From Spero News via TitusOneNine:
Sunday, December 20, 2009
By Martyn Drakard
We are about to enter the second decade of the third millennium. In ten years’ time, shall we find the world-wide Anglican Communion still one, or broken up into a group of splinter churches?
A standing committee of the Anglican Communion held in London from 15 to 18 December this year passed a resolution, approved for public distribution.
It read as follows:
in the light of
i) the recent Episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate
ii) the decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with the formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings
iii) continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion,
the standing committee strongly affirms Resolution 14.09 of Anglican Consultative Council 14 supporting three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report of 2004 requesting “gracious restraint” in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion.
In short, think twice before confirming the nomination of Mary Glasspool as suffragan-elect of Los Angeles, since this raises serious questions for the future of the Communion as a whole.
The Instruments of Communion are the closest the Anglican Communion gets to an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. They consist of the spiritual leader of the Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is “Primus inter pares’ (first among equals) among the primates of the other Anglican provinces, excluding the English province, of which he is head. The Lambeth Conferences, where all the provinces are widely represented, and which are held every ten years; the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) made up of clergy, laypeople and religious; and the meetings of primates of the different Communions world-wide –each of which is autonomous, yet all interdependent. The primates have no authority as a body, and their own national churches determine how their ministry is carried out in their own context. The Windsor Report is the result of the Eames Commission, set up to study the challenges to Anglican unity, and took a strong stand against homosexual practice, recommending a moratorium on further consecrations of gay bishops, and blessings of same-sex unions...
There’s the rub.
The Anglican Church does not speak with one voice for or against same-sex unions and the ordination and consecration of confessed gay men or women. In the Catholic Church there is one voice, which opposes same-sex unions, the ordination of women and the ordination of self-confessed gay men.
It didn’t begin with Gene Robinson, ordained as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, but this was decisive step towards potential fragmentation. Gene Robinson divorced from his wife in the 1980s after making publicly known that he was gay, and “married” Mark Andrews in 2008. From the time of Robinson’s Episcopal consecration in 2004 some parishes holding more to traditional beliefs aligned themselves with bishops outside the Episcopal Church –mostly Anglican bishops in Africa- and this new process is being termed Anglican Re-alignment.
Mary Glasspool’s election still has to be confirmed. It could be rejected by the diocesan bishops and standing committees. Equally it could be approved. This decision therefore has very important implications for the future of the Anglican Communion. Hence the appeal for “gracious restraint”.
For Christians in Africa this is looking more and more like Alice’s Wonderland. Except for Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who asks what all the fuss is about, the other African primates are against all homosexual practice, more so for ordained ministers.
When the debate about gays going public and gay rights first came up, and news infiltrated into Africa, one Kenyan Anglican bishop said: “But this is un-African!” Now the Anglican bishops, clergy and laity are saying it is not only un-African, but it is un-Christian. The African Anglican Church is markedly Evangelical and holds to strict interpretations of the Bible text, which rejects homosexual practice.
It is interesting that the Anglican Church was established because of a marriage that was illicit according to Church teaching, that of King Henry VIII of England with Anne Boleyn. Then there was no gracious restraint. Henry’s appointed bishops followed him into schism –or else-; only John Fisher resisted and he was beheaded. Now its future is in the balance, all because of same-sex (illicit) marriages. Will “gracious restraint”, admirable as it is, be sufficient to keep the Anglican Communion together?
Martyn Drakard writes from Uganda and Kenya.