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Anglican Head Proposes Reduced
Role for Episcopalians
rchbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on May 28 proposed a reduced role for the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion because the church has consecrated gay bishops.
Williams, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, said Episcopalians' support for gay and lesbian bishops is out of step with other Anglicans. "Our Anglican fellowship continues to experience painful division," Williams said in a letter to bishops, clergy and lay believers, "and the events of recent months have not brought us nearer to full reconciliation."
On May 15, the Episcopal Church consecrated an openly lesbian priest, Mary Douglas Glasspool, as an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, despite warnings from Williams and other Anglican leaders. The first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, was consecrated in 2003.
Numerous Anglican leaders, including Williams, have urged the 44 member churches in the worldwide fellowship to abide by three moratoria: no more openly gay bishops, no official blessings for same-sex unions, no interfering in other national churches. "There are still things being done that the representative bodies of the communion have repeatedly pleaded should not be done," William said, "and this leads to recrimination, confusion and bitterness all around."
Williams proposed on May 28 that the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion, withdraw from ecumenical dialogue with other Christians, and not be allowed to vote on a committee that determines doctrine and authority.
As Archbishop of Canterbury, Williams has powers of proposal and persuasion, but lacks the authority of a pope to enforce his will on the rest of the communion.
A Q&A section that follows Williams' five-page letter stresses that the Episcopal Church is not being asked to leave the Anglican fellowship. The "proposals come after several churches broke the communion's agreed moratoria (their promises to the communion)," the Q&A states.
"Nevertheless the churches concerned remain full members of the Anglican Communion."
The Episcopal Church declined to comment on May 28. Individual bishops gave a mixed response. Bishop Marc Andrus of San Francisco said Williams is focusing on issues of sexuality, rather than African and South American bishops who broke the moratoria by crossing boundaries to ordain conservative clergy in the U.S.
Andrus also said Williams' proposals are "not in the spirit of a communion that values the idea of seeking the mind of Christ across the communion rather than investing a central authority with more and more punitive power."
Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas said the proposals are "not a punitive action."
"I think we should take responsibility for the decisions that we've made," Douglas said. "But I do not think greater distancing or putting more space between churches is going to help us live more deeply into the fullness of our unity."