Rifts Continue Within the ECUSA

The Episcopalian head, Frank Griswold, sparked yet another controversy by saying a “broad and inclusive communion” is the will of God
( [email protected] ) Sep 13, 2004 08:31 PM EDT

While the international Anglican Communion awaits the release of the Lambeth Commission’s report on homosexuality and the church next week, the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) is undergoing additional internal conflicts over the same issue this week.

The ECUSA has been at the root of the debate set forth by the Lambeth Commission last year. Upon the election of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in the New Hampshire diocese, a worldwide schism has unfolded between those who hold onto “progressive liberalism” and those who hold onto biblical orthodoxy. Within one year since Robinson’s election, more than two-thirds of the world’s 77 million Anglicans severed fellowship with the ECUSA, calling the American branch of the Communion to immediate repentance.

The Lambeth Commission, organized by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has “studied” issues on unity and fellowship within the Communion and is set to release its long-awaited report on Sept. 18.

Meanwhile, the head of the ECUSA, Bishop Frank Griswold, ignited yet another conflagration within the national church by promoting a “broad and inclusive” communion, during a sermon yesterday at one of the most reverend venues in the Anglican faith.

"Compassion is God's very nature writ large in the person of Jesus, who is the embodiment of mercy, and calls us to be merciful, just as our heavenly Father is merciful," Griswold said during his speech at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. "The divine compassion may, on occasion, play havoc with the limits and boundaries we set, albeit in God's name. My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord."

Griswold added that "the Holy Spirit had a habit of "stretching" the Church to make room for "new realities,” implying that the ECUSA’s openness to gay unions and gay bishops will soon become widespread in the entire Communion.

Following his controversial speech, Griswold criticized those who read the scripture “literally” in interpreting the church’s position on homosexuality.

"If scripture can only be read literally, classical Anglicanism is dead," he said. "There has always been a willingness to read the scripture in the light of one's immediate understanding of the Gospel, but also to read the scripture critically in terms of the context in which various books were written."

The majority of Anglicans, similar to most Christian denominations, believe homosexuality is incompatible to the scripture and the will of God. The Anglican Communion’s constitution also specifies that the lifestyle of homosexuality “is incompatible to the scripture.”

Meanwhile, within the U.S. borders, conservative Episcopalians in Virginia are planning a confirmation ceremony this week without the consent of their local bishop. Virginia Bishop Peter Lee faced a firestorm of criticism from most of the state’s Episcopalians for his decision to elevate Robinson last year; Lee was among the majority of the US bishops who voted for Robinson’s contested election.

Hundreds of Virginians have been lined up for the confirmation ceremony, set for Wednesday of this week under the patronage of a retired bishop – former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.

To date, eleven parishes have rejected the ministry of Lee, and many others have withheld donations from the Virginia diocese – the largest in the nation – causing an estimated $900,000 shortfall in the diocese’s budget.