It takes just one out Bishop to break the Church

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This originally appeared in BCN issue 71

The worldwide Anglican Church is set to split after Canadian and USA churches were asked to voluntarily withdraw from the Communion and to explain their progressive attitudes toward homosexuality.

After a four-day meeting in Northern Ireland, leaders of the world’s 77 million Anglicans said: “We request that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council.”

“While there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teaching on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the Communion, the underlying reality of our communion in God the Holy Trinity is obscured.”

This was qualified by a note that, “the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered toward people of the same sex is an anathema to us.”

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have been asked to withdraw from the international group for three years during which they should reconsider their support for Gene Robinson, the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire.

It was declared the withdrawal of the two churches should be reviewed in 2008 at the Lambeth Conference, the 10-yearly meeting of all Anglican bishops. There was also a call for a temporary suspension on the blessing of same-sex unions while the issue was discussed. It is the first formal split in the communion over homosexuality.

“We ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public rites of blessing for same-sex unions and on the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage,” the statement said.

The Northern Ireland meeting also reaffirmed a resolution adopted by all Anglican bishops in 1998 which declared that gay practices were “incompatible with Scripture” and opposed the ordination of gay priests and the blessing of same-sex couples.

However, the American Bishop Steve Charleston said the North Americans were unlikely to change their position.

“I think Gene is something of a champion of human rights,” he told BBC Radio. “Like people of colour before him, they got tired of sitting at the back of the bus and it was time to stand up and say ‘Here I am, I am an honest decent human being and you must treat me with respect.’ That is essentially what Gene is doing and I honour him for it.

Bi Community News, BM Ribbit, London WC1N 3XX