The Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) has agreed to withdraw temporarily its members from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), but attend the international group’s meeting in June in Nottingham, England as observers.
Meeting on April 13 in a special session near Chicago at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, ECUSA’s Executive Council said in a statement that it suspended its membership on the ACC to “express our openness to the concerns and beliefs of others.”
In February, the primates (national bishops) of the worldwide Anglican Communion, many of them expressing anger at the North American churches’ more- liberal attitudes toward homosexuality, asked the U.S. and Canada to “voluntarily withdraw” their delegates from the ACC until the 2008 Lambeth Conference.
The Executive Council, which has 38 members, said it “struggled to discern how best to respond” to the primates’ request. The ACC, it noted, “is the primary instrument of communion in which the fullness of the body of Christ is represented.” The ACC, which meets every three years, is the only international Anglican gathering with representation from bishops, clergy and laity. Only bishops attend the decennial Lambeth Conference.
The Executive Council also said it believes that “the only way to address the things that divide us is for ‘Christians of good will … to engage honestly and frankly with each other.'” Therefore, said the council, it was heartened to note that the primates asked for, and the ACC chair requested, that the American and Canadian churches be given an opportunity at the Nottingham meeting to explain their positions on homosexuality.
The primates specifically referred to the American church’s approval of the election of a bishop in a same-sex relationship and the decision of the Canadian church’s New Westminster diocese to allow blessing rites for gay couples.
The Executive Council, which meets three times per year, governs the American church between the triennial General Conventions. In Canada, the Council of General Synod, which governs the church between triennial General Synods, is scheduled to consider the primates’ request at its next meeting, May 6-8, in Mississauga, Ont. near Toronto.
Meanwhile, the bishops of ECUSA responded to the primates’ call for a moratorium on the consecration of a bishop in a same-sex relationship by suspending the consecration of any bishop until General Convention 2006 in Columbus, Ohio.
Meeting at Camp Allen, Tex., the bishops issued a “covenant statement” that they called a “reflection of a fresh spirit of mutual forbearance and reconciliation among us.”
Five dioceses have agreed to reschedule their elections to 2006 so that consents will be addressed by General Convention. Three additional dioceses have already scheduled elections for 2006. An additional three elections are pending.