By Nicholas Muiruri
The Anglican Communion leaders met last Thursday and issued a powerful statement against the Episcopal Church. The latter is the Anglican Church’s branch in the U.S. The reprimand condemns the U.S. branch of the church for allowing its clergy to officiate gay marriages.
The statement released on Jan. 14 notes that The Episcopal Church departed from its marriage rule. The national leaders also stated that the U.S. church actions constitute a differing approach from the Anglican teachings on marriage.
Following this development, the Anglican Communion resolved not to have the Episcopal Church represent the Anglican faithful in interfaith bodies. Moreover, the leaders stated that the U.S. branch leaders should not hold positions in internal standing committees. At the same time, the U.S. Anglican Church clergy will not participate in making decisions relating to the church’s religious teachings or governing matters. The Anglican leaders resolved to keep the Episcopal Church out of these roles for three years.
The gathering, christened Primates 2016, started on January 11 in Canterbury, UK, and concludes on January 16. It brings together 37 heads of Anglican churches from all over the world. The purpose is to have all the leaders gather together for reflection and prayer over the future of the Anglican Church.
The subject of same-sex marriage has brought tension among the Anglican faithful. Despite the firm stance taken by the Anglican Communion, the U.S. branch has adopted a different approach to the matter. The Episcopal Church has welcomed homos*xual relationships and tolerated homos*xuality. However, Anglicans, particularly those in Africa have sharply criticized this approach.
In a general convention held in July 2015, the Episcopal Church unanimously approved gay marriages as well as church practices to celebrate such ceremonies.
In the 2016 statement, the Primates state that the gathering is solely for the sake of prayer and brainstorming on ways to preserve the church’s unity. The Anglican Primates also note that there are differences in understanding what the institution of marriage entail, hence the conflicting opinions.
Traditionally, the statement adds, the Anglican Church views marriage as a union that takes place between a faithful man and a woman. Moreover, the union should last a lifetime. The majority of the participants officially stated their support for the teaching.
In the announcement, the Anglican Primates termed the U.S. branch’s decision a unilateral one and that it lacked global unity from the Anglican faithful. The Primates added that the decision departed from the interdependence enjoyed by the Anglican Communion.
The Episcopal Church action, the gathering noted, impairs togetherness within the church, creates mistrust and widens the gap between different factions.
The U.S. branch has been distancing itself from the rest of the global Anglican community. The three-year suspension was merely an acknowledgement of that fact. The church will revisit the suspension in 2018 during the next general convention.
Following the suspension, the Archbishop of Canterbury will appoint a group whose task will entail restoring trust and investigating differences between the U.S branch and other Anglicans.
While announcing Primates 2016, the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged that same-sex marriages were a challenging issue for the Anglican Communion. He stated that despite the differences, the Anglican faithful must remain rooted in the doctrine of Jesus Christ.
In 2009, members who had left the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church formed the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America). Even though the group is not a member of the Anglican Communion, Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury invited Foley Beach, its head to the Primates 2016.