A FLURRY of responses and clarifications followed the passing of two resolutions on human sexuality at the General Convention, the triennial meeting of the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 17 July).
Resolution D025 recognises the present reality of gay and lesbian clergy in the Episcopal Church, and reaffirms that any baptised member can be called to any order of ministry. Resolution C065 calls for the development of theological resources for same-sex blessings, and allows bishops the local option of providing “a generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church”.
The Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, have written separate letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
On Resolution D025, they say that it “acknowledges certain realities of our common life. Nothing in the resolution goes beyond what has already been provided under our Constitution and Canons for many years.”
On Resolution C065, they say: “While the resolution honours the diversity of theological perspectives within the Episcopal Church, it does not authorise public liturgical rites for the blessing of same-gender unions.”
In her closing sermon to the Convention, Dr Jefferts Schori said that the gift of Anglicanism was “holding together in tension polarities that some are eager to resolve. . . The long view says that if we insist on resolving the tension we’ll miss a gift of the Spirit, for truth is always larger than one end of the polarity.”
Up to 34 bishops produced the Anaheim Statement, affirming their desire to remain part of the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church. They pledged themselves to honour the requests made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meetings, and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) to observe moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions, and the ordination of gay and lesbian people as bishops.
Their statement was followed by one from the Communion Partners, a group of more than 60 rectors who also want to remain constituent members of the greater Anglican Communion. They stated: “We do not concur with any action taken that would be interpreted by the larger Communion as divisive, dismissive of our larger Anglican Communion, or schismatic.”
The fiercest condemnation came from the Revd Philip Ashey, of the American Anglican Council (AAC). Mr Ashey, who in a letter to the Church Times declared the Presiding Bishop to have “affirmed the classic heresies of Pelagianism, Marcionism, pluralism, universalism, and Gnosticism” (Letters, 20 March), said: “A false gospel has overtaken and consumed the Episcopal Church.”
The AAC went on to demand the immediate release of the complete Ridley draft of the Anglican Covenant to all provinces and to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) for approval; called on the Church of England’s General Synod to recognise the ACNA, and for the listening process to be suspended until alternative funding was found.
The Archbishop of the ACNA, the Most Revd Robert Duncan, issued an open letter to the Anglican Communion on Wednesday, in which he effectively called on Anglicans to choose between the Episcopal Church and the ACNA.
He charged the Episcopal Church with having “blessed the values and behaviours of a redefined Christianity, enabling a revisionist anthropology, budgeting litigation rather than evangelism, and confusing received understandings of scriptural truth”.
Inclusive Church welcomed the clarity of the resolutions. “They accurately and honestly describe the current situation. . . It is our wish that such honesty prevail in all current dialogues within the Anglican Communion — for example, recognising that within the Church of England there are a great many gay and lesbian clergy, single or in committed relationships, and many churches offer blessings or thanksgivings for same-sex relationships,” the president, the Revd Giles Goddard, said in a statement.
It continued: “We equally acknowledge the costly lengths to which the Episcopal Church has gone over many years to encourage the unity of the Anglican Communion, and note that moratoria previously agreed regarding human sexuality have not been overturned.”
Forward in Faith, in the UK, expressed profound regret about the “House of Bishops’ decision” to “repudiate the moratorium”. It urged the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Instruments of Communion to enter into fullest co-operation with the ACNA.
The sexuality issues inevitably stole headlines from other decisions taken at the Convention, such as approval for full communion to be established between the Episcopal Church and the Moravian Church. The agreement would allow for shared congregations and the establishment of shared churches, and for clergy and laity to move freely between the two Churches.
The Convention also adopted a drastically reduced $141 million budget; but 0.7 per cent of the Church’s income is still to go to the Millennium Development Goals.