Meeting in Tanzania ends with statement criticizing Episcopal Church’s ambiguous apologies, warning of serious consequences
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania Anglican leaders demanded Monday, Feb. 19 that the U.S. Episcopal Church unequivocally bar official prayers for gay couples and the consecration of more gay bishops.
In a statement ending a tense six-day meeting, the leaders said that past pledges by Episcopalians for a moratorium on gay unions and consecrations have been so ambiguous that they have failed to fully mend “broken relationships” in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
The Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of world Anglicanism, must clarify its position by Sept. 30 or its relations with other Anglicans will remain “damaged at best,” church leaders said in the statement.
“This has consequences for the full participation of the church in the life of the communion,” the leaders said.
The meeting in Tanzania was the latest of several attempts to keep Anglicans unified despite deep rifts over how they should interpret the Bible. The long-simmering debate erupted in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Anglican traditionalists believe gay relationships violate scripture and they have demanded that the U.S. church adhere to that teaching or face discipline.
Supporters of ordaining gays believe biblical teachings on justice and inclusion should take precedence. They have accused theological conservatives of demanding a conformity among Anglicans that never before existed.
Discussions at the closed-door gathering this past week were so highly charged that drafting the final statement for the 38 Anglican provinces took hours longer than expected.
In 2005, Anglican leaders had asked the Episcopal Church to temporarily stop electing gay bishops and developing official prayer services for same-sex couples.
The top Episcopal policy making body, called the General Convention, responded by asking church leaders to “exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration” of candidates for bishop “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church.”
The request is not binding.
On official prayer services, the convention rejected proposals for a church-wide liturgy for same-sex partners. However, a small number of U.S. dioceses have moved toward developing local prayers and some dioceses have allowed priests to conduct the ceremonies privately.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, does not have direct authority to force a compromise. He said the requests contained in the document released Monday “will certainly fall very short of resolving all the disputes, but will provide a way of moving forward with dignity.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 23, 2007