Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby defended the Anglican Communion’s actions against The Episcopal Church in a news conference on Jan. 15, highlighting violations of institutional protocol instead of a lapse in scriptural fidelity as the point of contention between the communion and the U.S. province that last year changed its canon on marriage to accommodate same-sex unions.
The eight-point statement released Jan. 14 lists “consequences”—not sanctions—for the Episcopalians, Welby said. And similar consequences could befall any province that choses to act without “respecting the process.” But the action seemed to come as a surprise to Episcopal leaders, who for more than a decade have ignored doctrinal mandates about human sexuality and marriage without any reprisals from the communion. Conservative and liberal elements of the communion appeared to disagree as to whose rules were violated.
Representing the 38 archbishops, or primates, who attended the week-long meeting at Canterbury Cathedral were Welby, Paul Kwong, archbishop of Hong Kong, Thabo Makgoba, archbishop of Cape Town, and Josiah Idowu-Fearon, general secretary of the Anglican Communion.
“The Episcopal Church went ahead with a change to a basic understanding of doctrine in the Anglican Communion ahead of the rest of the communion and without consultation. That’s the problem,” Welby said in response to a question challenging the primate’s assertion of unity in disagreement.
But Welby’s comment contravenes, in part, a statement issued the day before outlining the theological reasons for the communion’s actions.
“Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our provinces on the doctrine of marriage,” the primates stated. “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 majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”
Michael Curry, archbishop of The Episcopal Church, was defiant—and hopeful the rest of the communion eventually would come around to his way of thinking.
“We are The Episcopal Church, and we are part of the Jesus movement, and that movement goes on, and our work goes on,” Curry said in a video response posted Friday at the Episcopal News Service. “And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a church and a communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people. And maybe it’s a part of our vocation to help that to happen.”
Curry called that vocation the “high calling” of The Episcopal Church. His response did not mention fidelity to Scripture as the foundation for the church’s identity but said its role was “in helping the poorest of the poor, and helping this world to be a place where no child goes to bed hungry ever.”
Pressed about whether the actions against the Episcopalians would be seen as outdated and hurtful, Welby said the individual Anglican provinces, which represent 165 nations, must be allowed to minister within their own cultural contexts, including their views on sexual orientation. But, although autonomous, they must respect the interconnected nature of the communion and not act independently of the whole.
In an official communique issued Jan. 15, 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.”
The conservative members of the communion—about three-fourths of the 38-member body—agreed. But what is at stake, they argued, is adherence to Scripture—not structure.
“The Bible does speak of the way of life and warns of the other ways which are sometimes very compelling for us to do, but are harmful whether we recognize it or not,” Rev. Andrew Gross, canon for communications and media relations for the Anglican Church in North America, told me. “The church has always believed that in Scripture we have ‘inside information’ on the way of life. Sometimes what is said may not be what we want or even what we think we need to hear. It happens to us all.”
Gross attended the meeting with Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America, which represents the conservative wing of the Anglican Church in the United States and Canada.
Beach was invited to participate in the meeting of primates even though his province is not officially recognized by the Anglican Communion.
Welby said the vote to exert consequences against The Episcopal Church was “overwhelming” but refused to give an exact count because the meeting was private. The primates agreed to meet again in 2017 and 2019, and proposed a Lambeth Conference, a meeting of the entire communion, for 2020.
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Photo courtesy: Trevor Grundy, via Religion News Service
Publication date: January 25, 2016