Episcopal Church Refuses to Change Position on Homosexuality

Conservative groups both praise and criticize Windsor report on human sexuality within the Anglican Communion.
( [email protected] ) Oct 18, 2004 10:22 PM EDT

The long-awaited Windsor Report on the role of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion drew both praise and criticism from conservative Anglicans in the U.S., Oct. 18, 2004. Upon the release of the report, which took a year in the making, the conservative Anglican groups commented that while the correct traditional stance on homosexuality was reflected through the report, the reprimand of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) was not worded strongly enough.

The Anglican Communion Network (ACN) and the American Anglican Council AAC are two groups that were formed in 2003 to dissent the ECUSA's decision to consecrate an openly gay man as bishop.

The ordination of the actively gay Gene Robinson created rifts within the worldwide Anglican Communion that threatened to split the historical church; over half of the world's Anglican churches declared a form of "impaired communion" with the American branch the ECUSA.

Despite the havoc caused by the Episcopal Church, the recent report asked the denomination to merely "express regret" for its decision rather than fully repent for its contested actions.

"We have strong concerns ... about the fact that they call only for the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) to 'express regret' and fail to recommend direct discipline of ECUSA," the ACN and the AAC wrote in their letter.

"... We see a critical need for a Core Covenant and applaud this recommendation by the Commission. In addition, we support the recommendation of a moratorium on the ordination and consecration of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of same sex unions as well as the invitation to those who participated in the consecration of V. Gene Robinson 'to withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion.'"

"We understand and embrace the justifiable concern for the unity of the communion, and we treasure real unity," the ACN and AAC said in the statement. "We cannot in good conscience, however, support such unity at the expense of truth. We must not allow a desire to hold the church family together to allow us to maintain the fatal disease that grips ECUSA and by association, the Anglican Communion."

Frank T. Griswold, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, meanwhile, gave no indication that his denomination was ready to change its position.

"Given the emphasis of the Report on difficulties presented by our differing understandings of homosexuality, as Presiding Bishop I am obliged to affirm the presence and positive contribution of gay and lesbian persons to every aspect of the life of our church and in all orders of ministry," he said in a statement. "Other Provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret that there are places within our Communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are.

"The Report will be received and interpreted within the Provinces of the Communion in different ways, depending on our understanding of the nature and appropriate expression of sexuality. It is important to note here that in the Episcopal Church we are seeking to live the gospel in a society where homosexuality is openly discussed and increasingly acknowledged in all areas of our public life."

Griswold's statement was criticized by the two conservative organizations.

"We are deeply saddened that within minutes of the Windsor Report's release, the Presiding Bishop has already rejected its core presupposition that is the church's traditional teaching on human sexuality," the statement by American Communion Network and the American Anglican Council read. "We call upon Bishop Griswold to express godly sorrow, immediately implement a moratorium on ordinations and consecrations of practicing homosexuals as well as the blessing of same sex unions, and we call on all bishops who have supported the consecration to withdraw from the councils of the church, as the report suggests.

"The Episcopal Church is now faced with serious and difficult choices. They can follow the lead of Bishop Griswold which will ultimately lead to the demise of the Episcopal Church or they can choose to embrace the core covenant recommended by the commission, reject false doctrine and preserve faithful unity."

The report itself acknowledged the deep divisions within the Anglican community and even held out the possibility that a split could be imminent.

"There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together," the final page of the report read. "Should the call to halt and find ways to continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart."