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NOTTINGHAM: American churches shown door as gay row deepens

American churches shown door as gay row deepens

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

NOTTINGHAM (June 23, 2005)-- THE Anglican Church moved closer to schism yesterday when members of its central administrative council formally asked the Churches of Canada and the US to go.

Unconvinced by the justifications offered by both Churches on Tuesday for their actions in ordaining an openly homo- sexual bishop and authorising same-sex blessings, members of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham asked them to leave the council and its central finance and standing committees.

Although the motion invites the Churches to withdraw voluntarily, it amounts in effect to a punishing expulsion. The debate was held behind closed doors at Nottingham Univers-ity yesterday, and the motion was passed 30 to 28 by secret ballot, with four abstentions.

The Anglican Consultative Council is one of the four "instruments of unity" of the worldwide Anglican Church but it is the only one that has a legal constitution. Based in Britain, it is in effect the central administrative body of the Anglican Communion worldwide.

The primates of the Anglican Church, meeting in Dromantine, in Ireland, in February, had also asked the US and Canadian Churches to withdraw from this week's meeting in Nottingham. They did so in theory, and turned up as observers only. But with the additional representatives who also turn- ed up to make their presentations, it appeared to observers that one effect of the crisis had been to augment, not decrease, the North American presence in Anglican governing matters.

However, the US and Canad-ian delegates were excluded from the meeting yesterday afternoon, in keeping with their voluntary withdrawal.

The meeting also endorsed the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution which took a traditionalist line on human sexuality but also called for "listening" to the gay and lesbian community.

The expulsion is effective until Lambeth 2008, when bishops and archbishops are expected to call the North Americans to account.

If there were any doubt left about the serious nature of the rift, this week's meeting has made clear how far from agreement both sides appear to be, and the extent to which neither is willing to compromise.

The motion was put forward by leaders of the orthodox wing. The Dean of St Paul's, Dr John Moses, one of the Church of England's three representatives, called unsuccessfully for a two-thirds majority if it was to be passed.

The US Church, as made clear in its Tuesday presentation, has been developing its theology in favour of ordinations of homosexuals for 40 years and regards itself as a pioneer.

To the Africans, Asians and other fast-growing churches of the "Global South", the issue of homosexual rights represents not liberation but the threat of another enslavement, to decadent Western liberalism.


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