The Anglican Communion on Wednesday rejected an attempt by traditionalists to punish the U.S. and Canadian wings of the church for their stance on homosexuality, watering down a resolution that called for the North Americans to be suspended from all church bodies. Clergy members, including Archbishop Peter Akinola, head of the 17.5 million-member Church of Nigeria, submitted a resolution to the influential Anglican Consultative Council requesting "that the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) and the Anglican Church of Canada withdraw their members from all other official entities of the Communion" for three years.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 30-28, with a key change--"all other official entities of the Communion" was replaced with a reference to the council's "standing committee and the inter-Anglican finance and administration committee." The North American churches have already withdrawn from the Consultative Council over the gay issue, and suspension from the two committees--which would not necessarily contain Canadian or U.S. members in any case--does not significantly isolate them further.
The council also endorsed a "listening process" through which Anglicans could learn more about the experiences of gay people. The narrow vote does little to heal the rift over homosexuality between Anglican liberals--many of them in North America--and conservatives, who are strongest in Africa and Asia. In February the North American churches were asked to withdraw from the Consultative Council--an international body of bishops, priests, and laypeople that meets every three years--until 2008 because of their support for gay clergy and same-sex blessings.
The North American churches also were summoned to this week's council meeting in Nottingham, England, to explain the theological reasoning behind the consecration of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire and the decision by the western Canadian diocese of New Westminster to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions. Official church policy declares gay sex "incompatible with scripture" and opposes gay ordinations and same-sex blessings.
On Tuesday the Episcopal Church affirmed its decision, telling the council that it supports "the eligibility for ordination of those in covenanted same-sex unions." Presiding bishop Frank Griswold, head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, said Wednesday's close vote "reveals a divide within the membership of the ACC."
"I very much hope that the listening process now mandated by the ACC will be one step in healing this divide," he said. But the Global South grouping of churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America accused the Americans of advocating "a position that reinforces our current divisions." (AP)