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. Mike Field

    It is not just an issue of who the Episcopal church is affirming, but who the church is denying. I speak from experience.I have been a member for nine years, and have tried to start a discussion about attending seminary for about six of them. So far, no one has pushed the nickel back across the table yet.

    Just so you know, along with my predicament, as an economically distressed white, male conservative, there are some other people you will never see being recruited into the clergy either in the Episcopal church or in other "progressive" dominated denominations. That would be authentically working class men and minority men. No surprise, because in the church, both groups are social conservatives.

    Just to be clear, I do not aspire to the clergy. I am more interested in seminary as a venue for graduate education, a more adult alternative to a graduate degree in a secular liberal arts subject.

    May 28, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  2. ArcherSC

    I just spoke with an old friend of mine in Baltimore who is Episcopalian from birth. She just converted at Easter to Catholicism. In her RCIA class of 12, there were 8 Episcopalians. I would submit to those who belong to this denomination that the actions of the Episcopalian Diocese of Los Angeles in this 'ordination' are driving conservative members of their faith into the Catholic Church. As a Catholic, I can say that we're more than happy to take all those good traditional thinking Christians.

    May 28, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
    • V. Sheldon

      And as an Episcopalian, i am more than happy to get the thousands of disillusioned, marginalized Roman Catholics who are leaving the Roman fold and finding a warm and welcoming home within the Episcopal fold. Need i say more?

      June 2, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  3. pete

    To all you Christians who judge others, in particular gays, you should worry about your own salvation and leave everyone else alone.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
    • Connie

      WE are not judging we do not have to accept sin in any form.

      May 28, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • ladycb

      For us to worry about our own salvation is like saying to the poor, we have a lot money and able to spare, but since it's mine, you deal with your poor life! Worrying about our own salvation is being greedy with what God has given us! It is the wish of God that no one is lost, but that all may come into salvation and how is that, to have God's children (Christianity is God) to go out through the whole world and preach the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, we can't leave others alone, but we can't also force others to accept the free of salvation, it is your choice as well as others, not ours.

      May 28, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  4. Margot707

    "read the bible and it will tell you what Chrirtianity (sic) says about the sin. You are to love the sinner, but not the sin. " All you bible readers out there – WHERE in the bible do you think this quote exist? These are the words of Mahatma Ghandi. Does your bible really tell you to hate ANY one?

    May 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm |
  5. david steenburgh

    Does it really matter what any bishop,archbishop, pastor, pope,..whatever says....most have basically thrown out the Word of God to meet societies wishes. Is it any wonder the country is going to hell in a handbasket..Most ppl in the pulpit do not even know what the Bible says about most things.
    The only churches showing growth are those who know that God speaks thru the word...!!!!
    God help those who have stepped on the Word of God and lead millions astray!!!!
    Have your gay ministers....or whatever u decide..but some day take some time to ask Christ to open ur eyes to hisword..and your heart

    May 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
  6. Surthurfurd

    Does this mean that the Church of England also condemns sins like making profit off of interest or holding someone in debt to them after the arrival of a Jubilee year. We need consistency.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  7. Marc

    @Connie. Good that a supposedly progressive Archbishop continues to support biblical bigotry, you mean. Yes, do keep the church in its traditional bigoted & discriminatory role. By all means. Should he also support keeping women in their place as secondary to men? As the bible teaches or is interpreted as meaning. Let's do that.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
    • Trippa

      Women are not secondary to men in the bible, they just have different roles. The nurturer and mothering role. Which is a good thing.

      May 28, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  8. Whatsabishp

    Correction: aren't scriptural.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  9. Whatsabishp

    This is an issue for the Anglican Communion to settle. The rest of us should sit back and watch since we don't have a dog in this hunt. I don't cotton to bishops anyway; as currently used, they are scriptural.

    May 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  10. Father Martin

    the Anglican church is split, especially in America, where it has fled the Episcopalian church to align under Bishops in Africa, Asia and South America... There is no longer on worldwide communion... you can only be a worldwide communion with people who hold to the faith... The Episcopalian church no longer does that...

    May 28, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Connie

    "Archbishop of Canterbury slaps Episcopal Church for openly gay bishops" Good for him, it is about time some one in the church stands for Biblical principles.

    May 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  12. Bonesaw

    if they are gonna not let people that are gay be bishops, then they can't let anyone who openly does ANY sin be a bishop.

    May 28, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  13. demogal

    One of the reasons I converted to the Episcopal faith was our tolerant and liberal attitudes. I am a 60ish married lady with a grown daughter and granddaughters, and I believe in toleration of beliefs and lifestyles different from my own!

    May 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • Bill

      2 Timothy 4:3

      "For the time will come when people will not tolerate healthy doctrine, but with itching ears will surround themselves with teachers who cater to their people's own desires."

      May 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
    • Scott

      well said Bill.

      June 4, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  14. middle

    First of all, all Episcopalians do not agree with the church's position on this. Many of us believe that working within the Anglican Communion is a better idea than to deliberately take positions to spark dissention. Also, as a Lutheran-raised Episcopalian, I don't think that there is any chance the Episcopalians will desert the Anglican Communion and join up the with the ELCA. Aside from differing historical traditions, the Lutherans haven't been ordaining gays lately and although some of the leadership of the Lutheran church is more liberal, the more conservative congregations have kept the denomination more in the center.

    May 28, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
  15. seat21d

    This is nothing but Protestants trying to be relevant

    May 28, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  16. Blogson

    So Rowan Williams has given the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. another slap on the wrist. The Anglican Church situation is fascinating – many African bishops and those in other regions where the churches have experienced growth complain that the American and Canadian Anglican ordinations of those in practicing same-sex relationships are wrong and un-Biblical, while maintaining that churches which violate Biblical teachings are wrong and they want relationships with churches which maintain those teachings, but most do nothing about leaving the current Anglican Communion or to evict those errant churches. Is that because they depend upon monetary handouts from the Anglican Communion's more liberal members? Sounds like hypocrisy. Meanwhile, some congregations in the U.S. have left the Episcopal Church but continue in the Anglican Communion despite the general unwillingness of the communion to take more severe action against members which it regards as errant. The entire organization appears to be made up of a disparate house of cards which are tenuously perched upon a very unstable base.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
    • V. Sheldon

      The polity of The Anglican Communion is a grouping of loosely allied national Churches, which shared liturgical and theological similarities. Each national Church is sovereign within it's own Province.Some have a more democratic governance( like The Episcopal Church USA) some are hierarchical (like the Church of England)It is not like the polity of the Roman Church, or for that matter any number of Christian groupings. That has been it's unique strength.It is the most flexible body within Christendom. The problem is that Rowan Cantus seeks to change it, giving the central Heirarch (himself) more power than he ought to have.

      June 2, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  17. Dan

    Homosexuality must not be tolerated in the pulpit. I believe that Christians should reach out to the community in love. However, we need to be honest with those that we are reaching out to. The Bible is crystal clear in regards to homosexuality. I don't understand why people are ignoring God's Word. Jesus is King. He rules a Kingdom, not a democracy.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
  18. RinMaine

    . No cross-border interventions (no bishop authorizing any ministry
    within the diocese of another bishop without explicit permission).
    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.
    Clearly Rowan has failed the third agreement himself, never having intended to have an open discussion. Now the African bishops are dominating him. He has no basis for leadership, no foundation in good, the British version of the Tea Party, only hatred for his "fellow man." He is truly evil, unworthy to "lead."

    May 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  19. Gremar

    How do the the church members who voted for this bishop reconcile the prohibitions in liviticus or in paul's writings? What would Jesus do? He's condem the sin and have the siiner promise that she wouldn't sin anly longer, and repent. It seems pretty straight forward to me. If you dont like what's in the Bible find another religion or none at all. This is a free country.

    May 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  20. GLS

    Ironic that the Anglican Church is so concerned about homosexuality when itself was conceived from the infidelity affairs of King Henry VIII

    May 28, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
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