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Primates of Canada and US ‘distressed’ at plans for Anglican sanctions

09 June 2010

by Rebecca Paveley

THE Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States have both spoken of their “concerns” and “distress” at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s plans to impose sanctions on provinces that have breached the moratoria on gay bishops, same-sex unions, and cross-border interventions (News, 28 May).

Dr Williams announced the sanc­tions — which amount to excluding provinces from ecumenical dialogues and stripping them of some decision-making powers — in his Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion. He took the action in response to the consecration of an openly lesbian bishop, the Rt Revd Mary Glasspool, in the Episcopal Church in the US last month (News, 21 May).

As part of the follow-up to the Pentecost letter, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, announced on Monday that he has written to members of the Episcopal Church serving in the inter-Anglican ecu­menical dialogues, “informing them that their membership of these dia­logues has been discontinued”.

Canon Kearon has also written to the Canadian Primate to “ask whether its General Synod or House of Bishops has formally adopted policies that breach the second moratorium in the Windsor report, authorizing public rites of same-sex blessing”.

The Anglican Church of Canada is holding its General Synod this week, where a great deal of time has been spent in “discernment” sessions on human sexuality. A number of Canad­ian dioceses have already moved towards blessings of same-sex unions.

In his opening address, the Pri­mate, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, raised the question of the sanc­tions: “I have significant con­cerns about imposing discipline con­sistent with provisions in the Coven­ant before it is even adopted.”

He told his synod that “to date” the answer to Canon Kearon’s ques­tion about same-sex blessings was no.

He told his synod that “to date” the answer to Canon Kearon’s ques­tion about same-sex blessings was no.

The Presiding Bishop of the Epis­copal Church in the US, Dr Kath­arine Jefferts Schori, said on Tuesday at a press conference that she was “distressed at the apparent imposi­tion of sanctions on some parts of the Communion”. She described the intervention as “unfortunate”, and called for continued dialogue.

When Dr Jefferts Schori was asked whether Dr Williams had adequately addressed cross-border interventions, she said: “I don’t think he under­stands how difficult and how painful and destructive it’s been both in the Church in Canada and for us in the US . . . when bishops come from overseas and say, ‘Well, we’ll take care of you, you don’t have to pay atten­tion to your bishop.’

“Such actions destroy pastoral relationships,” she said. “It’s like an affair in a marriage. It destroys trust.”

Her response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter is critical of Dr Williams, and affirms the Episcopal Church’s support for gay clerics (Comment).

Her response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter is critical of Dr Williams, and affirms the Episcopal Church’s support for gay clerics (Comment).

Canon Kearon has also written to the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Revd Greg Venables, “asking him for clarification as to the current state of his interventions into other provinces”.

In a press conference, Canon Kearon said that the sanctions im­posed by the Archbishop were “pretty minimal”.

“There’s no doubt that the elec­tion and confirmation of Mary Glass­pool is a full, well-thought-out de­cision of the Episcopal Church, and we must respect that fact.” He said that its decision implies, however, that the Episcopal Church does not “share the faith and order of the vast majority of the Anglican Commun­ion . . . [and so] they shouldn’t rep­res­ent the Communion on faith-and-order questions”.

The campaigning group Inclusive Church issued an open letter to Dr Jefferts Schori on Wednesday, ex­pressing support for her “continued commitment to recognising, led by the Spirit, that God is calling and fitting gay and lesbian people to be ordained leaders of the Church”.

The letter expresses “regret” at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s pro­posals for sanctions. Addressing Dr Jefferts Schori directly, it says: “We ask you to have the courage, com­mitment and humility to ‘remain at the table’ not just until you are asked to leave but, indeed, until the table is removed from you.”

In its letter, Inclusive Church places the debate on gay leaders in the Church in the context of human rights and “a concern for God’s justice”. It asks the Presiding Bishop to “resist this process of excluding” provinces, describing the proposals as “misguided”.

“This process and the proposed Anglican Covenant are not building unity, they are turning disagreement into institutionalised disunity — even inventing mechanisms of ex­clusion to facilitate the process.”

Dr Jefferts Schori is at present in the UK. She will address the Scottish General Synod, and will preach and preside at the 11 a.m. eucharist at Southwark Cathedral on Sunday. The engagement was fixed in 2009 as one of a series of visits from Pri­mates from the Communion.

The Church of England Evan­gelical Council issued a state­ment on Tuesday, describing “such an invita­tion as provocative and discourteous to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a further attempt to promote an agenda which runs contrary to the historic Christian consensus on the relation of Chris­tian doctrine to Christian behav­iour.”

Read full text of the Presiding Bishop's letter here:

Read full text of the Presiding Bishop's letter here:

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