Anglican split over Episcopal gay bishop expected to slowly unfold
November 5, 2003
NEW YORK — Anglican leaders moved closer Monday to a permanent break with
the U.S. Episcopal Church over its first openly gay bishop, but the
anticipated split within the U.S. denomination will evolve more
slowly as conservatives create a network of like-minded dioceses
Overseas bishops, who said they represented 50 million of the
world's 77 million Anglicans, jointly announced they were in a
"state of impaired communion" with the Episcopal Church, but
stopped short of declaring a full schism. Episcopalians form the
U.S. branch of Anglicanism.
Archbishop Peter Akinola, head of the 17.5 million-member
Anglican Church of Nigeria, the largest Anglican province outside
of England, went even further in an interview on Nigeria state
radio. He said he would boycott all meetings at the global level
attended by the Episcopal Church.
"We can no longer claim to be in the same communion," Akinola
said. "We cannot go to them and they cannot come to us. We will not
share communion. ... We have come to the end of the road."
However, in the United States, the traditionalist American
Anglican Council has just begun collecting applications from
congregations that want to be led by conservative bishops instead
of their own liberal bishops.
Canon David Anderson, the council president, said he expects
more than 300 congregations to apply, helping form a network of at
least five dioceses.
Conservatives worry that declaring a break outright will spark
legal challenges over church property. At least one lawsuit has
already been filed - in the Diocese of Pittsburgh over who owns
church assets if the diocese breaks away from the national
"If anyone were to use the magic words, `We are leaving the
Episcopal Church,' lawsuits could follow immediately," said the
Rev. John Guernsey, a conservative and rector of All Saints Church
in Woodbridge, Virginia.
Anglican leaders in Asia, Africa and Latin America who believe
gay sex violates Scripture have been warning for months that
consecrating V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire would
fracture the Anglican Communion. The ceremony was held Sunday, and
Robinson, who has lived openly with a male partner for 14 years,
will take leadership of the diocese on March 7.
Jim Naughton, a Robinson supporter and spokesman for the Diocese
of Washington, D.C., said the phrase "impaired communion" had
little significance for the U.S. church or Anglicans worldwide. The
communion is an association of autonomous provinces with almost no
"One could argue that we've been in impaired communion for 30
years with all of those provinces that don't ordain women as
priests or bishops," Naughton said. "That impairment doesn't seem
to have troubled anyone a great deal."
Canon Bill Atwood, general secretary of the Ekklesia Society, a
Texas-based mission to evangelical Anglican bishops, said
international church leaders will not announce a permanent break
until a commission formed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan
Williams, the communion's spiritual leader, reports next year on
whether a split can be averted.
But, said Atwood, "functionally, we're not together.
Functionally, the Episcopal Church has created a separation.
Relationally, it's a disaster."
Akinola issued the joint statement on behalf of the evangelical
primates, asking Williams to create new structures that would allow
conservative dioceses worldwide to work together - even if their
national churches object - and remain within the communion.
"The overwhelming majority of the primates of the global south
cannot and will not recognize the office or ministry of Canon Gene
Robinson as a bishop," Akinola's statement said.
The signers on the statement were not immediately identified,
but the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a U.S. conservative who works with
overseas Anglican leaders, said he believed about 18 primates
The leaders pledged their support for conservative Episcopalians
who opposed Robinson's elevation.
Other protests Monday came from the Anglican Church of Egypt,
which said it considered Robinson and those who participated in his
consecration separated from the church. The Anglican Church of
Uganda said it will cut ties with the New Hampshire diocese. –Sapa-AP
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