Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anglican World Raises The "Bar"

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, with Donald Mtetemela, the Archbishop of Tanzania. Image Credit: Emmanuel Kwitema/Reuters

Anglican World Raises The "Bar" - With Post Meeting Reaction UPDATE

Last year, several Episcopal churches in the United States applied for, and got a reporting process that gave them the ability to not have to recognize the leadership of the newly elected U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports gay relationships and openly gay priests in leadership positions.

Anglican traditionalists believe gay relationships violate Scripture and they have demanded that the U.S. church adhere to that teaching or face discipline.

Yesterday, at a world gathering of Anglican leaders in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa, decided the U.S. Episcopal church must bar gay bishops and prayers for gay couples looking for a formal recognition of their life union (wedding).

Standards, well, are standards!

Veiled rebuke … the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, arrives on Zanzibar with the Archbishop of Tanzania, Donald Mtetemela. Image Credit: Reuters/Emmanauel Kwiitema

Excerpts from The Guardian (UK) -

No schism for now: Williams gets tough on liberals to save the church
· Episcopalians ordered to give up on gay blessings
· Anglicans must wait on decision of US bishops
Stephen Bates - The Guardian - in Dar es Salaam - Tuesday February 20, 2007

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, kept the worldwide Anglican communion together, at least in the short term, but at the cost of imposing unprecedented sanctions on the US Episcopal church to force it to abandon its liberal policies towards gay people.

A communique issued late last night after a fraught five-day meeting in Tanzania of the primates - archbishops and presiding bishops of Anglicanism's 38 provinces - laid new ground rules for the US church and gave it until September 30 to comply. The plan allows, effectively, for the setting up of a church within a church in the US with the appointment of a senior cleric to oversee dioceses which feel unable to accept the Episcopal church's liberal leadership.

The church's bishops will also have to give an unequivocal undertaking not to authorise any rites of blessing for same-sex couples and to confirm that no more gay bishops, living in same-sex relationships, would be confirmed in office. The crisis in the Anglican communion was sparked by the Episcopal church's election, in 2003, of Gene Robinson, a gay bishop.

The communique said: "If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between the Episcopal church and the Anglican communion as a whole remains damaged at best and this has consequences for the full participation of the church in the life of the communion." The primates have accepted the right of the leaders of other provinces to trespass on the US to minister to conservative parishes. This has particularly applied to Archbishop Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria, who consecrated Martyn Minns, a conservative evangelical vicar in Virginia, as a Nigerian bishop to oversee parishes that wish to opt out of the Episcopal church.

Bishop of Western Tanganyika Gerard Mpango walks past a choir during the Solemn Eucharist, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007 at the Anglican cathedral in Zanzibar. Leaders of the world's 77 million Anglicans, in Tanzania for a closed, six-day conference, traveled by boat from the mainland for a Solemn Eucharist in the only Anglican cathedral on this predominantly Muslim archipelago on the Indian Ocean. Image Credit: AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo

Archbishop Williams, looking discomfited, admitted that the cost of getting Archbishop Akinola to join the other primates in signing the unanimous communique was allowing him to continue to trespass on Episcopal church territory, at least for the present.

Dr Williams, who nominally heads the 78-million strong Anglican communion, also admitted that he did not know what would happen if the US bishops only voted narrowly in favour of the demands, or how the idea of a primatial vicar overseeing US dioceses would work. "It's an experiment," he said. "Pray for it."
The move will dismay many within the Episcopal church who had hoped that they had done enough at their convention last June to comply with the demands of the Anglican communion that they should row back on their support for gay people. Many have seen the battle since Bishop Robinson's election as the latest episode in a long-running war for control of the US church between liberals and conservatives. The Episcopal church has 2 million members but it is long-established.
Seven of the 35 archbishops and presiding bishops attending the meeting have refused to share communion with the US presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori during the gathering, although that number was half those who refused communion with her predecessor, Frank Griswold, at their meeting two years ago.

The conservative forces were in some consternation last week when a report, drawn up by a working party headed by Dr Williams, gave a much more favourable assessment of the Episcopal church's position than had been anticipated. That report suggested that the US church had largely fulfilled the demands of the rest of the communion.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori responded cautiously to the demands, saying there had been "a positive sense of collegiality" at the meeting.
Main players in the clerical controversy

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury since 2002 Former theology professor who has attempted to keep the communion from splitting over the gay issue

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria The leader of probably the largest Anglican national church has made opposition to gays a crusade and led developing world primates on the issue.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church First woman ever to lead a major Christian denomination. A scientist, elected at last year's convention. Known to be in favour of blessing faithful same-sex unions

Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire The first openly gay bishop (there are plenty of privately gay ones), elected in 2003 despite living in a faithful, same-sex relationship.

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In a move that appears to have a quid-pro-quo element to it given the timing and prestige it holds, Bishop Schori was elevated to represent the Americas on one of the Church's most influential executive bodies. Bishop Schori, 53, was elected to the Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting, the executive body that guides the work of the primates.

Additional post meeting Episcopal reactions cited by The Los Angeles Times -

Episcopalians react to new directive
By Rebecca Trounson, and Louis Sahagun, Times Staff Writers (contribution - K. Connie Kang) - 7:39 PM PST, February 20, 2007

With pain, joy, anger and in some cases, relief, Episcopalians across the United States reacted Tuesday to a stern directive from Anglican leaders that the American wing of the church refrain from sanctioning blessings for same-sex unions and take other steps to heal tensions that may yet splinter the global Anglican Communion.
The three dozen Anglican leaders, or primates, also set up a special council and vicar to oversee, at least temporarily, conservative American dioceses that have rebelled against the Episcopal Church's relatively liberal views on homosexuality and Scriptural teachings.

Many conservatives said they were happy that the primates had given the divided U.S. branch of the church an ultimatum; many liberals expressed sadness. And others wondered if the demands made this week would push the historic Anglican Church, founded by King Henry VIII of England after he broke with Catholicism, toward a schism -- or help save it from such a fate.

"No one should underestimate the depth of the divisions," said John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington D.C. "Looking at the subtext here, you can see the threat, if a resolution isn't found. But at the same time, there appears to be a real effort not to have that happen."

Conflict between liberal and orthodox church members in the United States and abroad reached crisis in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated its first gay bishop. The tensions with conservatives grew last year when the American church elected a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, as presiding bishop.
In calm, measured language, Jefferts Schori noted that the Tanzania meeting's final communique had made requests not just of the U.S. church, but of conservative bishops outside the United States, who have taken dissenting Episcopal parishes and dioceses under their auspices. They were asked to refrain from that practice.

"Each party in this conflict is asked to consider the good faith of the other, to consider that the weakness or sensitivity of the other is of significant import, and therefore to fast ... for a season," Jefferts Schori wrote.

Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, center, arrives in a golf cart as he prepares to deliver a draft covenant to journalist at the Anglican conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Image Credit: AP

Not all seemed inclined to obey the request to pause. At Pasadena, Calif.'s All Saints Episcopal Church, an influential, liberal congregation, the Rev. Ed Bacon said that his church planned to continue its practice of blessing same-sex unions.

"We have many people very concerned about whether All Saints will be intimidated by this, but we will continue pour its ministry with pastoral care, compassion and justice," Bacon said.

On the other side, the Rev. Praveen Bunyan, whose St. James Church of Newport Beach, Calif., broke away from the U.S. church in 2004 to join an Anglican province in Uganda, said he was encouraged to see the primates "give the Episcopal Church one last chance to turn around."

"These are heavy, serious times, and we are not jumping up and down screaming, 'Hoorah for our side!' " said Bunyan, who was reached by telephone in Uganda. "The primates are consistent with the authority and clear teachings given to us in Scripture. If there is no consistency in Scripture, then there is no consistency with God."
"This isn't fundamentally about sexuality or the place of gays and lesbians in the church," said the Rev. Ian T. Douglas, a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. "It's more about questions of identity and authority in a church that has moved from a monocultural Anglo-American alliance of the North Atlantic to a radically multicultural family of churches," with the balance of the church's membership and power shifting to Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

The recent meeting, he said, laid bare the deep divisions in Anglicanism between those who place power and authority in the hands of its bishops and those who prefer a more democratic, consultative church.
Bill Countryman, a professor of the New Testament at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., expressed concern about what he said was Williams' low-key response to more conservative primates, men Countryman described as "bullies."

"Rowan hasn't done much of anything, and no one can figure out why," said Countryman, who is openly gay.

The Rev. Van McCalister, a spokesman for the Fresno, Calif.-based conservative San Joaquin Diocese, which is trying to move away from the Episcopal Church, expressed similar concerns. "Both sides are asking, 'Where is Rowan Williams in all this?' " he said
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