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Canterbury Archbishop, US bishops debate issue of gay clerics

BY A CORRESPONDENT
September 23, 2007:

The global Anglican Communion is threatened by a split over the debate brewing in the Church after the Episcopal Church of the United States in 2003 approved as the bishop of New Hampshire the Reverend V Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and lives with his longtime partner.

According to the conservatives, the approval violated the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality, intensifying the long-developing tensions over the liberal direction of the Episcopal Church.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, in a last-ditch effort to avoid a schism in the global Anglican Communion, spent several hours in talks with most of Episcopal bishops of the United States on September 20, 2007.

At the talks held in New Orleans, many bishops of the America’s Episcopal Church tried to convince Archbishop Rowan Williams that it was a mistake to define the American Church solely by its decision four years ago to approve an openly gay priest as bishop of New Hampshire.

The unusual talks between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of America’s Episcopal Church took place just days before a September 30, 2007 deadline, set by leaders of Anglican provinces around the world, for the American Church to withdraw its support for gay rights or face some unspecified form of punishment.

The American bishops told the Archbishop of Canterbury how they see the Church in the United States, and the Archbishop asked them a lot of
questions.

Despite deep disagreements among the bishops over theology and increasing dissatisfaction among some Episcopalians with the Anglican Communion, none of the 159 bishops who attended the meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in favor of leaving the global Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Communion is a 77-million-member global coalition of regional Churches that trace their roots to the Reformation and the Church of England.

Bishop M Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts said he told the Archbishop of Canterbury that gay rights issues should not depend on approval from the majority of the Anglican Communion, but urged the Archbishop to recognize that gay rights supporters (such as Thomas Shaw) believe they are acting in a “prophetic way.”

Bishop M Thomas Shaw said he also told the Archbishop that it is difficult to seek consensus in the American Church “when these American bishops are going to Africa and making promises and playing on the fears of the African Church.”

Bishop Shaw was referring to the fact that Anglican leaders in Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda have consecrated American priests, including the Reverend William Murdoch of Massachusetts, as bishops to minister to the alienated conservative minority in the United States who no longer feel comfortable in the Episcopal Church.


 

 

 

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