Friday, 15 June 2007
Leaders of the Episcopal Church told worldwide Anglican bishops they had no authority to try to make the church's US branch change its stand on the consecration of gay bishops.
The Executive Council of the US Episcopal Church approved a statement questioning the authority of the worldwide church's top bishops "to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion," the formal name for the 77 million-member global church.
The statement was in response to a communique issued in February when the church's presiding bishops, or primates, met in Tanzania. The bishops called for the 2.4 million-member US church to declare by the end of September a moratorium on the consecration of openly homosexual gay bishops.
It was the 2003 Episcopal Church consecration of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the first bishop known to be in an openly gay relationship in more than four centuries of church history, that triggered the dispute.
In addition, the bishops at the African meeting urged the US church to end "public rites" blessing same-sex unions and to allow for a US-based "primatial vicar" to oversee disaffected followers, some of whom have already put themselves under the jurisdiction of conservative bishops in Africa and elsewhere.
In the statement approved at the end of a four-day meeting in New Jersey, the Executive Council said the requests made by the primates "are of a nature that can only properly be dealt with by our General Convention."
The statement expressed a desire for a continued full relationship with the worldwide church but added:
"At various times in our history, we have struggled to embrace people who have historically been marginalised. . . today this struggle has come to include the place of gay and lesbian people and their vocations in the life of the Church."
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