Schism in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality
Events during 2006-May to August
2006-MAY-06: CA: Election of new bishop:
For the first time in 27 years, the diocese of California met to elect a new
bishop. This election could have had an international impact in the Anglican
Communion because of the seven candidates, three are openly gay or lesbian
priests in long-term relationships.
The Very Rev. Paul F. M. Zahl, is dean of Trinity Episcopal School for
Ministry in Ambridge,
PA and is a leading conservative in the Episcopal
Church. He said that the election:
"... has enormous and possibly decisive consequences. You almost
can't exaggerate the importance it would have if they elected a partnered
gay person as a bishop."
The Rev. Ian T. Douglas, professor of world Christianity at the Episcopal
Divinity School in Cambridge,
"If, in fact,
California elected an out gay and
lesbian person living in a lifelong relationship, it would become in some
measure a referendum on the Episcopal Church's place in the Anglican
Bishop Kirk S. Smith of the diocese of
Arizona backs full inclusion of gays in the church. He
"My number one directive as a bishop is the unity of church, because
schism is a greater sin than heresy. I think everyone will breathe a sigh of
relief if it's not a gay candidate, and that's sad."
An unidentified senior minister in the diocese said:
"The average parishioner in the diocese of California is very aware that
voting for a gay bishop would split apart the Anglican Communion at a time
when dialogue has started." 1
The diocese backed away from the abyss and elected the Right Rev. Mark
Handley Andrus of the diocese of Alabama to be bishop elect of California.
2006-JUN-27: Archbishop of Canterbury suggests a path forward:
Approximately a week after the 2006 convention closed, the Most Rev. Rowan
Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, issued a six-page "reflection"
proposing what he regards as the "best way forward" for the
Anglican Communion. He recognized that the Communion lacks processes to handle
change. This inevitably produces massive strain to the Communion as it does to
any religious movement that is has world-wide coverage. He noted that:
"The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried
to find a way of being a church that is neither tightly centralized nor a
loose federation of essentially independent bodies. ...What our Communion
lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with
the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global
communication and huge cultural variety."
His path forward would involve:
|The creation of a shared theological "covenant" -- a type of
loyalty oath indicating their acceptance of traditional, historically held
Anglican beliefs. This would presumably include special rights for
heterosexual men, and limited opportunities for women and homosexuals.|
|Each province would be asked whether they will agree to follow it.|
|Provinces that agree would retain their existing full status as "constituent
|Province that do not agree would become "churches in association."
|Churches in association would be denied voting and decision making power
in the Communion.|
"No member church can make significant decisions unilaterally
and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the
|Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion,
suggested that the Archbishop's plan would take at least four years and six
major meetings to implement. |
|Primate-elect Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, USA said that she was encouraged by William's
comments that he would not be able to heal the conflict by
himself. She said: |
"There were expectations out there that he would intervene or direct
various people and provinces to do certain things, and he made it quite
clear that it's not his role or responsibility to do that."
|The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, president of the American Anglican
Council, a conservative reform group, said:|
"We really believe that the Episcopal Church wants to follow a course
that takes it out of both Anglicanism and Christianity, as Christianity
is historically known. So a two-tier approach looks good in theory."
2006-JUN-28: Three dioceses refuse to accept authority of presiding bishop:
The dioceses of Pittsburgh, South Carolina and San Joaquin, CA have rejected
the authority of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA. They have
asked the Most Rev. Rowan Williams -- Archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual
head of the Anglican Communion -- to assign them an alternative leader. 2
2006-JUN-28: Diocese of Newark nominates gay priest:
The Diocese of Newark has nominated four priests to become their next bishop.
One of the four is gay. This appears to be a violation of
Resolution B033 passed a week earlier at the
General Convention. It asked that the denomination's nominating committees
bodies to: "...exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any
candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the
wider church and will lead to further strains on communion." Presumably, the
diocese did not consider homosexuality to be a challenge. 2
2006-JUL-03: Six dioceses reject new Presiding Bishop:
committees at six American dioceses asked their bishops to
rejected the authority of Presiding Bishop-elect Jefferets Schori. They are the
dioceses of central Florida, Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, CA, South
Carolina, and Springfield, IL. None of these requests have been ratified at this
time by a diocesan convention.
The resolution of the Springfield committee stated,
"The Standing Committee of this Diocese
requests our Bishop to intentionally and deliberately explore avenues
for alternative primatial oversight, and, as appropriate,
notwithstanding this Diocese’s status as a constituent member of the
Also the Falls Church and Truro Church in
Northern Virginia have decided to go through "40 days of discernment"
during the fall of 2006 to decide what their future status will be. 3,4 Some commentators expect that when she
officially takes office in 2006-NOV, five more
dioceses will have bolted, making a total of 11 dioceses or 10% of the total.
In essence, they are asking the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to
attach their dioceses to another province of the Anglican Communion on a
temporary basis. This would involve reducing the geographical scope of the
Episcopal Church, USA, and expanding the area covered by one or more other
Provinces -- probably in Africa where cultures continue to oppress women and
An article in the Washington Post indicates that there are multiple reasons
why these dioceses have decided to leave the denomination:
|Schori's gender. She noted that "Most of the bishops who protested
have been protesting for years about the presence of ordained women in the
church." This may well be a main concern for the Fort Worth and San
Joaquin dioceses who still refuse to ordain qualified female candidates to
the priesthood. Currently, 13 of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces have
no female priests. Only three provinces (Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.)
have female bishops. Only the U.S. has a female primate.|
|Her liberal views.|
|Her vote (along with the majority of delegates) to confirm the election
of V. Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire -- the first openly gay
bishop in the denomination.|
|Her permission to bless same-sex couples in her diocese of Nevada.|
|She used metaphorical language in a recent sermon, referring to "Mother
Jesus." She defended this position by referring to medieval mystics and
saints who used similar language -- including Julian of Norwich and St.
Teresa of Avila. She said: |
"I was trying to say that the work of the cross was in some ways like
giving birth to a new creation. That is straight-down-the-middle
orthodox theology....All language is metaphorical, and if we insist that
particular words have only one meaning and the way we understand those
words is the only possible interpretation, we have elevated that text to
an idol. I'm encouraging people to look beyond their favorite
|A refusal by the 2006 General Convention to reverse its trend and return
to a policy of special rights for heterosexuals.|
It appears to be impossible to determine which of the above six factors is
the most influential in each dioceses' decision.
Bishop Robert W. Duncan of Pittsburgh said:
"The incoming presiding bishop has made her positions very clear -- that
she is committed to the new agenda, committed to same-sex blessings,
committed to having same-sex partners in the leadership in the church --
which means she is also not committed to the faith as delivered to
Rev. Martyn Minns, the rector of Truro Church said:
"We prayed and hoped that the General Convention would really turn around
and change direction, but obviously it didn't." He has recently been named a
bishop in the conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria.
Alan Cooperman, of the Washington Post wrote:
"The message of her election, she said, is not that Episcopalians don't
care what other Anglicans think, but 'that we're more interested in feeding
hungry people and relieving suffering than we are in arguing about what
gender someone is or what sexual orientation someone has'."
2006-JUL: Seventh diocese bolts:
James Stanton, the Bishop of Dallas, has asked the Archbishop of Canterbury
for a "direct primatial relationship for the purpose of mission, pastoral
support, and accountability." This is different from the original six
dioceses; they have simply asked for "alternative primatial oversight." Stanton
is asking for direct oversight from the Archbishop.
Christ Church in Plano, TX, which recently pulled out of the Episcopal
Church, USA, continues to recognize Bishop Stanton as its bishop. Canon Neal
Michell, a spokesperson for the Dallas diocese, said: "We are treading
uncharted waters here." 5
2006-JUL: Bishop of Arkansas authorizes blessings for same-sex couples:
Right Rev. Larry Maze, Episcopal bishop of the diocese of Arkansas has
"It is my belief that seeking ways of recognizing and blessing faithful,
monogamous same-sex relationships falls within the parameters of providing
pastoral concern and care for our gay and lesbian members."
Associated Press reported:
"Maze noted in his letter sent to clergy Wednesday that no other national
or state Episcopal leaders have produced or approved official rites for the
blessings of same-sex unions. He said the ceremonies will be local
observances in each church, not approved formal rites. Arkansas has banned
gay marriage, so same-sex couples will have no legal standing in the state.
Two churches -- St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Little Rock and St. Paul's
Episcopal Church in Fayetteville -- plan to offer the ceremonies."
The Rev. Ed Wills at St. Michael's Church in Little Rock, AR, said:
"God is about community, about belonging, about a
relationship....[Couples are blessed in the church] not just so that they
can be special but that they can be a blessing to other people."
The Rev. Lowell Grisham of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, AR
"My gay friends are very sensitive about the notion that we've been
blessing animals for years and find it so difficult to bless their
2006-AUG: Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Rowan Williams is the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader
of the worldwide Anglican Communion. While a professor at Oxford University in
1989, he wrote in a paper:
"The pressure that some church figures put upon people of differing
sexual identities is a greater disgrace than anything else seen in the
In the paper, he called for a revision of the Church's doctrine on marriage
and sexuality to recognize same-sex committed relationships.
He appears to have since completely reversed his beliefs. During 2006-AUG, he
said that he has supported a resolution which states that same-sex behavior is
contrary to the teachings of Christianity and that homosexuals must change their
behavior if they are to be welcome in the Anglican church. In an interview with
a Dutch journalist from Nederlands Dagblad, he said:
"I don't believe inclusion is a value in itself. Welcome is. We don't say
'Come in and we ask no questions'. I do believe conversion means conversion
of habits, behaviors, ideas, emotions. ... Ethics is not a matter of a set
of abstract rules, it is a matter of living the mind of Christ. That applies
to sexual ethics."
Referring to the increasingly widening schism in the Anglican Communion,
"I don't especially want to see the Anglican Church becoming like the
Orthodox Church – where in some American cities you see the Greek Orthodox
Church, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Orthodox Church. I
don't want to see in the cities of America the American Anglican Church, the
Nigerian Anglican Church, the Egyptian Anglican Church and the English
Anglican Church on the same street."
Rev Giles Goddard, the chairman of Inclusive Church, told the Telegraph that
Williams’ comments were:
"astonishing. ... The implication is that there is no justification in
scripture for the welcome of lesbian and gay people. It appears that he has
moved into the conservative camp."
Life Site News reported:
"David W. Virtue, a conservative Anglican who maintains a website of news
about the schism, said that Williams has remained 'steadfastly in the
middle,' on the issue, much to the disgust of the African Primate, Peter
Akinola, who has led the revolt against the hold of the liberal majority in
England and the US."
"Virtue writes, 'Many American orthodox priests and laity I talk to are
none too convinced of Dr. Rowan Williams' orthodoxy, and my talks with
African Anglican leaders recently confirms [sic] that many on that continent
do not think that Williams could lead a lost to soul to Christ if his
pension depended on it." 7
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Neela Banerjee, "Episcopalians Divide Again Over Electing Gay Bishop," New
York Times, 2006-MAY-05, at:
- "Three Episcopal Dioceses Reject Presiding Bishop's Authority,"
Associated Press, 2006-JUN-29, at:
- Alan Cooperman, "Episcopal Protest of Top Bishop Increases. More Dioceses
Reject New Female Leader," The Washington Post, 2006-JUL-03, Page A01.
- "Springfield standing committee asks bishop to
'explore' alternative primatial oversight," Episcopal News Service,
- "Another Episcopal diocese seeks relief," UPI, 2006-JUL-06, at:
- "Episcopal bishop in Ark. OKs gay blessings," Associated Press,
- Hilary White, "Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Says Homosexual Sex
Incompatible with Bible. Some conservatives sceptical [sic] about Archbishop’s
sudden alleged orthodoxy," Life Site News, 2006-AUG-28, at:
Copyright © 2006 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2007-FEB-26
Author: B.A. Robinson