Archbishop speaks out in lesbian bishop row

The US Episcopal Church should face sanctions for consecrating the Anglican Communion’s first openly lesbian bishop, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Rowan Williams’ comments follow the consecration of Mary Glasspool, who is in a same-sex relationship, as the Assistant Bishop of Los Angeles.

The consecration represents a breach of the Anglican Church’s moratorium on ordaining homosexual clergy.

Restraint

The position in the Church of England remains that homosexual acts must be repented of, and that no practicing homosexual can be ordained.

Dr Rowan Williams, who previously urged the Episcopal Church to show restraint, has now called for the church to be banned from ecumenical discussions, and from doctrinal discussions.

Writing in a Pentecost Letter to the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop said: “It is clear that the official bodies of The Episcopal Church have felt in conscience that they cannot go along with what has been asked of them by others, and the consecration of Canon Mary Glasspool on May 15 has been a clear sign of this.”

He added: “I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged.

Consultants

“I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members.”

His comments were welcomed by Reverend Rod Thomas, chairman of evangelical group Reform, who said: “This letter is long awaited and welcome, and I admire the attempt by the Archbishop to be even-handed.

“This is the first time the Archbishop of Canterbury has moved towards any clear disciplinary position, but it’s better late than never.

Repair

“I hope this can help to repair relationships with Anglicans in the developing world.”

The leaders of the national Anglican churches are due to discuss the Archbishop’s proposals at their next meeting in January.

The US Episcopal Church’s controversial stance towards sexuality has caused problems before, and in 2003 it became the first church in the Anglican Communion to appoint an openly homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson.

Warned

Last August the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) warned that the debate over appointing practicing homosexuals to clergy positions is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

The Most Revd David Chillingworth, Primus of the SEC, said that the issue needs to be addressed without any “blurring” or “fudging”.

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