From The Times of London
February 19, 2007

TEC put on notice

by Ruth Gledhill
Times Religion Correspondent


As we reported in The Times today in a story updated for later editions, there has been a surprising, late-night development from Tanzania. I had speculated that the softness so far towards TEC augured a tough line in the Covenant and Communiqué, but even I did not expect anything quite so hard-line.

The US Episcopal Church has been given seven months to change its ways or face being kicked out of the Anglican Communion. In an unexpectedly hard-hitting set of recommendations, Primates of the Anglican Communion demanded an "unequivocal common covenant" under which dioceses in The Episcopal Church agree not to authorise same-sex blessings. They also demanded that no more gay men or women in active relationships with a person of the same sex be consecrated bishop. The recommendations are so severe in demanding proper repentance and a turning back from The Episcopal Church that even arch-conservative Peter Akinola of Nigeria was prepared to sign up. Bishop Jefferts Schori also signed it, but there will be many in The Episcopal Church who will be angry at what they see as a sell-out of their liberal ideals. Reuters carried a report during the night. Early reaction is appearing on StandFirm. Thinking Anglicans is keeping up to date.

The Primates further demanded that The Episcopal Church cease the costly litigations it has begun against traditionalist parishes seeking to leave the oversight of a liberal bishop.They pledged to set up a new Pastoral Council that will take responsibility for securing traditional oversight for those who cannot accept the ministry of their bishop or of Bishop Jefferts Schori, a liberal on other doctrinal issues besides human sexuality.

In a key passage, the communiqué states: "At the heart of our tensions is the belief that The Episcopal Church has departed from the standard of teaching on human sexuality accepted by the Communion in the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 [which set a Biblical standard on the issue] by consenting to the episcopal election of a candidate living in a committed same-sex relationship, and by permitting Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions. The episcopal ministry of a person living in a same-sex relationship is not acceptable to the majority of the Communion."

The bishops of the Episcopal Church have been given until September 30 to respond. If they refuse to comply, action is certain to be taken to suspend in some way the province's membership of the central councils of the Communion. It would be doubly embarrassing for the province given that their Primate, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, was also elected onto the Standing Committee of the Primates, a highly-prestigious seat which places her at the right hand of the Archbishop of Canterbury and at the centre of the structures of power in the Anglican Church.

The communiqué says: "If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given, the relationship between The Episcopal Church and theAnglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best, and this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion."

Earlier yesterday, it appeared as though The Episcopal Church would escape discipline.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, told a press conference in Dar es Salaam: "There are two factors we need to take seriously. The response of the episcopal church represents a willingness to engage with the Communion and the cost of doing so. How does the communion best engage with that willingness and desire to remain with the Communion?"

He said a settlement had to be worked out in the US. "If in good consciences the assurances cannot be given it has to affect their relationship with the organs of Communion."

Posted by Ruth Gledhill on Monday, 19 February 2007 at 11:06 PM

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