Anglican commission, holds the report criticizing the church's U.S. affiliate for consecrating a gay bishop.
(Dave Caulkin -- AP)
Within hours of the report's publication, Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, issued a statement saying, "We regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our Communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans."
But Griswold stopped short of saying Robinson's ordination was wrong. He said he is "obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry."
Citing Griswold's statement, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who opposes ordination of gays, said the report lacked the teeth to compel the American church to reverse itself. The commission's "terrible weakness," Duncan said in an interview, is that "it is more concerned about keeping the family together than it is about the truth of the Gospel. That is not going to fly very well among the orthodox who have stood against the innovations of the Episcopal Church."
The Irish Anglican leader, Archbishop Robin Eames, who headed the commission, pleaded for both gay rights supporters and traditionalists "to look for healing, not division, for pastoral reconciliation and not punishment." The report, he told reporters in the crypt of London's historic St. Paul's Cathedral, "does not offer any easy judgment on the situation . . . and it does not offer any easy solution either."
Robinson's consecration last November was the latest instance of growing division within the Anglican Communion, a network of 38 self-governing churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.
On one side are people who believe that the Bible explicitly condemns homosexuality; on the other are those who insist the church must be inclusive and recognize sexual differences among Christians.
Opposition to ordination of people who are openly gay is strong among some parishes in Western countries and among Anglican leaders in Africa, Asia and Latin America -- the growth centers of the church.
Robinson's consecration last fall triggered a declaration from some Third World churches of "broken communion" with the Episcopal Church. That led Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and the communion's spiritual leader, to set up the 17-member commission.
The report said the Episcopal Church had "caused deep offense to many faithful Anglican Christians both in its own church and in other parts of the Communion" and had flouted guidelines laid down by the communion's leadership in the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that rejected homosexuality as "incompatible with Scripture."
But it also condemned people who had ignored Williams's pleas for a period of calm by declaring "broken communion" and by arranging for outside clergy to minister to American churchgoers in traditionalist congregations without first consulting with local bishops.
While the report said it honored the autonomy of Anglican churches, it also suggested that the communion adopt a "covenant" that would be binding on all member churches. While a draft proposal for the covenant did not mention homosexuality, it urged that "no minister, especially a bishop . . . act without due regard to or jeopardize the unity of the Communion."
Williams said in a statement that the commission's unanimity "counts as a considerable achievement and a sign of hope."