clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Panel says Episcopals have met directive on gay unions, bishops

WASHINGTON — In a victory for the Episcopal Church in its effort to remain in the Anglican Communion, a high-ranking Anglican advisory committee said Wednesday that Episcopal bishops had complied with a directive by Anglican leaders on same-sex unions and gay bishops.

The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the 77-million member Anglican Communion, which has been torn by disputes over the church's liberal stance on homosexuality.

Earlier this year, the communion's regional leaders, or primates, issued a directive to the Episcopal Church to curtail the consecration of partnered gay and lesbian bishops and the authorizing of rites of blessing for same-sex unions.

Last week in New Orleans, Episcopal bishops pledged not to authorize rites of blessing for same-sex unions and to exercise restraint in the consecration of partnered gays as bishops. Conservatives in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion contended at the time that the bishops had merely restated past positions and fallen short of complying with the directive.

But in its report on the bishops' action, the committee, the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion, said, "We believe the Episcopal Church has clarified all outstanding questions."

And, the report concluded, the church has "given the necessary assurances sought of them."

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, said she was gratified by the committee's conclusions.

"The Joint Standing Committee report has recognized the hard work of the House of Bishops," Presiding Bishop Schori said in a statement, "and that our responses reflect our repeatedly expressed desire to remain in full communion with the rest of the Anglican Communion."

But a conservative member of the committee immediately took issue with the report, saying his input was not included.

"The response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church represents a superficial shift from their previous position," the committee member, the Most Rev. Mouneer Hanna Anis, primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, wrote in an e-mail statement. "Therefore I strongly disagree with the report."

Committee members traveled to New Orleans with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the communion's spiritual leader, to talk to the Episcopal bishops about the tensions in the communion.

The Joint Committee submitted its report to Williams, and he has sent it to all the primates and members of the Anglican Consultative Council, a representative body of bishops, priests and lay people. They are to respond to the archbishop by the end of the month.

"This is one voice, and other voices need to come in and say whether the Episcopal Church has indeed satisfied" the primates' demands," said Canon James M. Rosenthal, spokesman for Anglican Communion Office.

The committee carries considerable weight, church experts said. It has representatives from the communion's two representative bodies, the primates' group and the Anglican Consultative Council, and it has been asked by the archbishop to find ways to hold the communion together.

"Its opinion is not decisive, but it is significant," said Joseph H. Britton, dean of the Berkeley Divinity School, an Episcopal seminary that is part of Yale Divinity School.

The committee report criticized efforts by conservative primates to ordain their own bishops in the United States to serve the minority of Episcopalians who seek to leave the Episcopal Church but want to remain in the communion.

"The time is right for a determined effort to bring interventions to an end," the committee said in the report.

Last Friday, bishops from 13 Anglican and Episcopal groups in North America announced that they had formed a partnership as the first step to creating a rival to the Episcopal Church.