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. Colleen

    If you want to change the rules – allowing gay bishops – then form your own religion. That's what makes up the meaning of PROTESTant churches. Methodist – presbytarian – luthern – baptist and on and on. What the problem with that?

    May 28, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
  2. gary

    If the Church of England keeps moving to right, it may eventually rejoin the Roman Catholic Church. This would diminish the role of all women (straight and Lesbian), it would put them on the path of excluding gays, and it might even raise the issue of priests abusing children. But...on the other hand, it would show the U.S. Episcopal Church the right moral and ethical path!!

    May 28, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  3. Luciano

    as a Roman Catholic, my heart goes out to the traditional Christians in the Anglican church around the world. Come home to the Catholic Church, the door has been opened by our Pope Benedict XXVI, we await you dear brothers and sisters

    May 28, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • marybluesky

      Thanks, but no thanks. You can keep Pope Benedict and the church that protects and shelters pedophile priests, but excommunicates a nun for saving a woman's life.

      The Episcopal Church is entirely correct in their actions and much more Christ-like than those who quote Bible verses to justify their own bigotry and fear.

      June 1, 2010 at 1:00 am |
  4. Sam

    I always thought religion was about love and acceptance of God and your fellow man. When did they start preaching all this hate? I'm glad I'm not part of your ridiculousness.

    May 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
    • Scott

      That's like saying as a Christian I attend some meeting of Atheists, and call myself an Atheist. No one would believe me, because I don't believe what Atheists do.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  5. Eric

    A few things to keep in mind not discussed in this article.
    The moratoria were to last three years to let emotions calm. It has been three years.
    The Episcopal Curch of Ameria came from the Scottish Church. We respect the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Anglican leader but he is not the head of the church.
    The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church is the Most Rev Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori. She approved the ordination. She was also snubed at the last Lambeth Conference but she would never say such a thing.
    It is too bad we can not all Honor Christ and follow his commandments as one communion.

    May 28, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  6. Samer Daoud

    This is why the christian population is becoming smaller and smaller because they keep singeling people out who are faithfull to God, for a stupid excuse, when we should be accepting everyone that wants to be close to God regardless of their problems, thats what i learned in church! who are we to judge who can love who!? Its 2010 the bible has been changed so many times why not do it again! the bible has touched man's hands thousands of times and altered probably hundreds of times...???

    May 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  7. JLP

    What is all the fuss about?

    May 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Dan

    Being gay or living as a gay is not a sin. Anybody quoting the bible or scripture to say that being gay is a sin is not taking the entire context of the bible or scripture into consideration. End of story. This is coming from a straight catholic person.

    Why not focus on real problems.

    May 28, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • JIm from New York

      When you have some time, and please don't rush it, please read Rom 1 all of it. Then talk back to us.

      June 1, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Scott

      So is adultery a sin too? That's in the Old Testament as well.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  9. The Tuna

    A few centuries ago Xtians would burn left-handed people at the stake, accusing them of 'witchcraft'. Same went with the mentally disabled, or people who espoused the radically dangerous notion the earth revolved around the sun. Someday we'll discover there are genetic dispositions to being gay, or being fundamentally religious, and this point will be moot. I keep rooting for the geneticists to create a full functioning lifeform from scratch, proving that we are all the god we'll ever need.

    May 28, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  10. liz schroeder

    I think the archbishop is missing the point. Jesus loves all...even God fearing non gay accepting Episcopalians. I do recall some holy scriptures suggesting Church leaders will be held accountable for non God-like actions. Wasn't it religious leaders who put that..that ..man-god guy to death on that cross ..on that hill someplece in the middle-east. Wonder if the archbishop is having bad dreams??

    I think it is time we non religious leaders go beyond narrow thought patterns of the heiarchy and go straight to the only source and center for guildance. Wisdom will not be obtained by reading these non enlightened religious leaders propaganda and ill placed judgements. I think I'll sign off and pray for guildance from the one that knows all, particular love. Enjoy your reading.

    May 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  11. sylvia petronio

    A gay relationship is sinful, and not what the bible teaches. There can be no procreation from that relationship that is normal. A gay relationship should not be acknowledge any which way, and none more so than in a religious context. It's shameful. I cannot think what the church is coming to – to allow these people to participate even in the smallest way

    May 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  12. Update

    Dear Church: It's 2010, get with the program.

    May 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
    • Boss

      The program is the bible and those churches that are sticking to the bible are thriving. There is no "program" of your's to get. The bible has not changed. Unfortunately, churches have changed as the sinners are dictating the direction. These churches are failing. Sinners, such as gays and lesbians want to change the church in order to feel better about their own sin.

      May 28, 2010 at 5:49 pm |
    • chuck

      The church is all about an effort to deny others while falsely elevating yourself in the eyes of your creator. It is a brownie point system. The harder I push others, the more virgins I will receive in heaven, the bigger wings I will get.

      June 2, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  13. Beth

    It amazes me how loosely people use the term Christian and label themselves as such. Jesus would be stoned out of most so-called churches today. Yes, he would be loving sinners, but relieving them from demonic strongholds and telling to deny themselves and follow Him. Jesus is the Word of God , made flesh. Read it and know Him.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  14. Just visiting

    I still cant beleive in this day and age that being gay is an issue....If we all just followed the #1 Rule of Life "To Love Everyone and Everything around us"....And if your going to use the Bible and quote passages we should follow....then by all means follow it word by word and not only when you see fit.....Your "Hate" for what you dont understand is the only thing that is causing a rift between anything....I was brought up in the church and fed from the book of words all my life...and from all that I decided to just treat every living thing with respect......

    May 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  15. Anne

    Considering that without the financial support of the Episcopal church, which is the most solvent in the whole Anglican community, Rowan's church would sink, I think he should not bite off the hand that feeds him. But maybe cut off those eyebrows!

    May 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  16. Brent Walker

    The Episcopal Church in America continues to evolve and develop because it's filled with open minded, intelligent people who share the love of Christ. Let the fundamentalists be victims of the Bible Trap (as if God hadn't spoken to our hearts in 1700 years)...the rest of us will continue to evolve in the Mind of Christ. Love one another.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  17. Somebody

    Follow the Bible not the trends of man.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
  18. Greg

    Peace and love everyone.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  19. Mary E Seigel (Sugar Pop)

    praises to Virgin Mary for hearing our prayers and for taking action for this sin upon our land.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  20. D.J.

    KUDOS TO THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH! Williams is the one that's creating even more drama or "rift" within the Anglican communion. Even his own flock within the Church of England is not opposed to ordaining openingly gay and lesbian clergy. He is obviously clueless that he's alienating himself from the majority of Anglicans who actually support the Episcopal Church and their progressive and non-discriminatory policies. Given the fact that I JUST joined the Episcopal Church, after being baptized, confirmed and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, I can honestly say that I have NEVER received such a warm and nice welcome until I got in touch with the local Episcopal diocese. The Canon to the Ordinary responded to my inquiry as if we were old friends and not complete strangers. Now, every time I pass any Episcopal Church, and I see the sign "Episcopal Church Welcomes You!" I know that they actually mean it. In the short time that I was dealing with the Episcopal Church, I am glad that they consider me being gay as a non-issue, which is exactly how it's supposed to be.

    May 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.