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Baton passes to ACC over US Episcopalians’ status

04 March 2016

Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The Episcopal Church delegation to the ACC in 2012: Dr Ian Douglas (third from left) and the Revd Gay Clark Jennings (fourth from left)

The Episcopal Church delegation to the ACC in 2012: Dr Ian Douglas (third from left) and the Revd Gay Clark Jennings (fourth from left)

AS THE Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) prepares to meet in Zambia next month, the Primates’ inability to enforce their “consequences” for the Episcopal Church in the United States has been noted by leaders on opposing sides of the debate in the Communion.

In their January communiqué, the Primates required that, for three years, the Episcopal Church, “while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion . . . , will not take part in decision-making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”.

The chairman of the ACC, the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, said this month that the Primates did not have the “power to take the next step”. It was the “right and responsibility” of delegates of the Episcopal Church in the US to vote at the ACC meeting.

He was speaking to the Dean of the School of Theology of the University of the South, in a public conversation recorded by an internet news service in the US, Anglican Ink.

All three representatives of the Episcopal Church have confirmed that they will attend and vote at the meeting in Lusaka, from 8 to 19 April.

The Primates had “spiritual and pastoral significance, and not constitutional authority”, the Bishop of Connecticut, Dr Ian Douglas, said this week. Both the President of the House of Deputies, the Revd Gay Clark Jennings, and the lay representative, Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, also confirmed their intention to participate fully.

"I am looking forward to renewing relationships with ACC colleagues I know from our time together in Auckland in 2012, to the opportunity to pray, worship, and study the Bible together, and to continuing our work on gender-based violence, climate change, education and the other pressing issues facing Anglicans around the globe," said Mrs Jennings on Tuesday.

The Archbishop of Uganda, the Rt Revd Stanley Ntagali, said last week that he would not attend the meeting.

“The Primates voted to bring discipline to the Episcopal Church, and yet we now see that the leadership of the Anglican Communion does not have the will to follow through,” he said in a Lent letter published online. “This is another deep betrayal.”

He condemned “a spirit of defiance against biblical faith and order”, which had “infected the structures and leadership of the Anglican Communion”.

Last Friday, the President-Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem & the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis, and the Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa, Dr Grant LeMarquand, issued a reminder to the Episcopal Church that the diocese of Egypt with North of Africa and the Horn of Africa did not accept money from it. This was “one expression” of the “impaired relationship”. The statement ended with words from a priest in Ethiopia: “We [would] rather starve and not receive money from Churches whose actions contradict the scriptures.”

On Wednesday, Dr LeMarquand explained that this policy had been in place since 2003, and applied to all provinces, dioceses, or parishes that “ordain anyone who could be described as a ‘practising homosexual’ or that have approved of blessing same-sex unions or marrying homosexual couples”. It had been necessary to clarify this, he said, because it appeared that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Rt Revd Michael Curry, was unaware of it.

Bishop Curry recently issued a Lenten appeal asking churches to remember the Good Friday offering for Jerusalem and the Middle East as an “important statement of our solidarity with the members of the four dioceses of the province of Jerusalem and the Middle East”.

It would be “difficult to find anyone” in the diocese who disagreed with the sentiment expressed in the statement, he said. The quotation from the Ethiopian priest was “an affirmation that there are some things — obedience to God being primary — which are more important than life itself. This is the same kind of affirmation found in the long history of martyrdom in our context. Death is preferable to turning away from the God who made us, and who saved us in Jesus.”

A spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church said on Tuesday that its congregations “have been generous in support of this Good Friday offering since 1922”.

Divided On Sunday, the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada issued a statement warning that a motion to change the Church's Marriage Canon to allow for same-sex marriage was "not likely" to pass in the Order of Bishops.

The motion, due to be presented to the General Synod of the Church on Thursday, must pass by a two-thirds majority in each order. The forewarning, issued to the Council of the General Synod, said that some Bishops were "mortified and devastated by this realisation".

"We have been conscious that the presence of this motion has brought distress to some, and we acknowledge the deep pain that our statement will cause both within and beyond the Church," they wrote. "And we are all saddened that we do not seem capable of unity on this issue."

The statement said that the Bishops "continue to wonder whether a legislative procedure is the most helpful way of dealing with these matters".


‘Terrible damage’

THE impact of the consecration of Gene Robinson, and the blessings of same-sex unions in Canada and the United States has been enormous, writes Grant LeMarquand.

In Muslim-majority countries in our diocese, Bishop Mouneer was immediately faced with a situation in which Muslims condemned Anglicanism and Christianity, as a whole, on the basis of the actions of the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada. Relationships between the Anglican and the Muslim community became very strained. Bishop Mouneer spent countless hours mending those relationships.

Similarly, the Orthodox Churches (Coptic in Egypt and Ethiopia, Orthodox in Ethiopia) found the American actions incomprehensible, and assumed that Anglicans everywhere agreed, especially since, it seemed, that the Communion as a whole did nothing to discipline the US and Canada.

Relationships with Protestant Churches have likewise been difficult. For example, recently, in one town in Ethiopia where a new Anglican church was being planted, members of another denomination went door to door telling people not to join our church because “They will make you into homosexuals.”

Before my time, the former bishop had a large group of Amharic speakers in the church in Addis Ababa who were on the verge of being confirmed. When Gene Robinson was elected and then consecrated, they left en masse. In short, ecumenical and evangelistic efforts have been damaged terribly by these actions.

I must add that no one in our Church has starved to death because of the Episcopal Church’s actions. In fact, our partnerships around the world have strengthened as a result of our stand.

Dr Grant LeMarquand is the Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa.

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