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. Shannon Underwood

    As with all religions that allow people, not democraticly elected by the people or membership to make rules or edicts I find this apalling. The Archbishop or the Pope, are just polititions in drag, that are trying to control their business and bleed the people dry. Take away their tax free status and treat them as they are, private organizations ran for the benefit of their members to enrich the leaders.
    A pax on them all in the prejuiced skirts.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  2. NorCalMojo

    They should go their separate ways. This bickering has gone on way too long.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
  3. gotoutearly

    The gay issue is just a sideshow. It distracts attention from heart of the matter. The Episcopal Church continues to make steady strides toward their ultimate goal of removing all mention of God from the Prayer Book. The tragedy is not that they have openly gay bishops, but that they have opnly atheits bishops.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  4. Katherine

    It's interesting to note how all these Christians are fighting among one another. What would Jesus think? LOL I'm sure He would laugh and say, "now, now, children, stop fighting over the Bible. I have evolved and I accept everybody into my home, whether a sinner or not. What lessons have you learned about life my dear children?" That's exactly what Jesus would say in Heaven in modern times entrance through the Gates boys and girls, and men and women.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
  5. Jane

    @Ken – God is not judgmental?? Lets see what you have to say after the Great White Throne Judgment.

    @Update – Christianity is not a program; it's a way of life. "Get with the program"? Just because it is 2010 does not mean that we have to throw our convictions out the window.

    The Bible is to be interpreted by way of your personal convictions. If you go to church and the preacher does not use the Bible or you don't use yours then how can you go home, meditate on it, pray about it if you don't even know what the Bible says. If you do these things, then the Lord will speak to you or lay it on your heart and you will develop a 'conviction of the heart' about what you believe is to be true or false. Read your Bibles. You are supposed to love the sin but not the sinner. We love by acknowledging the sin and condemning it.

    I can love someone without liking their sin. Can you??

    May 28, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  6. Rex McKee

    As clergy in the Episcopal Church, and totally supportive of our polity and process, I keep waiting for Rowan to condemn the practices in some portions of the Anglican Communion towards GLBT persons. His condemnation always appears to be focused on the US. Where is he with the proposed legislation in Uganda and elsewhere? And, by the way, we need to remember that we elect our bishops in a democratic process, he was appointed by the queen.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
  7. WBN

    This is the business of this particular "church" ordenomination. All three of the world's largest religions have rejected homosexuality as church approved action for centuries. Why do those believing in it want to change the religions? The saddest thing about liberalism, per se, is it closed-mindedness regarding any other opinion. Let the church be the church–and let others be whatever they want to be. It's only fair–no persecution either way.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  8. Michael Lauderdale

    I am an Episcopalian but I do not agree with the actions my church has taken. Im glad the Anglican Communion has taken the actions it has but not because of the fact that we ordain gay and lesbians. I believe its the right thing to do because we have ordianed gay and lesbian bishops with an agenda. This agenda then takes away from the goal of what all christians should and are tryign to do, which is promote the gospel and spread Christs love. The Episcopal church has let itself be consumed by the bickering and arguing over this controversy, and if the leadership of TEC doesn't change her ways and her agenda it will continue to suffer until it self destructs.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • Brickcity

      Agreed. The Episcopal church has been used by gay and lesbians as a tool for promoting their agenda. While I have no opinion as to whether Jesus would approve of such a lifestyle, I resent that the experience at the Episcopal church has been overshadowed by political discussion. Now that it has been made an issue, you must now choose a side. I predict that the church will split significantly in the next few years.

      May 28, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  9. Chancy

    There is nowhere in the Bible that Jesus says being gay is a sin.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  10. TWR

    Oh, so what. So our Presiding Bishop, the first woman Primate and Archbishop in the Anglican Communion, won't be invited for tea at Lambeth Palace. Who cares! I fear Jesus Himself would be dis-invited under the criteria the conservatives seek to impose on the rest of us,

    May 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  11. Delpha P

    If you search hard enough, you can always find a "church" somewhere that will go along with whatever it is you've decided you want to believe, or how it is you want to live. But that kind of defeats the whole point of going to church, doesn't it? Sounds like a social club.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  12. michael

    `David`you are so right religion destroys all of Gods true wishes for us which is purely and simple to love and have compassion for each other with absolutely no thought of anything in return..thats it pure and simple. If every one of us accomplished that in this lifetime we would do everyone a favor and we would be living in a much better world, Unfortunately we dont. This head of a religion just like the pope think they are Gods representative here on earth..what a bunch bull that is they are just ordinary folk like us...Its time they learned to love and not discriminate or quote a book that was indeed not written by, through or for God.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  13. LEC

    Seems to me that most of the arguments condemning the new Bishop are born out of fear. We so want our leaders to reflect us - to represent who we believe ourselves to be. So much so that when they do not, we cannot accept it or even allow them to guide us faithfully. Mary Glasspool possesses an array of attributes: iintelligence, generosity,acceptance, faithfulness, eloquence, responsibility, honesty, inclusivity, love and being a lesbian - and of these, being gay is the least. She is a proven leader, administrator, pastor and I respect her tremendously. Each of us has some way of being that if others were to discover it, might cast us out or exclude us. Certainly we would suffer judgement. But I believe that Jesus was about "inclusiveness" - that ALL are welcome at his table and in his kingdom, each with his own gifts and talents. It is only mankind that insists on formulating rules around exactly who is welcome, who is not, and how that welcome is given. Some of you want to take specific verses from the bible and use them to support your position within the context of your beliefs. Taking written texst from a time many thousands of years ago and trying to apply them to contemporary society is risky. It pulls the information out of context and is a challenge to accurately relate to today's world. In fact, humans are really good at keeping the commandments and scripture that best serves them today, but casting off others that they believe are irrelevant, just because they say so. I am not without sin, thus I do not believe that I can cast a stone of judgment upon the decision made by a committed, faithful group of people who called Mary to be their Bishop. Can we be strong enough in our faith to trust that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will take care of all of it? Let's allow God to do the judging, and open ourselves to being loving, accepting and merciful with one another. We have so much more in common with one another than we have different – and I am hopeful and prayerful that we will recognize this and nurture it.

    May 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
    • Scott

      Why do you pick and choose which sin you will tolerate? I am sure you would not be ok with allowing an admitted and unrepentant adulterer to continue as a leader. I'm sure Mary is a very nice and sincere person, but we have to call sin sin if it's from someone who claims to be a Christian. My self included.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  14. CubanMom

    We, who make up the Body of Christ, otherwise known as the church, are flawed people. We, at least most of us, do not claim to be prefect. And yes, horrors have been done throughout history in the name of God. The church is divided between those of us who want to live the message of love Jesus taught, and those who are afraid and cling to old fear and prejudices. Regardless of how the church behaves, preaches, etc., I know God is Love. The Creator loves us all, even the Gays. I for one, do not hate, judge nor condemn anyone. God created us to be free. Its heartbreaking that so many Christians are still living in the middle-ages!

    May 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • Scott

      But Jesus also calls us to examine the fruit of those who call themselves Christians. I don't think anyone would question if a proven adulterer is allowed to continue in a leadership position.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  15. Shener

    In this age of tolerance, one must ask why it is intolerable for conservative Christians to disagree with beliefs and practices which are contrary to the beliefs and practices prescribed by the scriptures which conservative Christians consider absolutely authoritative.

    May 28, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • Casey

      you're basically asking why we aren't tolerant of your intolerance

      June 1, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • Scott

      Umm, by definition you can't truly call yourself intolerant if you can't tolerate the intolerable. Which in reality means that no one is tolerant, because there is always something we find intolerable.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  16. Terry

    What we are witnessing is the rise and fall of the Christian Church. Perhaps now, people will see through the false teachings of men, claiming that they are the voice of God.

    May 28, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  17. Bill

    So the archbishop wants the Episcopal Church to "step down from participating in interfaith dialogues" as punishment for electing a lesbian as bishop. I wonder how this will affect interfaith relations with the Church of Sweden. Weren't they the first denomination to have a lesbian bishop?

    May 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  18. Read the Bible (that I read)

    It is amazing how many people say they want others to read the Bible and act accordingly, when what they really mean is:
    "Read the Bible I read", "Interpret the Bible like I interpret it", and "Act the way I say to act (not actually act)"
    The message of God is always here for any and all to see and hear. The message has been filtered, interpreted, used, abused, and confused for centuries. Sometimes simpler is better. Love God. Love God's creations. Love. I do not confuse Love with a willingness to accept that which destroys, that which separates, that which enriches self at the expense of God. I do not presume to know God, nor speak his will for others. God's will be done, is being done, will continue to be done, whether we like it or not.

    May 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  19. RinMaine

    Good Post: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is NOT an democratically elected official of the Episcopal Church of the United States as are the Officials who did elect Bishop Mary Glasspool. He has no legal say in the matter. As a matter of fact the Episcopal Church of the United States was organized shortly after the American Revolution when it was forced to separate from the Church of England, as Church of England clergy were required to swear allegiance to the British monarch. He forgets his place in America. One has to ask the simple question , what would Jesus do?

    May 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  20. BeFaithful

    Quite a parallel between many of today's denominations and the first century church at Laodicea (Revelation Chapter 3).

    May 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
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