Sunday, February 25, 2007

Are Episcopalians Anglicans?

The leaders of the worldwide Anglican communion just released a document chastising the Episcopal Church of the USA for ordaining a practicing gay bishop. Even the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports gay ordination, signed the document, calling for a season of restraint before either side issued further provocations. She is getting grief from some American Episcopal leaders for not fighting this censure. In an even more extraordinary concession, Bishop Jefferts Schori agreed to the creation of a non-geographic diocese for traditionalist Episcopal churches, to be overseen by a commission of foreign bishops.

To rewind a couple of steps, when the Church of England was considering naming a celibate gay man as bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury eventually asked him to withdraw his name, rather than create controversy in the Anglican communion. When non-celibate gay priest V. Gene Robinson was being considered as Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked him to withdraw his name, as well, for the good of the worldwide Anglican communion. The American, however, refused, on the grounds that it was inevitable that his side would win the struggle, so the conflict might as well come now.

The Archbishop of Nairobi, Peter Akinola, presides over a church that is about ten times larger than the Episcopal Church, and has more active members on any given Sunday than the mother church in England does. He has emerged as the de facto leader of the third world Anglican church – where most of the world's Anglicans are. The worldwide Anglican communion has disapproved of the American church for decades, but has put up with them because Anglicans are polite, and because the Americans provide quite a bit of money.

The limits of Anglican patience seem to have been reached, however, The showdown is upon us. The Episcopal Church must decide whether to follow the rules of the Anglican Communion, or get booted out.

4 comments:

Lara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LMR said...

I think there is a third option - the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member - can choose to leave on its own terms. I don't see why it's ok for the African church to push their agenda on the Communion but not the American and Canadian branches. The African bishops have asked us to consider that they are working and ministering in a very different context from the US church. Ok. I accept that. But they need to accept the same thing about us.

The truth is, the Episcopal Church has been charting its own course for a long time, at least since ordaining women in the 1970s. Even in the UK there are dioceses that still don't ordain women. I think it's time for the Episcopal Church to stop sacrificing the progressive parts of its identity to preserve the Communion.

I do think it's wrong to try to force Third World churches to change their positions based on funding concerns - but also I think the Episcopal church should not contribute to churches that do not share its positions. I live overseas and the Anglican church here receives money from both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church and the congregation has a large number of Americans - yet the priest, who is C of E, regularly criticizes the Episcopal Church from the pulpit. I think our money could be better invested elsewhere. I left that church and now attend a Catholic parish. I do not consider myself an Anglican and think that the Anglican Communion has outlived its usefulness.

Anonymous said...

lmr-- you just don't get it. You're very egocentric in assuming that the American Episcopal Church can do whatever in the hell it wants and denigrating the World Wide Anglican Communion. Most of the Anglican Communion sees itself as a whole in which one part doesn't have the perogative to just leave. If the American Church were to just pick up and leave, it would not only be leaving the Anglican Communion, but orthodox Christianity as well. Not to mention, a whole lot of US Episcopalians don't agree with the policies of the ECUSA, so you would also be leaving them.

LMR said...

I do get it. I just wish the rest of the Communion was as committed to keeping the Episcopal Church in as ECUSA has it has been to staying, up to this point. We don't have the perogative to leave, but they have the perogative to kick us out?