January 15, 2016
“Anglican Communion Suspends the Episcopal Church After Years of Gay Rights Debates” headline in the Washington Post
“Anglican Communion Suspends the Episcopal Church in the United States” news crawl on CNN
“Episcopal Church Suspended from Anglican Communion” headline from Religious News Service
“…the disciplinary action is the most serious setback for the Episcopal Church…since the conflict erupted in earnest over how to interpret what the Scriptures say about gay people and same-sex marriage.” Quote within a news report from the New York Times
These are all reliable news sources that I respect. None of the statements are true.
What happened at the Primates’ meeting in Canterbury needs to be unpacked in light of who Primates are (an awful name – we need to come up with something better), what Primates do and what the Anglican Communion is. I can’t explain that any better than Andrew McGowan, Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, does in this blog.
If you don’t have time to read that blog, know that a gathering of Anglican Communion leaders throughout the world declared that The Episcopal Church could have “voice but not vote” in several internal bodies of the Anglican Communion for the next three years. They made this decision in reaction to our (The Episcopal Church) decision at General Convention last summer to allow same-sex marriage. We are not “suspended” from the Anglican Communion. We are still united “in bonds of affection” with this religious tradition of 90 million people. And we are still a companion diocese with Kumasi, Ghana and Mampong, Ghana. We will support the Mampong Babies’ Home as generously as ever. We will listen respectfully to Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and support his leadership of the Anglican Communion and his prophetic witness for the poor and for the earth.
I hope the above shows why the headline and “crawl line” from the Washington Post and Religious News Service and CNN are wrong. As to the NY Times statement, I offer the following rebuttal that this decision by this one gathering of church leaders is “the most serious set-back for the Episcopal Church…since the conflict erupted in earnest over how to interrupt what the Scriptures say about gay people and same sex marriage.”
Our “Primate” – also called our Presiding Bishop, also called my friend and inspiration- Michael Curry, responded to the Primates’ decision against The Episcopal Church’s decision to support same-sex marriage with this:
“Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being a ‘house of prayer for all people’ as the Bible says, when all are truly welcome. Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on social theory or capitulation to the ways of culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”
Or, as my brother bishop in Rhode Island, Nick Knisely, said in the midst of the debate over same-sex marriage in his state, said “I’m not for same-sex marriage despite my faith. I am for it because of my faith.”
The Episcopal Church is not backing down on our support for same-sex marriage and for the dignity and equality of LBGT persons. But I also, as a Bishop in the Episcopal Church which is part of the Anglican Communion, apologize to LBGT persons. This decision by the Primates is hurtful for you- you who are God’s creation and beloved by God as you are. I wish they had never said what they did and I support you.
I support you despite the Primates’ Meeting and I look forward to this as an opportunity to once again make this support public. We are not “set back.” Just the opposite. This is an opportunity to again to say to LBGT people- “you can come home to the Episcopal Church.” We will not back away from that support. Not in these three years of “sanctions” and never in the years after that. Not only are you welcomed, but you are a great gift from the Living God.
At the same time, I value this opportunity to walk with our Anglican Communion even though we disagree. We are not walking out on the Anglican Communion. We need to show the world how to live in disagreement. We are not the Body of Christ because we agree with each other. We are the Body of Christ because we care about each other.
As I write this on Martin Luther King weekend, remember his words “the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I wish the Primates did not say what they said. But we are still moving toward justice for LBGT people. The Jesus Movement rolls on.
PS Another source of reflection is the blog of the Rev. Jesse Zink, a WMA priest.