Turmoil in the Anglican Communion appears set to increase following Episcopal Church leaders’ approval of a resolution to ordain homosexual bishops. The new decision dismisses an earlier call by Anglican leaders to maintain a moratorium on the practice.
The vote on the resolution took place at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in Anaheim, California on Tuesday.
The resolution itself said “God has called and may call such individuals (gay or lesbians), to any ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church.” It said Episcopalians included “same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
The convention’s House of Deputies passed the resolution with 72 percent of the vote. It reportedly also passed the House of Bishops by a wide margin.
Three years ago, the convention passed a resolution which urged dioceses to “exercise restraint” in consecrating practicing homosexuals as bishops and also placed a moratorium on the practice.
Nancy Davidge, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church, said the latest resolution does not address the issue of same-sex “marriage,” Reuters reports.
According to the Episcopal News Service, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the highest-ranking clergyman in the Church of England, commented on the resolution before its final approval.
“I regret the fact that the will to observe a moratorium is not the will of such a significant part of the church in North America,” he said during a question-and-answer session following his Monday address to the Church of England’s General Synod.
Questions about theology, the authority of Scripture, sexual ethics, the ordination of women and homosexuals and other issues have split the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the 80 million-member Anglican Communion.
Ian Douglas, one of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, told Reuters that the resolution confirmed the church’s “commitment to nondiscrimination.” He also said there is “no desire” within the Episcopal Church to “leave the Anglican fold.”
However, many Anglican Churches of other countries have broken communion with the two million-member Episcopal Church.
Others are breaking from the Episcopal Church itself. Last month, former Episcopalians formed the Anglican Church in North America, which now claims 100,000 members.
Jeff Walton, the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Director of Anglican Action, commented on the resolution. He said it shows that the Episcopal Church “wants to remain at the table, but only on its own terms.”
"In the Anglican Communion, 22 out of 37 other provinces are already in a state of either impaired or broken communion with the Episcopal Church. This move by the Episcopal Church will further widen their effective separation from the bulk of worldwide Anglicans.
"The Episcopal Church understands that by abandoning scriptural authority it is cutting itself off from the Anglican Communion. As an autonomous church, it has that choice, now it must live with the consequences," Walton said.