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. Evelyn Shobin

    its about time the Church stood up against this shameful sin.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • Pragmatist

      A little ambiguous.
      Which "sin" do you refer to?
      The sin of loving someone that others think you should not love or the sin of rejecting those whose love is different than yours?

      May 28, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Jon

      God you and the rest of the people who hate gays just need to chill out. What harm are they doing? What? Are they killing anyone? I bet this is your expression "Oh no the gays are now taking over the church!!!! Protect the children!!!" LOL!! Look if it is God's choice to send them to Hell, he would have taken their lives out within an instant. Hey at least be proud that the gays worship your "little religion". The only shameful sin that you or anyone else that opposes gays is that you rob them from marriage rights to religious persection THATS the real sin!

      May 28, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  2. BajaJohn

    Live and let live; God is the only judge that matters.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  3. tamars

    apparently the archbishop of canterbury does not believe in lovingkindness huh?

    May 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Kerry Berger

    Alas the Anglican Church along with the US Military are going the way of the dinosaurs. Come on. This is 2010, not the Dark Ages. This rampant prejudice against gay clergy or soldiers is so counter to our American values and sense of justice that it is sickening.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  5. Bob

    It's the Deltas (US Episcopalians) vs. the Omegas (Anglican Communion) over which fraternity can best know the mind of God (the One-Eyed Spaghetti Monster). Actually, Rown Williams reminds me of the Donald Sutherland character with his Moratoria. "Hey, I'm not kidding! This is my job!" Maybe he'll make like Dean Wormer and put the Episcopal Church on double secret probation. The Episcopalians will counter, "The issue isn't whether we broke a few Moratoria. We did."

    May 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  6. Michael Daily

    We must hold the church and their members accountable for this bigotry, and for their closed-mindedness in general. A sacred text is no excuse to deny the rights of other human beings, to ignore science, and to scare people into submission with the false threat of eternal fire. You have the right to limit yourself based on your religious beliefs, but not to take away the rights of others.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  7. JA Bailey

    This same Archbishop felt that England should accept sharia law as part of British law. This was several years ago and I have not heard if he has since changed his mind!

    May 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  8. Lincoln, NE

    One of these days, all the angry people who are searching for happiness and confidence through a mythical beings will learn how stupid all of this gay/lesbian/bi stuff is.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  9. citizencj

    Its a shame. So many wasting time and energy denigrating and demonizing people who are committed to, and love, one another in a long term relationship. Would we rather have the Tiger Woods, Governor Sanfords, Mark Souders, and Family Values leader George Rekers, setting examples for our society? We need to seriously examine our values. "Take the plank out of thine own eye first, then perhaps you can remove the speck from your brothers eye." Jesus' overriding teaching was LOVE. It wasn't love certain people who think and act like you do. It was love everyone. This widespread insanity of placing judgement and demonizing our own neighbors and fellow citizens makes the US look like a bunch of ignoramuses who really don't understand life. Its far too short to be hating so much.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • jbmar1312

      citizencj, you are taking the Bible out of context. Yes, Jesus said to love. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Forgive and will be forgiven unto you. He also said not to sin. To obey God and his commandments. If you want to use part of what is said in the Bible read and apply all of it. Don't just quote the parts that make you fill good and help you avoid the confrontation of sin. God created us all but to be children of God we are adopted into his family by accepting that Jesus is who he said He is and that his sacrifice on the cross is sufficient punishment for our sins. God Bless

      May 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Scott

      well put jb.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  10. Shari from Madison WI

    This type of statement saddens me. I believe Jesus came to this earth to show us that all people are equal in God's eye and since the church is God's body on earth, they too should treat everyone with equal love and respect. This comment makes the Anglican Church seem like it is run by a bunch of bigoted pharisees

    May 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  11. dxtrdrt

    Maybe they should ordain an openly praticing atheist.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • Terry

      The Episcopal Church already does.

      May 28, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  12. steven harnack

    I say good for him! Keep being more exclusionary and bigoted and cherry-picking which bible verses support their biases. Soon the only people in organized religion will be these perfect souls who can then spend their time reveling in their righteousness and leave everyone else alone.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  13. Annexian

    Which is better, one who admits they are without sin, or one who lies and chases little boys in secret?

    May 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  14. knobe

    Seems most the 'god of Abraham' religions are all about dictating how Others live .
    They are such serious egomaniacs that they must over rule how other consenting adults live .

    So pathetic how fascist the followers of these backwards religions are .

    May 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  15. Shauna

    Romans Chapter 1
    If a man or woman does not live up the standard that is expected then even being straight-that person is not qualified to be a Bishop. Same as being a deacon of the church. If a married man is living in sin, he cannot be a deacon. If a single straight man or woman living with someone and they are not married they are not qualified to be a deacon. So why is it so hard to understand that if a gay person activity lives with a person outside of marriage is not acceptable? If it is wrong for a straight man to live in sin it is wrong for the gay person too. Is this not discrimination too. Jesus would say, neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Liz

      Shauna: I was beginning to wonder if I were the only one who felt as you do. I am a life-long Episcopalian and I have no problem with ordaining gays or lesbians. My problem is when that gay or lesbian priest chooses to live with (or has an affair with) a member of the same sex, without benefit of marriage. I have the same problem with a straight priest,male or female, who lives with or has an affair with a member of the opposite sex. It is called committing adultery. One of the 10 commandments, I believe, says "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Simply put, if you are an unmarried priest– or bishop, you are celibate. An inability to marry due to legal prohibition is not an excuse. If a priest feels that celibacy is an unfair restriction given the number of states that currently outlaw gay marriage, then perhaps that priest should seek another calling. in others words, tough.

      June 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  16. sean Devereaux

    The church is a communion of like minded believers, who follow the scriptures as written. Some take it literally, while others figurtively. Non-the less if such a large body decides that what they are reading and interpreting is now different than the other, there really is no way to reconcile, as both sides believe there interpretation is valid. I personally see no ambiguity in the way the scriptures are written about the practise. And yes, it is a form of judgement; if we decide not to tolerate a certain behavior or action, as it goes against what we were taught either in the home or church. Everyone is so afraid of being judged. Eventually there will be no taboo behaviors so consequently human dignity will be no more. All great declines start somewhere. Free will and individualims is winning, but according to the scriptures, that is what is to unfold in the end. let's keep going.


    May 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
  17. mike

    i would much rather trust my kid with a priest who is open about what he is, instead of one who is so insecure about himself that he takes his frustrations out on little boys

    May 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  18. vince

    Williams has so far refused to even ordain a woman Bishop in the Church of England for fear of the conservative Anglican churches. If you look at where these convervative churches are and growing – namely Africa including Uganda (which is contemplating the death penalty for gay people), I really don't think that they are a model of Christian behavior. It's really all about traditionalism. From the examples we have of in the Gospels and letters, jesus didn't care a whole lot for tradition. What was most important it loving God and loving each other fully. That seems to be lost in a lot of these conversations.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  19. Rat tat that

    How dare they show tolerance and love? How dare they?

    May 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Old Kat

      This argument is as old as Christianity: Are those like us good (righteous)? And those not like us bad (sinful)? I can't find anything in the NT about loving everyone EXCEPT.... What would Jesus do? I don't know. I know Jesus said, "Don't judge." I can't focus on Jesus when I am looking for faults in others. Besides, judgement in none of my business! That is God's business. God includes and loves us all . All of us! Think about that. He does not love some people more and some people less because of what the people do. He loves all because that what God is.....God IS love. I don't know if I am supposed to belong to a denonimation that ordains gays and lesbians or not. However, I believe that God calls me to be INclusive rather than be EXclusive. So I just go to church and worship God and take communion with my fellow parishoners. Being a Christian is not a matter of what church one belongs to but what kind of relationship on has with God. The process of thinking about all this is taxing. After all, I am an Old Kat.

      June 2, 2010 at 5:40 pm |
    • Scott

      What does God say about an open adulterer leading a church?

      June 4, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  20. Anthony B.

    If Christians were just a little more Christ-like they would be tolerable.

    May 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
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