Schism in Anglicanism

A report in the Washington Post reports on the effective schism within the Anglican Communion, “For the first time, the global organizing body of Anglicans has punished the Episcopal Church, following years of heated debate with the American church over homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the role of women. The Anglican Communion’s announcement Thursday that it would suspend its U.S. branch for three years from key voting positions was seen as a blow to the Episcopal Church, which allows its clergy to perform same-sex marriages and this summer voted to include the rite in its church laws. It was also seen as a victory for conservative Anglicans, especially those in Africa,, who for years have been pressing the Anglican Communion to discipline the U.S. body”.

The piece notes that ““The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union,” the leaders of the Anglican Communion, which represents 44 national churches, said in a statement during a meeting in Canterbury. “The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.” Although it’s too early to predict what will happen three years from now, when the Episcopal Church could vote on its response to the suspension at its denomination-wide meeting, observers say it is unlikely that the U.S. church will reverse its position on same-sex marriage. This could prompt the Anglicans to continue the suspension or make it even harsher, not allowing the Episcopal Church to fill key positions on the global body”.

The report goes on to mention “The decision in England will have little impact on Episcopalians in the pews, who have grown increasingly liberal after the 2003 consecration of the openly gay priest Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire. That action prompted dozens of U.S. churches to break off and declare their allegiance to conservative rival groups. Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church’s newly-elected presiding bishop told the other primates –top bishops from each of the national churches — that the Anglican’s sanction would be received painfully by many in the U.S. denomination”.

The piece adds “In remarks he has made available to Episcopal News Service, Curry said the Episcopal Church has a “commitment to be an inclusive church.” “I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society,” Curry, the church’s first African American presiding bishop, told the primates. “And this conjures that up again, and brings pain.” The Anglican Communion is a global family of churches that historically descended from the missionary efforts of the Church of England. Unlike the Catholic Church, Anglicans do not have a hierarchical head in a pope, but it has a leader in Canterbury that gathers church leaders together. The constituent churches, which preside over a membership of about 85 million, are self-governing”.

By way of background it mentions that “Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby announced in September that he had summoned Anglican leaders to a special meeting, seen as an attempt to stop a larger Anglican schism. A spokeswoman for Welby said he will be holding a news conference Friday. Ahead of the meetings this week, some expected the primates on the more conservative end of the church to walk out of the meetings if the Episcopal Church was not sanctioned. Like other mainline denominations, the Episcopal Church, home to U.S. presidents and the nation’s elite, has struggled to fill its pews in recent years. It has lost more than 20 percent of its members since it consecrated Robinson, and new statistics suggest that membership continues to fall, dropping 2.7 percent from 2013 to about 1.8 million U.S. members in 2014″.

Unsupuringly the author notes “The Communion has been divided globally and in the United States for years over issues from gay rights to women’s ordination to how to read the Bible. The dispute has led to multimillion-dollar lawsuits over who has the right to church properties. Episcopalians and breakaway Anglicans in Falls Churchwere embattled over tens of millions of dollars in property, a court dispute which the Episcopal Church eventually won. The suspension stipulates that the Episcopal Church can no longer represent the Anglican Communion on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee or take part in decisionmaking “on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion.” The primates on the more conservative end of the church wanted the Episcopal Church’s full withdrawal from the Communion for three years, a period during which they would not be able to be present or vote at meetings, according to a spokesperson for Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church of North America, a breakaway group of conservative churches in the U.S. The group has not been formally recognized by the Anglican Communion”.

 

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