Credit on this is due to Lawrence, who sent me a link yesterday. I also mostly stole the title from him.
I’m not Episcopalian (or Anglican) and, while I don’t talk about my religion here, I am fascinated by the way various religions work (or don’t work, as the case may be). The link Lawrence sent me pushed my hot buttons, but to be honest, I had to re-read it a few times before I felt like I understood it.
So the archbishop of Canterbury apparently called a big meeting of the archbishops of the Anglican Communion. As I understand it, the Anglican Communion is sort of the governing body of the Anglican churches. This may be a poor analogy, but it seems like you can think of the archbishop of Canterbury as the Pope of the Anglican church, with the other archbishops sort of being the equivalent of their Catholic counterparts. (But there’s a lot more democracy and fellowship involved.)
In this case, the meeting was of what the church calls “primates”, which (again, if I understand correctly) are basically the archbishops who head up the regional Anglican churches in the Communion.
Results of this meeting leaked out yesterday, and the Primates were forced to issue a beautifully written statement:
Today the Primates agreed how they would walk together in the grace and love of Christ. This agreement acknowledges the significant distance that remains but confirms their unanimous commitment to walk together…
This agreement demonstrates the commitment of all the Primates to continue the life of the Communion with neither victor nor vanquished.
But what did they actually decide?
It is our unanimous desire to walk together. However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.
The Episcopal Church is basically the branch of the Anglicans in the United States. The Communion is stripping them of their ability to participate in decision making, and seems to be saying the American church is not “in full communion”.
Why? What brought this on? Three words: same-sex marriage.
The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.
The NYT summarizes these developments.
I’m kind of torn by this, even though I don’t have a dog in the fight. On the one hand, I support same-sex marriage. On the other hand, I also support the rights of churches and individuals to make their own decisions based on their faith. I’d violently oppose any governmental effort to force the Episcopal Church to allow same-sex marriage, but if they reached that decision independently, that’s their choice.
It’s more…curious to me than anything else. I had it in my head that the Anglican Communion, and especially the archbishops of Canterbury, were extremely liberal. If anything, I would have expected the communion to go in the opposite direction and allow same-sex marriage in all the churches.
And I’m wondering if this will cause an even bigger split:
The archbishop of Canterbury permitted the participation at the gathering this week of Archbishop Foley Beach, who leads the Anglican Church in North America, a breakaway group formed in the United States and Canada to protest the moves there to ordain gay bishops and recognize same-sex marriages. The Anglican Church in North America counts just over 100,000 members.
I’d welcome discussion of this here, especially from Anglicans/Episcopalians who want to correct my misunderstandings of the church or doctrine.