Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 27, 2004
Anglican Communion teetering
Homosexual debate corrodes faith's solidarity
On the Other Hand
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Over the past two years or so, the issue of homosexuality has shaken the worldwide Anglican Communion at its foundations.
While the controversy has simmered for decades, it burst into full, rolling boil with recent unilateral actions by two North American Anglican provinces.
Here in Canada, in 2002, the British Columbia Diocese of New Westminster voted in favour of blessing same-sex unions, a pet project of local Bishop Michael Ingham.
However, the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back came last November when the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. (ECUSA) consecrated openly homosexual Eugene Robinson as U.S. Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire.
These developments were in spite and contempt of a determination from the once-a-decade international conference of Anglican bishops at Lambeth, England, in 1998, where by a vote of 526 in favour, 70 against, with 45 abstentions, a resolution passed rejecting homosexual practice as "incompatible with Scripture" and opposing the blessing or ordaining of "those involved in same-gender unions."
As a result, in June 2003, Peter Akinola, primate of Nigeria and leader of 18 million Anglicans, severed Communion with the Diocese of New Westminster. The Russian Orthodox Church has severed links with ECUSA.
The Oriental Orthodox churches have suspended talks with the Anglican Communion, and their Church leaders have denounced what they see as an attack on the institution of marriage and the teaching of the Bible about family life.
Within the Anglican Communion, the leaders of 22 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion, representing some 44 million Anglicans, have declared they reject the moves in New Hampshire and New Westminster as incompatible with the Gospel and with the Christian fellowship of which they are part, and that these developments tear the fabric of the communion at its deepest level, and a state of broken communion exists between ECUSA and some 12 to 18 provinces of the communion.
With a crisis unfolding that threatens a breakup of the communion, the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, last fall announced the establishment of the Lambeth Commission, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames, primate of All Ireland, to report to him by Sept. 30, 2004, on the legal and theological implications flowing from the decisions of the Episcopal Church (USA) to elect a priest in a committed same sex relationship as one of its bishops, and of the Diocese of New Westminster to authorize services for use in connection with same sex unions.
However, Eames has acknowledged that the Lambeth Commission was not asked to reconsider the teaching of Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998, and is not at liberty to do so.
"The question of ministry by or to persons of homosexual orientation is not a matter which can be debated beyond the position adopted there, because the primates made it clear in their statement of last October that Resolution 1.10 remains the formally voiced teaching of the Anglican Communion on this issue. It is part of the basis on which the commission must come to its conclusions, and is not open to renegotiation by the commission."
On Sept. 3, Anglican journalist David Virtue reported that the commission's report "is going to have teeth; it will be disastrous for the Anglican Communion's pansexualists; there will be some kind of 'formal suspension' of the Episcopal Church, following which there will be a radical restructuring of the Anglican Communion."
Virtue also reported that Queen Elizabeth II, who is the official head of the Church of England, "has apparently made it clear to Dr. Rowan Williams that she will not permit the break up of the Anglican Communion over the gay issue."
However, the queen's resolve may be a case of bolting the gate after the horse is gone. The Nigerian Church will shortly send a bishop to the U.S. and is already planting new evangelical Anglican churches on American shores.
A number of orthodox primates have already taken several Episcopal churches under their protection in response to the orthodoxy crisis.
The Washington Times reported that Thomas Logan Jr., rector of Calvary Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, has challenged the Diocese of Washington with a resolution rebuking same-sex blessings, declaring that "Holy Scripture does not support giving God's blessing to a sexual relationship outside marriage, be that relationship homosexual or heterosexual" and that "councils of the Episcopal Church have, and sometimes will, err."
The 40,000-member Washington Diocese has about 30 openly homosexual clergy and has announced plans to develop its own same-sex "marriage" rite.
Here in Canada, Ingham has shown no sign of backing down.
A breakup of the Anglican Communion may be unstoppable.