[vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Recently world headlines screamed about the ‘suspension’ of The Episcopal Church (TEC) when Primates of the Anglican Communion met at Canterbury on January 11-16. In that action, TEC has been restricted from fully participating in activities of the Anglican Communion, initially for the next three years. Depending on the source you read, we have been ‘suspended’, ‘suffered consequences’ and several other inflammatory headlines, as a result of our stand on inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the church and our approval of same-gender marriage. However, there is more to this than the headlines have presented.
First of all, it is important to understand that the Anglican Communion is NOT the governing body of all the Anglican (and Episcopal) churches in the world. Officially, the Anglican Communion is a group of Christian Churches derived from or related to the Church of England, including the Episcopal Church in the US and other national, provincial, and independent churches. The Anglican Communion has no official legal existence, nor any governing structure that might exercise authority over the member churches. This loose relationship in no way resembles the Roman Catholic Church and its council of cardinals. We are bound by friendship and belief in following the teaching of Jesus.
Second, even within TEC, the churches actions toward LGBT persons have caused schism. More conservative dioceses and bishops within TEC have deviated from the church’s official position on inclusion of gays. The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was formed in protest of TEC’s position on LGBT matters. (Interestingly, the Anglican Communion primates continue to skirt the issue of admitting the ACNA to the Anglican Communion by referring their request for admission to the Anglican Consultative Council. And yet the primate of ACNA was mistakenly offered a paper ballot at the meeting to vote on the ‘suspension’ of TEC. The ballot was returned without a vote.)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby called this recent meeting of the primates to try to defuse the animosity that exists between certain members of the Anglican Communion and TEC. But there have been rumblings of ‘schism’ ever since the 1970s when TEC issued a statement that gay men and lesbians “have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.” Many of the African primates of the Anglican Communion have an interpretation of biblical scripture that suggests to them that The Episcopal Church is non-biblical and non-Christian. Benjamin Nzimbi, the former primate of the Anglican Church in Kenya, once said, “Our understanding of the Bible is different from them. We are two different churches.”
One must note that, Africa, as a whole, is oppressive to LGBT persons; in approximately 70 countries, persons can be imprisoned or even executed for being homosexual. In several cases, the Anglican Church has taken a position of support for these draconian laws and associated punishments.
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry noted that the Primates statement about TEC was “not the outcome we expected.” And the President of the House of Deputies, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, emphasized that TEC will not step back from its firm belief in the sanctity of all people. It is up to the Anglican Communion and God as to what will happen at the end of the three years. We can only pray that the words ‘initially for three years’ in the communiqué are not portending of things to come.
In short, The Episcopal Church will continue to work around the world to spread the good news of the Gospel, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and heal the sick (Matthew 25:35-36), as we are directed by Jesus. It is our work now, while we are saddened for the Anglican Communion and this misguided spirit that mocks the teaching of Jesus, to pray for the world and all those that are persecuted as we move forward, following our belief in the sanctity and belovedness of all people of God.
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The Rev. Deniray Mueller serves as the legislative liaison for the Diocese of Southern Ohio and as convenor of the Social Justice and Public Policy commission. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.