Anglican leaders wrap up meeting on homosexuality
September 11 2004 12:00 AM ET
A commission seeking to resolve the Anglican Communion's crisis over a gay U.S. bishop and other gay issues wrapped up its work Friday and said it would publish its report on October 18. The commission, chaired by Irish primate Robin Eames, issued a brief statement as it ended a weeklong meeting at Windsor Castle, west of London. Before the meeting, Eames said the panel would probably "recommend radical changes in the ways Anglicanism relates to its different constituencies," but Friday's statement gave no further clues about the recommendations.
The commission is dealing with a deep split among and within Anglican national churches caused by the election of V. Gene Robinson, who has a male partner, as bishop of New Hampshire and by the decision of the western Canadian diocese of New Westminster to bless same-sex relationships. Robinson's election has left rifts within the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church of the United States, and some conservative churches in Africa and elsewhere have refused to meet with Episcopal Church leaders. There have been calls to suspend the Episcopal Church from the global communion, and some conservative Episcopal churches have formed relationships with African bishops rather than accept oversight from bishops who approved of Robinson's appointment.
The commission said it would publish its report in London at the start of a meeting of senior Anglican officials. "I have no doubt that their collective insights and recommendations can and must make a profound and practical impact for good in the life and mission of the Anglican Communion," Eames said. The Anglican Communion is an association of independent national churches spawned by the Church of England. Episcopal leaders have protested against "interference" in its affairs by bishops of other national churches.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has no authority to veto actions of the 38 national churches that make up the communion, which claims 77 million members. Williams is in a difficult position because he has acknowledged ordaining a priest that he knew to be gay when he was a Welsh bishop, but as archbishop of Canterbury he has criticized the Episcopal Church for proceeding with Robinson's consecration without agreement within the communion.
In the United States, eight of the 107 Episcopal dioceses have joined the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, which was created six months ago as a "church within a church" in opposition to denominational leaders. This week the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles filed lawsuits against three breakaway parishes that aligned themselves with Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, head of Uganda's 8 million-member church. Orombi said he acted to uphold "biblical orthodoxy."
On September 15 former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey will preside at confirmation services for 11 parishes in Virginia that have rejected their own bishop because of his support for Robinson. Carey said he was presiding at the invitation of Peter Lee, the bishop of Virginia. In a letter last month to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Carey said, "The diocese of Virginia is pioneering a way of responding to the deep divisions in the Episcopal Church of the U.S. I salute Peter Lee's spirit of generosity and humility as a demonstration that in these critical days for the Anglican Communion it is possible to avoid schism, if American bishops pay attention to the many Episcopalians who are exceedingly distressed by the consecration of Gene Robinson."