Episcopal Church Bishops Ignore the Archbishop of Canterbury's Rebuke
By Michael Heidt in Salt Lake City
VOL Special Correspondent
July 1, 2015
In a statement from Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, expressed "deep concern" over the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops' decision to change their denomination's marriage canons, removing language that says marriage is between a man and a woman. According to representatives of the Episcopal Church, Welby's statement has been ignored in public discussion by the House of Bishops.
The Episcopal Church's House of Bishops passed two gay marriage resolutions on June 29, A054, which allows for trial same-sex liturgies, and A036, that strikes out gender-specific language from the church's marriage canons. Both resolutions have been sent to the House of Deputies for approval.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, responded swiftly, issuing a statement on June 30, rebuking the Episcopal Church's bishops.
According to a statement from Lambeth Palace, Welby "expressed deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion following the US Episcopal Church's House of Bishops' resolution to change the definition of marriage in the canons so that any reference to marriage as between a man and a woman is removed."
While acknowledging that the Episcopal Church has the "prerogative" to make decisions that address "issues appropriate to its own context," Welby said that the denomination's "decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships."
However, Welby's admonishment appears to have fallen on deaf ears. When George Conger of the Church of England Newspaper asked if the House of Bishops had discussed the consequences of the Archbishop's statement, two representatives of the House said that this had not been discussed or debated, except privately.
In answer to Conger's question, the Bishop of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, Pierre Whalon, stated, "There has been no discussion." The Bishop of Massachusetts, Douglas Fisher, agreed with Whalon, while admitting that there had been "private conversations."
Whalon went further, saying that there were no "consequences" in the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement, and that the canonical changes authorized by the House of Bishops do not "change anything."
"We did not see any consequences," said Whalon, "With all due respect to Archbishop Welby, the House of Deputies has not done anything." The bishop continued, "The Prayer Book is still the same, the change of the canon doesn't change anything."
Despite Whalon's claims, the consequences of the Episcopal Church's continued endorsement of gay marriage are all too real, and have caused considerable stress to the Anglican Communion. Two thirds of the Church's 77 million members, represented by the Primates of the Global South, believe that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.
These traditionalist primates refused to attend the Anglican Communion's last Lambeth Conference, in 2008, because bishops from the Episcopal Church were invited to attend. As a result of their threat to boycott future events, the Archbishop of Canterbury has not announced plans to hold the next scheduled Lambeth Conference in 2018, deferring the decision to his primates.
With the Episcopal Church's decision to further champion a radical gay rights agenda that is at odds with the belief of the majority of the Anglican Communion, the de facto schism that exists within the worldwide church looks set to continue and perhaps intensify.
If public discussion in the House of Bishops of the 78th Convention of the Episcopal Church is anything to go by, the consecrated leaders of North American denomination don't care.
Michael Heidt is Editor of Forward in Faith magazine and a priest in the Diocese of Fort Worth
The full text of the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement appears below.
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Statement
Lambeth Palace Press Office
A statement released by Lambeth Palace on 30 June 2015
The Archbishop of Canterbury today expressed deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion following the US Episcopal Church's House of Bishops' resolution to change the definition of marriage in the canons so that any reference to marriage as between a man and a woman is removed.
While recognising the prerogative of The Episcopal Church to address issues appropriate to its own context, Archbishop Justin Welby said that its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.
At a time of such suffering around the world, he stated that this was a moment for the church to be looking outwards. We continue to mourn with all those who are grieving loved ones and caring for the injured from the terrorist attacks in Sousse, Kuwait and Lyons, and from the racist attacks in Charleston.
He urges prayer for the life of the Anglican Communion; for a space for the strengthening of the interdependent relationships between provinces, so that in the face of diversity and disagreement, Anglicans may be a force for peace and seek to respond to the Lord Jesus' prayer that "they may be one so that the world may believe" (John 17: 21).
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