Singapore consecrations called ‘valid but illegal’

Published April 1, 2000


(ENI)?The Archbishop of Canterbury ? the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion ? has refused to recognize the consecration of two new bishops in Singapore.

The two new American bishops, John H. Rodgers and Charles H. Murphy, were consecrated in Singapore?s St Andrew?s Cathedral on Jan. 29 by Moses Tay, Archbishop of Southeast Asia, and Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of Rwanda, with support from two retired U.S. bishops and another Rwandan bishop. Conservatives worldwide are highly critical of the Episcopal Church because of the growing acceptance of homosexuality and the prominence of women clergy within the U.S. church.

The two new bishops were entrusted with the goal of setting up ?Anglican missions? in the U.S. to ?reverse the decline? of the church. The consecrations provoked outrage in Anglican churches in many countries and were a clear signal that the battle between progressive and conservative Anglicans was becoming even more bitter. The head of the Episcopal Church, presiding bishop Frank T. Griswold, said he was ?appalled? by the Singapore consecrations.

Dr. George Carey, who is the leader of the world?s 70 million Anglicans, has branded the consecrations as ?irresponsible and irregular,? and sent a letter to all Anglican bishops worldwide to criticize the Singapore initiative.

Lesley Perry, the Archbishop of Canterbury?s chief spokesperson, told ENI that the consecrations were ?valid, but illegal.? This meant, she said, that they were bishops, but lacked legality through shortcomings in the consecration process.

In his letter sent on Feb. 17 to all bishops, Archbishop Carey explained that bishops normally operated within dioceses. The two appointees lacked a territorial basis, and it was doubtful that they would be authorized to pursue their ministries by the Episcopal Church authorities in the U.S. The letter also asserted that the consecrations had not followed the constitutions of either of the provinces whose archbishops performed the ceremony, South East Asia and Rwanda.

However, Archbishop Carey recognized the two as ?faithful and committed ministers of the gospel. ?I do not question the motives of those involved in the service, nor their own perception that the situation in the United States is so serious that this action could be justified.

?However, the understanding of episcopal ministry, which appears to have allowed them to act unilaterally, without consultation and in secret, is quite foreign to the Anglican tradition.?

Archbishop Carey described as ?unrealistic? expectations that a week long meeting of Anglican primates in Portugal in late March would produce an authoritative statement on faith and morals. Nor would the meeting seek to impose its will on any province.

?To talk of the primates disciplining the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A., or any other province for that matter, goes far beyond the brief of the primates? meeting.?

The bishops of southern Africa released a statement condemning the consecrations and urging other Anglican primates worldwide to do likewise.

The standing committee of the Diocese of Sydney, however, ?requests the primates of the Communion to recognize the extreme frustration of orthodox and faithful Anglicans in ECUSA and in the world wide Communion, that finds expression in the recent consecrations ??

?The standing committee calls on the primates to affirm, in the face of current denials, the traditional teaching of the Church on both foundational doctrines and moral teaching.?


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