Anglican Rebuke on gay unions 'ties nobody's hands'

Canadian primate says parishes won't be affected by world report

by Bob Harvey

Ottawa Citizen October 19, 2004

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison told a press conference in Toronto that the Canadian church can't make any decision on the issue before the next meeting of its governing synod in 2007.

"The report is not authoritative and ties nobody's hands and binds nobody," he said.

A few dioceses across the country have also been pondering the issue, but a task force in Ottawa's Anglican diocese has been studying same-sex marriage for two years and still has not made any recommendations.

"There's no decision and no consensus on what to do. People of goodwill and good faith have strong feelings on either side," said Rev. Bill Prentice, a spokesman for the diocese.

The report released yesterday by the Lambeth Commission warned "the Anglican Communion cannot again afford, in every sense, the crippling prospect of repeated worldwide inter-Anglican conflict such as that engendered by the current crisis."

The commission headed by Ireland's primate, Archbishop Robin Eames, also chastised African and East Asian bishops for interfering with dioceses in the U.S. and Canada's New Westminster diocese in Vancouver.

Several are supporting conservative parishes that no longer accept the authority of bishops who favour blessing same-sex unions.

Canada's national Anglican church passed a motion last June "affirming the integrity and sanctity of committed same-sex relationships."

The Episcopal Church in the U.S. approved a similar motion in 2003. That same year, the diocese of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson as the Anglican Communion's first openly gay bishop. He lives with his gay partner.

The commission said it regretted the Canadian and American churches took these actions "without attaching sufficient importance to the interests of the wider communion."

The dispute "goes far beyond the issue of homosexuality," it said. The commission recommended that bishops who authorized same-sex blessings or interfered in the parishes of other nations apologize.

The Episcopal Church should also express its regret that the "bonds of affection" among Anglican churches around the world were damaged by Bishop Robinson's election and consecration, said the Lambeth Commission.

It said that until an apology is made, those who took part in his consecration should consider withdrawing from any of the Anglican Communion's functions. That would include the American church's presiding bishop, the Most. Rev. Frank Griswold.

Within hours of the report's publication, Rev. Griswold issued a statement saying, "We regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our Communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans."

But Rev. Griswold, who presided over Bishop Robinson's consecration, stopped short of saying the ordination was wrong.

Citing Rev. Griswold's statement, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who opposes ordination of gays, said the report lacked the teeth to compel the U.S. church to reverse itself. The commission's "terrible weakness," Bishop Duncan said in an interview, is that "it is more concerned about keeping the family together than it is about the truth of the Gospel. That is not going to fly very well among the orthodox who have stood against the innovations of the Episcopal Church."

Two years ago in Canada, New Westminster's Bishop Michael Ingham accepted the recommendation of the diocese's governing body that priests be allowed to bless same-sex unions.

Ten out of 80 parishes in the diocese disagreed with the decision, and at least four priests have since placed themselves under the authority of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. Two of the priests, Rev. Ed Hird and Rev. Barclay Mayo, have also refused Bishop Ingham's request that they give up possession of their churches.

The buildings are valued at $1.2 million and the diocese is considering taking legal action to regain them.

The 17-member Lambeth Commission included Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the Canadian church's director of faith, worship and ministry.

Bishop Ingham said yesterday that he welcomed the commission's emphasis on discussion instead of punishment.

"It will be encouraging for the gay and lesbian community to focus on the fact that it does not call for the actions of this diocese to be reversed.

"Most Anglicans don't want to see the church divided over this issue. We may have different views, but we don't think this is the purpose of the church," he said.

Bishop Ingham said his diocese has never ignored the wishes of the 44 national churches that are part of the communion, and discussed the issue of blessing same-sex unions for 20 years before authorizing it.

The primate of the Canadian church, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, said the fact that the members of the commission were unanimous in their recommendations "indicates there is a positive will to maintain the unity of the diverse Anglican Communion."

The Canadian bishops will discuss the report at their Nov. 1-4 meeting.

Same-sex blessings
Ottawa Citizen