May 28th, 2010
11:22 AM ET

Archbishop of Canterbury slaps Episcopal Church for openly gay bishops

Rifts within the Anglican Communion could widen after the archbishop of Canterbury, who has condemned the consecration of openly gay bishops, urged a diminished role Friday for the Episcopal Church.

Earlier this month, a Los Angeles, California, diocese ordained the Rev. Mary Glasspool, the first openly gay bishop ordained in the church since 2004, when Gene Robinson took his post in New Hampshire. The U.S. church has taken flak from conservative factions for openly gay ordinations.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the nominal head of Anglican Communion, shared his concern when Glasspool was consecrated, saying then that the move would further divide the 77 million-member worldwide denomination that includes the Episcopal Church in the United States.

On Friday, he made an even stronger statement in a letter to the communion.

"Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division, and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation," Williams wrote. "There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the Communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done; and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all round.

"It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this."

Williams does not have the power to issue edicts like the pope, but he issued a five-page statement suggesting that provinces (such as the Episcopal Church) or national and regional churches that have broken agreed-upon "promises" should step down from participating in interfaith dialogues.

He said they should also relinquish decision-making powers in a committee
that deals with questions of doctrine and authority.

Following Robinson's consecration, the communion leadership laid out
three promises, or moratoria, according to the archbishop of Canterbury

1. No authorization of blessings services for same-sex unions.
2. No consecrations of bishops living in same-sex relationships.
3. No cross-border interventions (no bishop authorizing any ministry
within the diocese of another bishop without explicit permission).

Glasspool has been in an open same-sex relationship for 19 years, a violation of the moratoria. Robinson also was in a same-sex relationship at the time of his consecration.

Bishop Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut said that while Williams’ statement is “of significance … it’s not as punitive as it might have been.”

He said it was an affirmation of the three moratoria, and he made clear that other churches, not just the Episcopal Church in the U.S., will be affected for having broken promises to the communion as well.

“Many churches across the Anglican Communion because of conscience or their belief in what the Holy Spirit is up to in their local context have lived beyond the moratoria,” Douglas said. “While the moratoria are still before us, such actions do have some ramifications. … If anything, I question the efficacy of the moratoria.”

Douglas also pointed out that not every church is represented on the committees affected by the statement.

“It’s not a question of a privilege being taken away but rather a question of can individuals fully represent the Anglican Communion if the church in which they come chooses to go beyond the limits of given moratoria,” he said.

“It’s another expression of how we’re trying to live with our differences with integrity and not alienate one another,” Douglas said. “I’m still convinced there’s so much more that unites us.”

A spokesman for a conservative Anglican group said, however, that Williams did not go far enough in his rebuke of the Episcopal Church.

Robert Lundy of the American Anglican Council said the Episcopal Church shouldn't be involved in any decision-making bodies within the Anglican Communion as long as it continues to ordain openly gay bishops and violate biblical teachings.

Williams' statement only keeps the Episcopal Church off of certain committees within the communion, Lundy said.

"He [Williams] knows he has to do something because he's under pressure from all sides," he said. "But unfortunately, the step he's taken in our view is not strong enough."

Conservative Anglicans have long called for Williams to punish the Episcopal Church by not inviting the church to the Lambeth Conference, a global meeting of Anglican leaders held every decade.

CNN's Jessica Ravitz and John Blake contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anglican • Christianity • Culture wars • Episcopal • Gay rights

soundoff (389 Responses)
  1. jim

    Another fine example of tolerance by the religious and righteous..

    Tell me again why choosing to live an alternative lifestyle is so bad, you hypocritical boy-touchers? Gay folks have more respect for the young that preists from what I can see.


    May 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Scott

      I think you're confusing this church with catholicism.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  2. Peter

    ""It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others,"

    Gee – when Jesus did this very same thing (defy the religious authorities of the day), he was venerated. Funny how what's good for some is somehow wrong for others once THEY become the 'powers that be". Fortunately, the only people who care much about the BOC are the residents of Canterbury.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
  3. ElisabethDenver

    This is not a black and white issue. I am proud to be Episcopalian and to attend a church considered to be "liberal". I for one am rather conservative in my personal choices but do not believe it is my right or duty, as a Christian, to judge others. That is not to say there are not things that are wrong (no matter how you you slice it) but I suppose I find it hard to see how a loving, committed, long-term relationship can be considered a sin and against God. I am sad to see division in my church but I would not feel right about attending a church that is unwelcoming/unaccepting of "all of Gods people". Debate is healthy, it is how change comes about. I believe that the debate over gay/lesbina issues will eventually go the way of equal rights for women and people of color.... there will always be a minority that continue to hate and judge but overall there will be agreement that being in a gay/lesbian relationship is not out of Gods plan.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • Mummers

      The Bible is very specific about leaders in the church. Jesus would be accepting of gay people and would minister to them but would not be accepting of them leading. Leaders that are gay are living a "do as I say and not as I do" lifestyle because it is a sin according to the Bible, which is what they profess to uphold as a leader. You cannot just pick and choose what is truth and what is not. Either you believe all of it or none of it. As a leader you must lead by example. This goes for any leader if they are not living as they should (adulterers, thieves, haters, etc.).

      And it is is not judging when you know someone is sinning. It is also ok to judge the fruit of a professed Christian. Jesus said "You shall know them by their fruit" and it also states in the NT that we are allowed to call out a Christian if he/she is sinning.

      May 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • K.Pitts

      Well said, Elisabeth.

      May 31, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  4. Quiconfidunt

    The Protestant Episcopal Church in the US is a key funder of the Lambeth conference , particulary of participation by those dioceses that could not otherwise afford to attend. Its kind of fund to consider not inviting PECUSA to the party it largely pays for.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  5. Senior Chief

    Hey it could be worse, they could be catholics.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  6. jbmar1312

    runswithbeer, I can tell you what Jesus would do. Just as he forgave the adulterous whom the pharasees brought before him, he would say forgive MS. Glasspool and he would also say to her "Go and sin no more". If you are trying to say Jesus would condone this behavior you are mistaken. God hates sin and the gay/lesbian lifestyle is absolutely defined as sin in scripture.
    I would say to the Episcopalions and the other "denominations" who are choosing to disregard the Biblical Christian beliefs to practice whatever belief seems right to them but please do not call yourselves Christians"followers of Christ" for you have denied his teachings.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • Shener

      Excellent point jbmar. It's amazing how many people seem to think Christianity is like a wax nose that can be shaped however we want it to look.

      May 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  7. JayDee

    If we all just laid down and stopped working for change when things got tough there would be no change in tis world.
    Following Rowans approach.....blacks would still be sitting in the back of the bus!
    This religion crap in general has got to go. Why do so many educated people believe in some old fairy tales!

    May 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  8. Episcopalian observer

    As the saying goes, "the Episcopal church welcomes you; the Anglican Communion, not so much!"

    May 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  9. dejah_thoris

    Why is someone's personal life any business of a religion? Oh, yeah, because religionists have NOTHING else to do but persecute and hate anything they don't approve of, particularly in the name of their god, who preached love. Christians should be ashamed. But of course, they are too busy hating to be ashamed.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  10. Jason from Hollywood CA

    "Rifts within the Anglican Communion could widen after the archbishop of Canterbury, who has condemned the consecration
    of openly gay bishops, urged a diminished role Friday for the Episcopal Church."

    Agreed. Better off not having openly-gay priests, it's would be more advantageous for gay priests to remain in the closet and being forced to have s3x with little boys...We wouldn't want that kind of honesty in a church

    May 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Scott

      Being openly gay doesn't prevent someone from being a pedophile. Not saying that all gay are pedos. Far from it, the majority are not.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  11. Mitsy

    There is a definite difference between what the Episcopal Church is today in America vs. what the Anglican Church values were for 100's of years. If you've read much about the 2 denominations (which the Episcopal faith grew out of Anglican roots), you will find that most Episcopal Churches today are very liberal while the Anglican churches are still more defined in what their doctrines are and not subject to change with the political climate. I think it's time for the Anglican Church to cut ties with the Episcopal church in America and I'd be surprised if that doesn't eventually happen. There is no reason why there couldn't be a choice for people. I'm sure some Episcopal churches were more conservative than others. There really is an option for almost everyone as far as church denominations go.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  12. Mike

    What does the Bible say about it.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • Liutgard

      Depends on what and where you're reading, Mike. The Old Testament condemns the actions of gays, but they appear alongside the eating of pork and shellfish, wearing of clothing with more than one fiber in it, touching a dead body, mouthing off to one's parents. Funny thing, who some people want to enforce one of those rules are quite comfortable disregarding others.

      However, if you believe that you are under a 'new covenant' and are interested in the teachings of Jesus, the basic thread of his teachings was the expression and exercise of love. Feed the hungry. Care for the sick. Comfort the downhearted. He is clearly interested in treating others with caring, compassion, and respect. He taught against divorce, and allowed that it was legal only because of the 'hardness of your hearts'. Did he say anything about gays? Nope. Did he say anything about women in the ministry? Nope.

      Frankly, I don't think that he'd find much of himself in many fundamentalist churches these days, as they seem to be more interested in pointing fingers at each other than in loving each other.

      June 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
    • Scott

      Adultery is catagorized as sin in Old Testament law. Jesus tells an adulterer to go and sin no more. He also said he didn't come to abolish the law, he came to fulfill it.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  13. RCV

    Episcopalian to Archbishop: We don't have a Pope in our church, so mind your business. You have enough things to worry about in the Church of England, like bringing women into full communion.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  14. Tim

    What would Jesus do? I don't know. You're all talking about a book (or collection of writings) that you were told is the word of God. But the only proof of that is your belief in what someone told you, regardless of their status and presumed authority. I sincerely mean no disrespect to religious leaders, Biblical scholars, etc., but the bottomline is that all of this depends exclusively on argument by authority. And please do not start a tautology by saying "it's the word of God because the Bible says so." I, too, can write a book that says "this is the word of God." Just because the book says it doesn't mean it's true. If you want to hold to beliefs that say what is right or wrong, then admit personal responsibility for holding (and never seriously questioning or examining) those beliefs. Quit pointing to a book when it's really your choice and nothing more.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Queen_Mommy

      Well said Tim! I think everyone that quotes the bible forgets that it is a collection of letters and stories that have been translated from dead languages and was approved of in a political assembly. There are just as many stories and letters and authors that were left out and that had differing views. For every quote that is thrown out to prove a point someone could throw out another to disprove it.

      May 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  15. PaulieJ

    Beware the cult of purity, infectious imbecility

    May 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  16. David M. Paye

    As a life-long Episcopalian, I am disgusted by the Archbishop's constant kowtowing to the reactionary conservative elements in the Anglican Communion. I would rather see the American Episcopal Church break ties with the Anglican Communion and align with the Evangelical Lutheran Church on a permanent and complete basis, or try to bring in liberal elements of the Roman Catholic Church, than to continue a relationship where the Archbishop has thrown his lot in with people who preach bigotry and hatred.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  17. Steve

    Rowan, it's easy to enforce a diminished role for the Episcopal Church in worldwide Anglican Affairs. Just stop cashing the checques they've been sending for decades.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  18. Bobby

    Jesus never discriminated against gays so I see no reason for Christians to, except to mask their own bigotry while making themselves feel superior.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Karl

      How do you know Bobby? Does Christ mention gays anywhere in his teachings?

      May 28, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • Liutgard

      Karl, that seems to be Bobby's point- Jesus said NOTHING about gays. Zip. Nada. Zero. He did say a lot about hypocrisy, hatred, ignoring the unloved and needy, and interestingly, divorce. I thinn that the Church has a lot more to worry about than something Jesus does not seem to have been concerned with.

      June 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  19. BobV

    Perhaps if he were doing a better job preserving the Church of England his ideas about ruling the rest of the world might have some significance. The Episcopal Church is in far better shape, and far more capable of mission, than the C of E.

    May 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  20. Brandonj

    I believe that the Archbishop needs to grow a pair, but unfortunately he cannot direct anyone to do anything. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion consists of relatively autonomous churches around the world. The Episcopal Church USA can do what it wants, and it has chosen inclusion of LGBT persons, as has the Canadian Episcopal Church. The Nigerian Church and others in the Anglican Communion who oppose LGBT inclusion can do as they wish, but no one can really tell anyone what to do. So, in the grand scheme of things, the Archbishop of Canterbury's pronouncements really don't mean anything. He is the head of the Church of England (under Queen Elizabeth of course) and serves as a figure head for the worldwide communion. His power outside of England is pretty much nonexistent however and this really boils down to trying to appease outraged conservative busybodies from other parts of the Communion. Most of those who are opposed to the US Episcopal Church's actions are also opposed to women being priests and many other forms of modernity. They're dinosaurs and will eventually die out-and it couldn't happen too soon in my opinion. Limiting women and excluding LGBT persons is NOT something Jesus would do. But it reminds me of the quote attributed to Ghandi, "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."

    May 28, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
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