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Episcopalians removed from Anglican Communion's ecumenical dialogues

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, has written to those Episcopalians serving on the communion's ecumenical dialogues informing them that their memberships have been discontinued.

The decision is likely to affect five Episcopal Church members serving on Anglican dialogues with the Lutheran, Methodist, Old Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as one member of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order, who has been invited to serve as a consultant.

Kearon's announcement came in a June 7 letter outlining the next steps following Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' Pentecost letter.

Williams had proposed in his May 28 letter that representatives currently serving on ecumenical dialogues should resign their membership if they are from a province that has not complied with moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate. He specifically referred to the May 15 consecration of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool and the unauthorized incursions by Anglican leaders into other provinces. Glasspool is the Episcopal Church's second openly gay, partnered bishop.

Jan Butter, communications director for the Anglican Communion, confirmed that the membership change applies to all ecumenical dialogues.

Butter told ENS that the Anglican Communion's secretary general, in consultation with the archbishop of Canterbury, appoints members to the ecumenical commissions and to IASCUFO. "He therefore can ask people to stand down," he said.

Episcopal Church members who were serving on the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue are the Rev. Thomas Ferguson, the Episcopal Church's interim deputy for ecumenical and interreligious relations, and Assistant Bishop William Gregg of North Carolina.

Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart of Montana had been a member of the Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity in Mission and the Very Rev. William H. Petersen, professor of ecclesiastical and ecumenical history of Bexley Hall, Columbus, was serving on the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission. The Rev. Carola von Wrangel, rector of Christ-the-King in Frankfurt, Germany, a parish in the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, had served on the Anglican-Old Catholic International Coordinating Council.

The Rev. Katherine Grieb, an Episcopal priest and professor of New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary, was the IASCUFO member who has been invited to serve as a consultant.

Kearon said he has also written to Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada "to ask whether its General Synod or House of Bishops has formally adopted policies that breach the second moratorium in the Windsor Report, authorizing public rites of same-sex blessing," and to Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone, "asking him for clarification as to the current state of his interventions into other provinces."

Some dioceses in the Canadian church have made provisions for blessing same-gender unions and Venables has offered oversight to conservative members of parishes and dioceses breaking away from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

No mention was made in Kearon's letter of ecumenical commission members from other provinces -- such as Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda – that are currently involved in cross-border interventions in the United States.

The moratoria were first mentioned in the 2004 Windsor Report, a document that made several recommendations on how the communion might maintain unity amid disagreements over theological interpretations and human sexuality issues. The moratoria have since been supported by the communion's primates, at their February 2009 meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion's main policy-making body, at its May 2009 meeting.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on June 2 issued a pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church, in which she referred to Williams' letter and urged continued dialogue with those who disagree with recent actions, "for we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding."

"We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which 'have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion.' We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard?"

On June 7, the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs issued a resource for Episcopalians clarifying the distinction between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. "The Episcopal Church is an autonomous church which is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, serving God and working together to spread through word and action the good news of God in Christ," the release said. "General Convention, made up of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, has ultimate legislative authority ... and through its canonical actions sets forth governance of the church."The Episcopal Church's General Convention, meeting in July, passed Resolution D025 that declared the ordination process open to all people. Glasspool is the first openly gay priest to be elected and ordained as bishop since the passage of Resolution D025.

Jefferts Schori said in her letter that "the Spirit does seem to be saying to many within the Episcopal Church that gay and lesbian persons are God's good creation, that an aspect of good creation is the possibility of lifelong, faithful partnership, and that such persons may indeed be good and healthy exemplars of gifted leadership within the Church, as baptized leaders and ordained ones. The Spirit also seems to be saying the same thing in other parts of the Anglican Communion, and among some of our Christian partners, including Lutheran churches in North America and Europe, the Old Catholic churches of Europe, and a number of others."

-- Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.


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