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Concerns over US Episcopal Church marriage changes

10 July 2015


Happy: the Revd Michael Briggs (left) and the Revd Ken Malcolm hug after the vote to facilitate religious weddings for same-sex couples, at the General Convention in Salt Lake City, on 1 July 

Happy: the Revd Michael Briggs (left) and the Revd Ken Malcolm hug after the vote to facilitate religious weddings for same-sex couples, at the ...

EIGHT Anglican Primates have said that they are "deeply grieved" by the decision of the Episcopal Church in the United States to remove references to "husband and wife" from its marriage canon.

The changes to the canon remove all gender-specific language from its definition of marriage, which it no longer defines as between a man and a woman. The changes are designed to make it possible for the Church to hold same-sex weddings.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the Global South group of provinces say that the Episcopal Church "has chosen by its own will and actions in clear knowledge to depart from the Anglican Communion’s standard teaching on human sexuality".

They say that the "unilateral decision" was taken "without giving the least consideration to the possible consequences on other provinces and the Anglican Communion as a whole. . . This resolution clearly contradicts the holy scriptures and God’s plan for creation."

The statement was signed by the chairman of the Global South group, the President-Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis; besides the Primates of the Indian Ocean, South East Asia, Myanmar, South America, Rwanda, Kenya, and Burundi; and the former Archbishop of South East Asia, Dr John Chew.

It follows a statement last month from Lambeth Palace which expressed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s "deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion" (News, 3 July).

The move was also criticised by 18 bishops within the Episcopal Church who have put their name to a "minority report". In it, they say that, by making the changes, the Episcopal Church "has made a significant change in the Church’s understanding of Christian marriage. As bishops of the Church, we must dissent from these actions."

The dissenting bishops commend the definition of marriage in the Prayer Book.

Despite their disagreement, however, the bishops say that they will remain with the Episcopal Church.


Canada to consider changes to its marriage canon. The Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada (ARC) has described proposals to change the marriage canon in Canada to permit same-sex marriages as "worrisome".

Responding to a consultation launched by the Synod before a debate at its triennial meeting next year, the ARC questioned Anglican synodical processes as a means of safeguarding the Church’s doctrine.

"Through ARCIC [Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission], Anglicans and Roman Catholics have agreed that bishops are responsible for assuring continuity of the apostolic faith. . . Where is that understanding of the episcopate evidenced in the Anglican synodical process as it addresses the possibility of changing the marriage canon?"

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith, and Order has urged the Anglican Church in Canada to resist the move, saying that "for one member Church to make a change of this magnitude . . . would cause great distress for the Communion as a whole."

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada, which allows its ministers to bless and preside at same-sex marriages, says that it will "respect the decisions of General Synod, no matter what they are".

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