Groups weigh in on meaning of request

Published April 1, 2005

The primates’ move to have Anglican churches in the United States and Canada suspended from the Anglican Consultative Council met with a wide variety of interpretations.

Liberals on the homosexuality issue generally were dismayed that the North American churches were asked to leave a representative body, then called on to appear at a hearing at the council’s next meeting to explain the theological rationale for their decisions.

Conservatives on the issue saw it in terms of punishment, with the primates sending a clear message that the churches have erred. Many Anglicans also wondered if the primates had not overstepped their bounds, interfering with the work of a group that does not report to them.

The Church of Ireland’s two elected members to the Anglican Consultative Council released a statement saying they had concerns about the primates’ request. “For the ACC … to have its membership and atmosphere adjusted essentially at the behest of the primates’ meeting would severely damage the balance of dispersed authority within Anglicanism,” wrote delegates Dean Michael Burrows of Cork and layperson Kate Turner.

In Canada, the conservative group Essentials said in a statement that the primates have put the North American churches “on notice.” The Canadian church needs to choose, it said. “Restoration to full communion requires repentance. The failure to do so implies the choice to walk alone outside the worldwide Anglican Communion,” the group said.

Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster, meanwhile, said the Canadian and U.S. churches should “firmly” resist the call to withdraw from the council, which is “intended to appease the angriest voices in the communion.” The council’s constitution “makes no provision for member churches to be ‘uninvited,'” he noted. Forcing the two churches to explain why “homosexual Christians should receive equal treatment in the church is invidious and unsatisfactory,” he said. Bishop Ingham, who previously served as Canada’s episcopal (bishop) representative on the council, also said the primates continue to ignore “homosexual persons themselves.”

Integrity Canada, a support group for gay Anglicans, said it is “cautiously optimistic” that “an international listening process might now begin,” but it noted that “previous requests have gone unheeded.” Chris Ambidge, head of Integrity’s Toronto chapter, said, “If North American churches choose to withdraw (from the Anglican Consultative Council), to whom will the Council be listening?”

Conservative U.S. bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh remarked that the primates have spoken with “breath-taking” clarity, upholding the freedom of individual provinces to act as they see fit under their constitutions, but also saying that acting “beyond agreed teaching and practice” will imperil their participation in the communion.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, the primate of Southern Africa, wrote that he arrived at the primates’ meeting to find that many colleagues had “their minds made up,” with their positions “entrenched and irreconcilable.”

But, he realized, “we serve a Lord who is the God of reconciliation” and the primates also discovered “there was a commitment to continue walking together.” He noted the Council meets every three years and he called for a worldwide Anglican gathering before the next Lambeth Conference of all the church’s bishops in 2008. “We need to bring people together, to share their stories and collectively explore what it means to be Anglicans today,” he said.

Shortly after the primates’ meeting, members of Essentials attended a conference in early March held in Atlanta for leaders of the Anglican Communion Network, a group of conservative parishes in the U.S.

A news release from the meeting praised the primates’ request for a “panel of reference,” saying it “offers fresh hope and a new beginning for those who have struggled with revisionist theology and acts of oppression for decades.”


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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