In the aftermath of the widely publicized decision of the Anglican Primates statement censuring the Episcopal Church for changing our doctrine of marriage at our General Convention 2015 to provide for the solemnizing of the vows of same-gender couples, I have some comments.
What was actually said in this communiqué was this:
“...given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”
This was interpreted in the press as the Episcopal Church being “suspended” from the Anglican Communion. This erroneous notion has been countered by our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, in his video from Canterbury, and ably dispatched by Dean Andrew McGowan of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. McGowan's post is lucid,making a clear explanation of a complicated subject.
Now, a scholar of Anglican canon law, writing in the Church Times, has called into question the authority of the Primates to make this requirement. Norman Doe of the Center for Law and Religion at Cardiff University today writes: “No instrument exists conferring upon the Primates' Meeting the jurisdiction to 'require' these things...Whatever they require is unenforceable.”
And Jonathan Merritt, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, asks why the Primates of the Anglican Communion don't treat the issue of the criminalization of homosexual people in some countries with the same seriousness with which they have treated the issue of gay marriage.
“Christians of mutual goodwill can and should have full-throated debates over whether same-sex unions constitute a violation of Christian doctrine and practice. But there is no moral equivalency between marrying a gay couple and sentencing them to rot in jail.”
That's an excellent point.
Integrity USA, a group within the Episcopal Church long advocating for equal treatment in the church for gay and lesbian people, is on record in their response to the communique as calling for the Archbishop's soon-to-be-formed Task Group in the Anglican Communion to “address the injustices, torture, imprisonment and killing of LGBTQ people taking place in several provinces of the Anglican Communion. Their statement also calls attention to human trafficking, hunger, poverty, and illness as deserving the attention of the Church.
The Episcopal Church is on record as standing for what many of us have come to believe, which is that same-gender couples in the Christian community are just as capable to shine the light of God's love through their relationships as opposite-gender couples. I see this. I recognize this. This isn't going to change because of the Primates' Communique.
What constitutes unity is another whole discussion which I won't develop here, but the short version is that our unity comes as a gift from God. When Peter confessed in the presence of Jesus that “You are the Christ,” Jesus responded to Peter saying “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
But in closing I call your attention to the pain of this decision for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians. Bishop Curry acknowledged this pain. I acknowledge it.
I call our attention to those in some countries where our Anglican Communion is present in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people are subject to imprisonment, various persecutions, and even death. This is intolerable. We as a church must in some way share this burden until the stigma is removed.