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February 23, 2007

Anglicans give U.S. church eight months to stop gay unions


Dar es Salaam, Tanzania--The primates, or leaders, of the Anglican Communion wrapped up a five-day conference on February 19 by giving its national churches in the United States and Canada until September to cease blessing same-sex unions and to ban the ordination of sexually active gay bishops.

Two bishoprics in Canada allow same-sex unions, and in the United States, it is left to the individual dioceses. Three years ago the Episcopal Church elevated the first openly gay bishop in the history of mainline Christianity, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The meeting of primates, which are the equivalent of archbishops, called for the establishment of a five-member pastoral council to attend to the needs of Episcopalians who oppose the American church�s liberal policies.

Two of the members would be nominated by primates of the worldwide Anglican Church. Two more would be nominated by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the primate of the Episcopal Church, and the chair and final member would be a primate nominated by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Communion.

The recommendation was outlined in a communiqu� issued at the end of the primates� meeting.

The same document also called for a suspension of civil suits between the Episcopal Church and breakaway parishes over ownership of church property.

Congregations in Virginia, California, and other states have allied themselves with African, South American and Asian primates who share their more orthodox views.

However, canon law in the Episcopal Church states that congregations hold their property in trust for the denomination, which would mean that should a parish align itself with another denomination or national church, the building and bank accounts revert to Episcopal ownership.

The communiqu� also speaks out against the interference of foreign primates and bishops in the United States. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria is the most notable of these, and has come under fire for his interventions in America, since the Anglican Communion divides authority by geography.

The pastoral council was put forward as an attempt to halt the meddling of bishops like Akinola.

During the meeting, seven primates refused to take communion with Jefferts Schori, protesting the Episcopal Church�s stand on LGBT issues. They had staged a similar protest two years ago at a meeting in Northern Ireland, when over a dozen primates refused to take communion with Rev. Frank Griswold, who was then the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

Adding to the tension is the fact that many bishops from the �global south,� comprised of Africa, Latin America and Asia, oppose the ordination of women. Jefferts Schori is the first woman elected to head the Episcopal Church, and her ordination brought protests from arch-conservatives.

The communiqu� noted this, but also asserted that she was elected following canon law in the Episcopal Church.

The current shape of a new Anglican Covenant, a document tying the various national churches together, was also unveiled at the meeting. While it will most likely be revised numerous times before its final approval in the future, it allows for the Anglican Communion to rescind the membership of national churches in �extreme circumstances.� It would also allow those churches to be brought back into the fold after they showed a willingness to change the causes for their ejection.

Conservatives considered it a victory, although Rev. Williams� Sunday sermon was also considered a rebuke to primates like Akinola.

�There is one thing that a bishop should say to another bishop,� he said, �that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great savior.�



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