Sanctions Against Episcopalians Carried Out

Jun 08, 2010 07:02 AM EDT

The Episcopal Church in the United States has been suspended from participating in ecumenical dialogues in which the Anglican Communion is formally engaged, according to an announcement Monday.

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said he sent the U.S. body letters informing them that "their membership of these dialogues has been discontinued."

Lamenting the decision, U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said the global body would be misrepresented with U.S. members pulled out of ecumenical dialogues.

"We have a variety of opinions on these issues of human sexuality across the communion," she said Tuesday, according to the Episcopal News Service. "For the archbishop of Canterbury to say to the Methodists or the Lutheran [World] Federation that we only have one position is inaccurate. We have a variety of understandings and no, we don't have consensus on hot button issues at the moment."

Just a week after Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams – spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion – proposed sanctions against The Episcopal Church for ordaining a partnered lesbian in Los Angeles, the disciplinary actions were carried out, likely to the surprise of many.

The Rt. Rev. David C. Anderson, president of the conservative American Anglican Council, did not expect any action to be taken, given Williams' track record of "danc[ing] around the issues."

"The best predictor of how a person will act is how they have acted in the past, and if the Archbishop of Canterbury intends either to punish the American Episcopal Church, or to clearly endorse their schismatic actions, everyone will be surprised," Anderson said last week.

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When The Episcopal Church ordained the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool last month, it formally recognized its second openly homosexual bishop – after V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who was consecrated in 2003.

Conservative Anglicans expressed frustration, especially since Anglican leaders in the global body had agreed to a moratorium on the consecration of bishops living in same-sex relationships a number of times since 2004. They had also affirmed moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions and cross-provincial interventions.

After years of trying to keep the communion together, Williams announced last month that any province that breaches the moratorium should not serve on ecumenical bodies. He also proposed that such provinces should be stripped of any decision-making powers on the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order – a body that examines issues of doctrine and authority.

According to Kearon, a member representing The Episcopal Church has been removed from her position on the standing commission and was downgraded to a consultant.

Kearon, who is in Canada this week for the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod, sent a letter to the Canadian primate asking whether the body has formally adopted a policy that breaches the moratorium on authorizing public rites of same-sex blessing.

A letter was also sent to the primate of the Southern Cone (in South America) for possible breach of the third moratorium on cross-border interventions in the U.S. The primate has been given the chance to clarify the current state of his interventions into other provinces.

Both heads of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have expressed their opposition to sanctions.

Jefferts Schori, who is in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the Canadian body's synod, called it "unfortunate" and said that "it misrepresents who the Anglican Communion is," as reported by the Episcopal News Service. Earlier, she also described disciplinary actions by the Archbishop of Canterbury as "colonial" and a "push toward centralized authority."

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, meanwhile, told the synod over the weekend that he has "some significant concerns about imposing discipline." The Canadian body has remained committed to the moratoria but a number of its provinces have already permitted the blessing of same-sex unions.

The Anglican Church of Canada continues to dialogue over the issue of homosexuality and is working toward forming a pastoral statement on human sexuality this week. Over 350 delegates are in Halifax for the General Synod, which concludes Friday.