Anglican Leaders Warn U.S. Church on Gay Unions, Bishops

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anglican leaders concluded their five-day meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, yesterday by issuing a demand that the U.S. Episcopal Church unequivocally stop blessing same-sex unions and consecrating any more gay bishops.

In a statement issued in the final hour of the tense meeting, the Anglican Communion gave the U.S. church until Sept. 30 to comply. Otherwise, the leaders said, its relations with other Anglicans will remain "damaged at best."

"This has consequences for the full participation of the church in the life of the communion," the top bishops of the faith's 38 national churches said in their statement.

Although the Episcopal Church remains part of the Anglican family, the Right Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Fairfax's Truro Church, warned, "It's not business as usual."

"Either they are part of mainstream Anglicanism or they are not," said Minns, whose church broke away from the U.S. church in December to align itself with the more conservative Anglican Church in Nigeria.

The Episcopalian General Convention, the church's governing body, responded yesterday by calling on U.S. church leaders to "exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration" of candidates for bishop "whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church."

The statement by Anglican leaders said that past pledges by Episcopalians on gay unions and consecrations have been so ambiguous that they have not fully mended "broken relationships" in the Anglican Communion. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the statement offered "an interim solution that certainly falls very short of resolving all the disputes."

The long-simmering debate erupted in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Anglican traditionalists believe that gay relationships violate Scripture, and they have demanded that the U.S. church adhere to that teaching or face discipline. Some churches in the Communion broke ties with the Episcopal Church or declared their relationships impaired over Robinson's consecration.

Supporters of ordaining gays believe biblical teachings on justice and inclusion should take precedence. They have accused theological conservatives of demanding a conformity of belief among Anglicans that never before existed.

Relations are so strained between the two sides that seven archbishops refused in Tanzania to take communion with Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports gay rights in the church.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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