Over the past year there have been many heated debates on various homosexual issues such as civil unions and appointments of gay clergy in Anglican Churches worldwide. Throughout this period conservatives and liberals standing on the opposite sides of opinions have been constantly clashing with each other. Last week, the Bishop of Washington carried out a "blessing" service involving a gay priest and his partner of 12 years despite of the majority of Anglicans giving an opposing voice. This has seemingly indicated that the conversations between conservatives and liberals in seeking a common ground as a communion have not been effective at all.
From the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office, the decision made by the Bishop of Washington has been described as “extraordinary.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has pleaded with liberal Anglican provinces to refrain from controversial actions over gay blessings and ordinations until the Lambeth Commission, set up last October, finishes its work.
The Church of England newspaper, the voice of the Church's evangelical wing, said that the blessing threatened to "render the work of the Lambeth Commission futile."
The Lambeth Commission, chaired by Archbishop Robin Eames, is expected to come up with a report in October on the homosexuality issue and on Anglican Church life, to suggest a solution to the current controversy. Williams however, has taken a moderate approach in all the schisms concerning homosexuality. This approach has been criticized by the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Rev. Drexel Gomez, one of the 18 Primates from the Global South, as overlooking the right of the conservatives to protest whilst allowing the liberal agenda to proceed.
Archbishop Gomez has demanded the USA Episcopal Church repent within three months, otherwise, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates would be forced to take appropriate disciplinary action, which could include the expulsion of the USA Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion. However, despite all of these threats, the US Bishop defied the advice of the conservative Anglicans. This has raised the question of whether there is a ground for liberal Anglicans to reach a compromise. The hope of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to bind the broken Anglican Communion as one, is seemingly to be more and more a lost cause.
Cynthia Brust, a spokeswoman for the conservative Episcopal churches' group, the American Anglican Council, expressed deep dismay while speaking to the Washington Post, "The arrogance of revisionist bishops knows no bounds."
During the interview, Brust also lamented the tolerance that the Archbishop of Canterbury has shown the liberals, and stated that this position has intensified the problem.
“The Lambeth Commission had asked for restraint during the period of [its] work, we see this as showing complete disregard for that request, which shows a deplorable lack of respect," Brust added. "We have a deep concern that they are putting the homosexual agenda before any hope of unity, and we find that absolutely appalling."
The Primate of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Greg Venables, said to the Church of England newspaper, “It is one more example of what appears to be a total lack of respect for the procedures which the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates have put into motion.”
“It is a very sad day when a bishop chooses to flagrantly reject the pleas of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and it’s an even sadder day when he uses biblical language to promote disobedience of the Bible’s teachings,” Venable added.
Witnessed by more than 100 people, the Bishop of Washington, the Reverend John Chane, blessed the union of Father Michael Hopkins, 43, and his partner, John Clinton Bradley, 44, during a service at Father Hopkins's church in Maryland on June 12th. The whole proceeding was carried out in the same way as a usual wedding by using a new liturgy drawn up by the diocese for same-sex partnerships.
Evangelicals of the Church of England anticipate that the development of this issue has made the work of the Lambeth Commission even more complicated. It is also likely to have strengthened the resolve of those wanting to see the American Church expelled from the Communion.