At the end of August, two leading figures in the Anglican Church gave practical support to the small minority of conservative parishes in America who are opposed to their Church’s decision to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson. Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Ugandan Primate, Archbishop Henry Orombi, have agreed to provide parishes with oversight. New provisions drawn up by the US House of Bishops at its spring meeting this year specified that dioceses that could not reconcile their disagreements over sexuality could appoint another bishop to provide “delegated episcopal pastoral oversight”.
Virginia – Lord Carey
Lord Carey will fly out to Virginia to confirm hundreds of adults and children on September 15 from 11 parishes opposed to their bishop, the Rt Rev Peter Lee, because of his support for Bishop Gene Robinson. The Bishop had pledged at his diocesan conference in January 2004 that he would make provision for parishes unwilling to accept his ministry, and had extended a personal invitation to Lord Carey said the Rt Revd David Jones, the Suffragan Bishop of Virginia. Canon Martyn Minns, rector of Truro church in Fairfax, Virginia, said: “This will be an occasion for celebration but also a sign of the serious brokenness of the Episcopal Church and a tragic reminder of our alienation from the ministry of our own bishop.” The parish is one of the largest in the American Episcopal Church. Announcing the “extraordinary service of confirmation”, Canon Minns said: “This will be an occasion for celebration but also a sign of the serious brokenness of the Episcopal Church and a tragic reminder of our alienation from the ministry of our own bishop.”
After suggestions that the timing of the confirmations could be seen as provocative, coming just weeks before the Lambeth Commission is due to report, Canon Martyn Minns, Rector of Truro Church, said that arrangements had been made in May, when the exact schedule for the Commission was still not clear. “We are simply getting on with the work of the gospel,” he responded.
The former Archbishop has played down suggestions that his involvement was a sign of “back-seat driving” and interference with his successor’s ministry by pointing out that Bishop Lee has invited him to conduct the confirmations. Nevertheless, this high-profile intervention by Lord Carey will highlight the growing polarisation in the worldwide Anglican community over the issue and the task of the Eames Commission, set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, looks increasingly unlikely to find a solution that will appease conservatives whose stance has been hardened and emboldened by such high-profile support. Lord Carey’s intervention raises the temperature of the debate just weeks before the publication of the final report by the Lambeth Commission.
A number of traditionalist dioceses have formed a new network which is demanding the creation of a parallel “Church within a Church” to minister across the world. This would mean that traditionalist parishes with liberal bishops could instead invite in a conservative bishop. It is an arrangement Lord Carey is pioneering.
In Los Angeles, two prominent evangelical parishes have broken with their bishop, seceding from the Episcopal Church to join the Church of Uganda. Bishop J Jon Bruno displeased traditionalists by ordaining non-celibate gay men and women to the priesthood and for officiating at the same-sex blessing of one of his priests in June.
The Rev William Thompson of All Saints Church in Long Beach, and the Rev Praveen Bunyan of St James Church in Newport Beach, California, hand-delivered letters to Bishop Bruno’s office announcing their parishes were leaving the diocese. They also said that they have been received by Bishop Evans Kisseka of Luweero, Uganda. Bishop Ben Benitez, the retired Bishop of Texas, will exercise pastoral oversight over the parishes on behalf of Bishop Kisseka.
After consultation with the Episcopal Church’s legal officers in New York, Bishop Bruno announced that the three priests and one deacon from the two parishes are now “temporarily inhibited” from their ordained ministry. He would seek to reclaim the church buildings for the diocese and would suspend the clergy, with the intent of deposing them for having “abandoned the communion of the Church” — a rule traditionally used to depose clergy who submitted to Rome but more recently used to punish clergy who moved to other branches of the Anglican Communion but continued to minister in the United States. The priests at the two churches were ordered to cease ministry in the pastoral letter from Bruno read in Episcopal churches the following Sunday. In the letter, the bishop also attacked accusations by the two parishes that the US Episcopal Church and the Los Angeles diocese are departing from “biblical orthodoxy”. “I will not let the Holy Scriptures be compromised by those who seek to make their literalist and simplistic interpretation the only legitimate one,” he wrote.
Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda released a statement saying the LA secession to Uganda “has my full blessing and support” and that Thompson and Bunyan, and their assisting clergy “are priests and deacons in good standing of the Church of Uganda”. “Bishop Jon strongly endorsed General Convention,” Mr Bunyan noted, adding that the Bishop had told the diocesan convention in December “that anyone not following the teaching of General Convention [on homosexuality] was being disobedient to God.” “This was the time to go”, Thompson stated.
Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold responds
Frank Griswold, the US church’s presiding bishop, said: “The bishops of the Anglican Communion and the primates … have made it clear that bishops are to respect the boundaries of one another’s dioceses and provinces.”
Anglican Communion Network
The Anglican Communion Network have released a testimony given to the Eames Commission earlier this year by their Moderator, Bishop Robert Duncan. In it he described how the American Church had reached its “breaking point”. He said that while there remained the appearance of unity, the chaos of separation and schism “enacted by conciliar majority and then blamed on a remnant minority is manifest in many places.” He claimed that an irreparable split had occurred: “What happened last August at the General Convention of ECUSA cannot be repaired. Within the Episcopal Church, there are two different worldviews, two different gospels, two different faiths.”