Last week, the Anglican Communion, the worldwide collection of national and regional churches that consider themselves Anglican or Episcopalian, suspended the U.S. Episcopal Church from full participation in the global body because of its decision to perform same-sex marriages. The suspension should have been the other way around. It is the Anglican Communion that deserves sanction. It, not the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, has departed from the faith and teachings of Jesus with its un-Christian treatment of gay men and women.
The Anglican Communion’s strike against the Episcopal Church has ramifications beyond intra-denominational discord. Under the sway of some conservative African and Asian bishops, ably assisted by weak-kneed Church of England primates, the Communion has thrown in its lot with some of the most anti-gay regimes in the world.
The Anglican Communion’s murmured criticism of “homophobic prejudice and violence” and “criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people” hardly rivals its condemnation of the U.S. Episcopal Church.
In March 2011, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a statement, supported by more than 80 countries, on gay rights called “Ending Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” In June that year, it passed a measure supporting equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation. Although not having the force of law, the international statement had the effect of identifying countries with laws criminalizing homosexuality or discriminating against gays as being governments that tread on human rights.
How many African Anglican bishops are in bed with those countries?
The decision to suspend the Episcopal Church is the culmination of a conservative-led campaign to punish it for its acceptance of gays and lesbians.
African bishops became positively apoplectic when V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, was elected bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese in 2003. The Church of Uganda went so far as to break communion with the Episcopal Church. The Anglican bishop of South Rwenzori Diocese in Uganda withdrew a request for funds from the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania to support an HIV/AIDS program after he learned that the Pennsylvania diocese had voted yes on Robinson’s election.
Michael B. Curry, the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, advised the Anglican Communion before the Jan. 14 vote that the U.S. church would not end its support for same-sex marriage. Curry told the Associated Press, “They basically understand we made our decision, and this is who we are, and we’re committed to being a house of prayer for all.”
The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, was equally strong in her stance.
In a statement to the diocese, she observed: “That there is a cost for making decisions that we believe are faithful to the love of Jesus is not a surprise to us. We have always known as Episcopalians that we might face consequences for declaring, unequivocally, that LGBT Christians are beloved members of the Body of Christ.
“Those consequences,” she declared, “are insignificant in comparison with the rejection, marginalization and violence LGBT Christians have been asked to endure, even in their churches.”
Besides, the Anglican Communion doesn’t believe in strict constructionism when it comes to its description of marriage as “a union between a man and a woman.”
The Communion’s conference in 1988 took on the issue of marriage as “God’s plan” and discovered that some brethren from the African continent had a rather elastic definition of “union.” Marriage, by their lights, could be the union between a man and several women — in shorthand, polygamy.
Anglican leaders, recognizing the rapid growth of African churches, bought the argument that requiring converts to Anglicanism to discard all but one wife would be a slap at African culture. So the Communion came up with this:
“A polygamist who . . . wishes to join the Anglican Church may be baptized and confirmed with his believing wives and children on the following conditions: That the polygamist shall promise not to marry again as long as any of his wives at the time of his conversion are alive” and “that such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer.”
Hypocrisy or what?
It is the Anglican Communion that should repent.
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