Schism in the Anglican Communion over homosexuality
Events during 2007-January to August
2007-FEB-19: Primate's communiqué:
The Anglican primates met in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from 2007-FEB-14 to 19.
The American Anglican Council, a group opposed to equal rights for gays and
lesbians in the Anglican Communion, noted:
" 'This is the most important decision taken by the global Anglican
Communion since the last Lambeth Resolutions were issued in 1998,' said the
Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, AAC president and CEO. 'The clock is now
running on The Episcopal Church, and it is running fast'."
"The primates’ communiqué, issued later than expected on Monday, Feb. 19 due
to last-minute deliberations, issues an ultimatum to The Episcopal Church
(TEC) in the United States with regard to its stances on human sexuality. In
particular, the church is given seven months (until Sept. 30, 2007) to
convey its definitive position on the blessing of same-sex unions and the
elevation to episcopal orders of a candidate living in a same-sex
" 'The meeting in Dar es Salaam moved TEC firmly into the penalty box, which
they will not emerge from without a true, 180-degree turn from the behavior
and theology that has become the norm in many parts of the U.S. church over
the past several decades,' Canon Anderson said. 'Fudging the issues is no
longer possible because the primates are ‘on to’ TEC and understand that
they have been saying one thing and doing another'."
' 'Before this meeting, many primates could not fathom that the bishops
and presiding bishop would play fast and loose with their words in order to
deceive the primates or avoid sending a clear message,' Canon Anderson
continued. 'Now, a clear message is demanded, and if it is not given, the
church will suffer the long-threatened consequence of losing full membership
in the worldwide Anglican family'." 1
The primates' communiqué said in part:
"17. At the heart of our tensions is the belief that The Episcopal Church
has departed from the standard of teaching on human sexuality accepted by
the Communion in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 by consenting to the
episcopal election of a candidate living in a committed same-sex
relationship, and by permitting Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. The
episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not
acceptable to the majority of the Communion. ..."
"26. The interventions by some of our number and by bishops of some
Provinces, against the explicit recommendations of the Windsor Report,
however well-intentioned, have exacerbated this situation. Furthermore,
those Primates who have undertaken interventions do not feel that it is
right to end those interventions until it becomes clear that sufficient
provision has been made for the life of those persons."
"27. A further complication is that a number of dioceses or their bishops
have indicated, for a variety of reasons, that they are unable in conscience
to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop in The Episcopal Church, and
have requested the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to consider
making provision for some sort of alternative primatial ministry. At the
same time we recognise that the Presiding Bishop has been duly elected in
accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which
must be respected."
"28. These pastoral needs, together with the requests from those making
presentations to this meeting, have moved us to consider how the primates
might contribute to healing and reconciliation within The Episcopal Church
and more broadly. We believe that it would be a tragedy if The Episcopal
Church was to fracture, and we are committed to doing what we can to
preserve and uphold its life. While we may support such processes, such
change and development which is required must be generated within its own
2007-MAR-21: U.S. bishops reject ultimatum:
The Episcopal House of Bishops met at a retreat center near Houston, Texas to
consider the Anglican Communion's ultimatum. In what the Associated Press called
"strong and direct language" the bishops rejected the Communion's demands. The
Toronto Star reported that:
"They said they had a 'deep longing' to remain part of the Anglican
Communion, but were unwilling to compromise the Episcopal Church's autonomy
and its commitment to full equality for all people, including gay men and
On the topic of homosexuality, they stated that their understanding of the
Gospel requires that "all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are
full and equal participants" in the church.
They also refused to agree to have foreign bishops oversee the conservative
American dioceses who cannot accept the Episcopal Church's positions. Their
"We cannot accept what would be injurious to the church and could well
lead to its permanent division. ... If that means that others reject us and
communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and
sorrow accept their decision.'
They said that ceding authority to a panel that included overseas Anglicans
contravenes Episcopal church law:
"It violates our founding principles as the Episcopal Church following
our own liberation from colonialism and the beginning of a life independent
of the Church of England. ... And for the first time since our separation
from the papacy in the 16th century, it replaces the local governance of the
church by its own people with the decisions of a distant and unaccountable
group of prelates.''
As of 2007-MAR, six dioceses do not recognize the leadership of Presiding
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori because of her support for same-sex
relationships and a liberal/progressive interpretation of the Bible. Three of
the six do not accept the ordination of women as priests.
On the Anglican Communion's demand that the denomination not consecrate a
sexually-active homosexual bishop, they
noted that they had previously met requests to not approve another gay bishop "at
great cost to many, not the least of whom are our gay and lesbian members."
However, that pledge was not sufficient for the Communion.
The statement by the House of Bishop will be reviewed by the Executive
Council, and again by the House of Bishops in September.
Canon Kendall Harmon of the Diocese of South Carolina called the bishops'
statement "as strong a repudiation as you can get" of the Anglican
Communion's ultimation. He said:
"The reality is that they've rejected what's been asked. They went out of
their way to both push back on [Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams and
The Rev. Susan Russell of Integrity, a gay-positive Episcopal advocacy group
"This was a huge step that the American church was not willing to go back
into the closet about its inclusion of gay and lesbian people in order to
capitulate to those who would exclude us.'' 4
2007-APR-16: Archbishop of Canterbury to meet with Episcopal Church leaders:
Speaking at a news conference in Toronto, Canada, Rowan Williams, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, said that he will visit the meeting of the bishops of
the Episcopal Church, USA in New Orleans on SEP-20 to 25. At this meeting, a
response of the American church will presumably be crafted to the ultimatum
issued by the Primates in February.
Rowans said that his "minimum" hopes for the
"... is simply a better understanding of
[their] issues and a better understanding of what the evident problems are
about the American church's constitution, which are holding us up a bit."
When asked whether he believed that the Anglican
Communion is headed towards a schism, he replied:
"I can't say. Naturally I hope we will find a
way of working together on this because I believe very passionately that we
need each other in the Anglican Communion. I believe that an Anglican
Communion divided into a liberal and a conservative segment would be very,
very much impoverished on both sides."
Williams said that he is personally:
"... strongly and consistently opposed to
anything which suggests that gay and lesbian Christians are less than human,
less than fully baptized, good-faith members of the church. ... It's not
just about nice people who want to include gay and lesbian Christians and
nasty people who want not to include them. It's about what are the forms of
behavior that the church has the freedom to bless if it wants to be faithful
to scripture and tradition. That's the question that is tearing us apart at
the moment because there are real differences of conviction." 5
Our personal opinions on the Archbishop's plan:
our web site, we try to describe religious events, beliefs and practices
objectively while trying to avoid filtering them through our personal prejudices. On rare
occasions, we do make an exception. This is one of those cases. If you don't
want to read of our opinions, please skip this section and
The Archbishop of Canterbury's first four proposals would create a schism
within the Anglican Communion. It would divide the 38 provinces into two groups:
churches: A large conservative group which promotes traditional Christian
levels of discrimination and oppression against their membership on the
basis of gender and sexual orientation.
||Churches in association: A small liberal group, which
would presumably include the Episcopal Church, USA and the Anglican Church of Canada. They would be separated from the main body
because they value inclusiveness and promote basic human rights on the basis of gender and sexual
Previous points of conflict in the Anglican Communion, such as the abolition
of human slavery, the use of contraceptives have long been settled. However,
there is a lack of consensus on sexually related matters among the provinces. We
speculate that the covenant or loyalty oath will include the following
||A bare majority of Anglican Provinces allow women to be ordained. However, a
very large minority are opposed to female priests. We suspect that the
covenant would be phrased to allow to either exclude or include women.
||Only a few of the provinces allow the consecration of female priests as
bishops. These include Canada,
Ireland, New Zealand, Polynesia, Scotland and the U.S. Only one
female Primate exists among the 36 provinces. Sexual discrimination limiting
the roles of women in the constituent churches of the Communion might well
form a major part of the covenant. Female bishops and female primates would
probably be banned.
||A very large majority of provinces is currently opposed to homosexual
priests, bishops and primates. They also disapprove of recognizing in any way same-sex relationships
based on mutual love and commitment. Enforced discrimination against gay
primates, bishops, priests and conceivably even members would certainly form a
major compulsory part of the covenant.
||In recent decades, provinces have been free to decide independently of
the rest of the Communion to ordain female priests and consecrate female
priests as bishops. Under the loyalty oath, they presumably would not be
allowed to do this without losing their status. They would become a church
in association, and lose all voting rights.
||In the past, provinces have been free to ordain celibate homosexual candidates as
priests. Depending on the wording of the loyalty oath, this might not be
possible without threatening the status of the entire province.
||With a two tier membership system, there does not appear to be any
allowance for those provinces who wish to end discrimination against women
as bishops and primates, while maintaining discrimination against
homosexuals. Some provinces might be faced with the requirement of
de-consecration of their female bishops in order to retain their voting
||There is no indication whether the Communion will adopt a policy of revisiting the covenant at
regular intervals to keep it current. The level of prejudice and oppression of women and
homosexuals has been reduced greatly over the past decades. If past conflicts
are any indication, this may well
continue into the future.
||Membership in the Church of England, and in some other western
provinces, might be adversely affected by the loyalty oath. Sexism and
homophobia are gradually being considered in the same profoundly immoral
category as racism by much of their cultures.
End of personal opinions.
2007-AUG-29: Lesbian priest nominated as bishop of
The Rev. Tracey Lind was nominated as a finalist for the post of bishop of Chicago in 2007. She is one of five candidates that includes
two other women and two men. This is the first time in the history of the
diocese that a woman has been a finalist. Other nominees are the Rev. Jane Gould
of Lynn, Mass; the Rev. Margaret Rose of New York; the Rev. Jeffrey Lee of
Medina, Wash., and the Rev. Timothy Safford of Philadelphia.
Lind is dean of Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, OH and the author of
"Interrupted by God." She said in a statement: "I believe that accepting this
nomination is what God is asking of me. ... My life with my partner, Emily
Ingalls, is the gift that most sustains me. ... Together, we tend our garden,
Referring to a 2006 request by the Anglican Communion that the Episcopal
Church, USA exercise restraint in consecrating bishops whose "manner of life"
might be an issue for much of the Anglican Communion, Bishop James Stanton of
Dallas, TX said: "It's an action that says Chicago really doesn't care what
the rest of the Anglican Communion says."
A diocesan search committee selected the five nominees. Individuals and
groups can raise a petition to add more nominees to the list. Rev. Jeffrey Ley was elected as bishop of Chicago.
She was also nominated as bishop coadjutor in the New York diocese during 2011-NOV, but was again unsuccessful.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- American Anglican Council statement on the primates' 2007 communiqué,
American Anglican Council, Weekly Update, 2007-FEB-23.
- "The Communiqué of the Primates' Meeting in
Dar Es Salaam," American Anglican Council, 2007-FEB-19, at: http://www.americananglican.org/
- Stuart Laidlaw, "Anglicans facing schism. Bishops in U.S. reject demands to
end their support for gay marriages, clergy," The Toronto Star, 2006-MAR-22, at: http://www.thestar.com/
- "Episcopal bishops reject ultimatum. American church may split with global
Anglican communion," Associated Press, 2007-MAR-21, at: http://www.thestar.com/
- "Rowan Williams will meet with Episcopal bishops in September," The
Christian Century, 2007-MAY-15, at: http://www.christiancentury.org/
- Susan Hogan, "Lesbian could head Episcopal Diocese," Chicago Sun-Times,
2007-AUG-29, at: http://www.suntimes.com/
Copyright © 2006 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2012-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson