Some Episcopal bishops unsatisfied with 'lukewarm' New Orleans statement
By Hannah Elliott
Associated Baptist Press
September 28, 2007
NEW YORK (ABP) -- Leaders of the Episcopal Church in the United States
voted overwhelmingly Sept. 24 to continue working toward unity with
the worldwide Anglican Communion, despite years of infighting and
threats of schism over homosexuality and other issues.
Some conservative U.S. bishops have called the latest statement,
released during the Episcopal House of Bishops' semiannual meeting in
New Orleans, "lukewarm."
Martyn Minns, bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America,
told reporters on a Sept. 26 conference call that he was "saddened but
not surprised" by the tone of the statement. The convocation is the
new umbrella group for American Episcopal churches dissatisfied with
what they view as the denomination's liberal bent.
"It's disappointing," he said. "Frankly I would have preferred that
they would have pulled back and said, `We've gone too far,' and fallen
back in line with the rest of the church."
While appearing to hold out hope for finding middle ground in the
worldwide Anglican community, the House of Bishops nonetheless
rejected demands by leaders of the Anglican Communion that the church
limit any further advances by its pro-gay faction. The U.S. bishops
also called for an end to foreign Anglican prelates consecrating
conservative American priests to oversee congregations that want to
remove themselves from their regional bishops' supervision.
The New Orleans announcement comes after a communiqué sent last
February from a meeting of Anglican Communion leaders in Tanzania. The
communiqué had set a Sept. 30 deadline for Episcopalians to stop
further consecration of openly gay bishops in partnered relationships.
It also demanded that the church stop giving local dioceses and
congregations leeway in deciding whether to bless same-sex
relationships among members.
At stake is more than just the issue of sexuality, conservative
bishops say. According to Minns, the larger issue is submitting to the
authority of Scripture and the authority of fellow congregations.
"This is a much bigger issue [than homosexuality]," Minns said. "It's
about whether the word of God is still trustworthy and applicable in
While fast-growing Anglican bodies in many developing countries are
far more socially conservative, Episcopal and Anglican bodies in the
United States and other Western nations have generally been
Several groups supporting gay Episcopalians have expressed
appreciation that the decision wasn't more restrictive. And presiding
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in a Sept. 26 written response to
questions raised by worldwide Anglican Communion partners, said she is
convinced that the Episcopal Church needs the Anglican Communion, and
But she did not back down from her argument that gay bishops should be
allowed to participate in an upcoming conference of bishops and her
call for "unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights,
safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons."
"It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek
consensus in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and
outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil
rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every
turn any action or policy that does violence to them, encourages
violence toward them, or violates their dignity as children of God,"
she said. "We call all our partners in the Anglican Communion to
recommit to this effort."
American Episcopalians, part of the 77 million-member Anglican
Communion, have been most heatedly embroiled in the conflict since the
2003 consecration of Gene Robinson as bishop of the Diocese of New
Hampshire. Robinson is openly gay and has been in a relationship with
another man for more than a decade.
Another flare-up came last year, with the election of Schori as the
Episcopal Church's first female presiding bishop. She supports full
inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church.
Since Robinson's consecration, conservative Anglicans have requested
removal from the authority of bishops who support homosexuality,
asking instead to be put under the care of conservative bishops
elsewhere. Most recently, 11 congregations in Virginia voted to leave
their diocese for the authority of Archbishop Peter Akinola of the
Anglican Church of Nigeria. Dioceses in Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois
and California are also planning to align with Anglican churches abroad.
Minns said he would have preferred for the statement to provide some
"clarity" on the matter. Members of the church should declare what
they believe is true, "stand by that and pay the price, or back away
from it," he said.
"No one is asking for others to violate their conscience," Minns said.
"We're asking them to stand by what they believe."
The next major meeting for the Anglican Communion will be held next
summer in England. Called the Lambeth Conference, it is a
once-a-decade meeting for all Anglican bishops worldwide.