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Where they stand

"Where they stand" Continued...

Issue: "All heart," July 14, 2007

Curiously, the delegates earlier resolved that same-sex blessings are not in conflict with the "core doctrine," or creeds, of the church.

The defeat of same-sex blessings will spare the 650,000-member ACC from censure by the worldwide Anglican Communion's top bishops, known as primates. The primates had warned the ACC might even be expelled from the communion if it violated the communion's position that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching.

The warning came when Bishop Michael Ingham of the greater Vancouver diocese of New Westminster authorized blessing of same-sex unions in 2003. Ingham denounced the defeat, blaming it on "institutional inertia rooted in homophobia" among the church's bishops. Some delegates told reporters the same-sex blessings will continue, though without official sanction or approved liturgy.

In other action, the delegates on the fifth ballot elected Fred Hiltz, 53, Bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, as the new top leader of the ACC. He succeeds Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, who retired. Hiltz is on record as favoring the inclusion of noncelibate gays and lesbians in the life and ministry of the church. He also has been highly critical of Anglican primates in Africa who are calling church leaders in the West to closer adherence to biblical standards.

The Episcopal Church. The church's 38-member executive council, which oversees church policy and business matters between triennial conventions, served notice to the primates, or top bishops and archbishops, of the worldwide Anglican Communion. "We question the authority of the primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion"-including the Episcopal Church (TEC), the council said.

The primates in February had set a Sept. 30 deadline for TEC bishops to halt same-sex blessings and unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another noncelibate homosexual as a bishop, or risk being expelled from the communion. They also called on TEC to set up an international panel to provide alternative spiritual oversight of conservative TEC parishes. The council insisted that the primates' demands could only be dealt with "properly" by TEC's next triennial convention in 2009.

The U.S. bishops in March rejected the oversight plan and indicated the gay-related demands were unacceptable, but said they would draft an official reply at a meeting in New Orleans Sept. 20-25.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, titular head of the world's Anglicans, will attend that meeting. He meanwhile has shocked conservatives by inviting TEC's bishops to next year's Lambeth conference in England, a signal that TEC may remain a member of the communion regardless of what the primates decide. The move could well lead to the breakup of the communion, many experts say.

Primates in Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and Argentina already have set up mission organizations in the United States and consecrated conservative American clergy as bishops to lead parishes leaving TEC as well as some congregations of immigrants. TEC leaders have fought back in court, filing lawsuits to claim the property of departing churches. They also have tightened the screws in four conservative dioceses that have shown an independent streak.

"Assertions of authority met by counter-assertions of polity are not likely to lead to the reconciliation we seek," the council observed.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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