Anglican Communion leaders, the global organizing body of Anglicans, are punishing the Episcopal Church by revoking certain privileges for at least three years, following years of heated debates with the American church about homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the role of women, per a Thursday announcement.
Anglican Primates, the senior bishops of the 38 Anglican Provinces, were joined by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America for a meeting this week in Canterbury. The Primates voted to take definite steps about this matter.
Anglican Communion representatives stated they are suspending the group's U.S. branch for three years from key voting positions, a step seen as a blow to the Episcopal Church, which allows its clergy to perform same-sex marriages and this summer voted to include the right in its church laws, reports The Washington Post.
The suspension specifically stipulates the Episcopal Church can no longer represent the Anglican Communion on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee or take part in overall decision-making.
The suspension is being viewed as a victory for conservative Anglicans, especially those in Africa, who for years have asked the Anglican Communion to discipline the U.S. body.
"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 the meeting in Canterbury. "The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."
Here is the exact justification and language adopted by the Primates : "It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or policy."
The Primates asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a task group to maintain conversation among themselves with the "intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognizing the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ."
They stated they developed this process so that it can also be applied when "any unilateral decisions on matters of doctrine and policy are taken that threaten our unity."
The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. "This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ."
The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.
When the Episcopal Church votes on its response to the suspension at its denomination-wide meeting, observers assume it is unlikely the U.S. church congregants will reverse their position on same-sex marriage, reports The Washington Post. 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 Communion has been divided internationally, and in the United States, for years regarding gay rights, women's ordination, and how to read the Bible.