The Anglican Communion has banned the Episcopal Church of America from representing Anglicanism on interfaith and ecumenical bodies, from taking part in internal committees, and from having decision-making powers on policy and doctrine for a period of three years. The decision, taken as a result of the Episcopal Church’s pro-gay marriage stance, is being widely panned in the more liberal Church of England.
Before the meeting at which the decision was taken there was much speculation over whether the Communion would be rent apart entirely, as African and Asian Primates threatened to walk out unless the Episcopal Church “repent” of having ordained an openly gay Bishop.
In the event, just one Primate left the meeting early. In a statement, Stanley Ntagali, the Archbishop of Uganda explained that, having moved a motion for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from the meeting, he felt that the meeting was being purposefully spun out so as to avoid a conclusion.
“In accordance with the resolution of our Provincial Assembly, it was, therefore, necessary for me to withdraw from the meeting, which I did at the end of the second day. It seemed that I was being manipulated into participating in a long meeting with the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada without the necessary discipline being upheld. My conscience is at peace,” he said.
In a statement released on the official website for the summit, the Primates announced: “Today the Primates agreed how they would walk together in the grace and love of Christ. This agreement acknowledges the significant distance that remains but confirms their unanimous commitment to walk together.”
Confirming that they have indeed been discussing how to hold the Anglican Communion together in light of differing interpretations on the doctrine of marriage (the meeting is taking place behind closed doors, leading to much speculation), the Primates have re-iterated their commitment to a traditional understanding of marriage.
“The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching,” they said.
Turning to the matter of the Episcopal Church’s departure from this doctrine, they continued: “unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.
“It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However 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.
“We have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a Task Group to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.”
Ordained Anglicans within the Church of England have taken to Twitter to proclaim their dismay at the result.
Disgraceful communique from the Anglican Primates, disciplining the US church for their prophetic commitment to gay equality.
— Giles Fraser (@giles_fraser) January 14, 2016
@giles_fraser As a Deacon, I wonder, how do I now minister to the lost? What do I now say? Are those not Christ’s arms outstretched?
— Tracey Bishop (@Thebishoptrace) January 14, 2016
Those who seek to divide and discriminate others should never deceive themselves into thinking they are doing God’s work. #Primates2016
— Father Albert Cutie (@padrealberto) January 15, 2016
The Archbishop of Uganda confirmed that the Church of Uganda remains within the Communion, notwithstanding his walkout.
“Together with our fellow GAFCON Provinces and others in the Global South, we are the Anglican Communion; the future is bright. The door is open for all those who seek communion on the basis of a common confession of our historic, Biblical faith for which the Ugandan Martyrs, Archbishop James Hannington, Archbishop Janani Luwum and many others around the world have died.”