Episcopal Church Primate pledges to stay in the Anglican Communion

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Primate of The Episcopal ChurchReuters

The US Episcopal Church will continue to "walk" with the 37 other provinces of the Anglican Communion in spite of being sanctioned by their fellow Primates for consecrating gay bishops and approving gay marriage.

However, for the conservatives, the penalties invoked against the US Church do not go far enough.

The Episcopal Church faces three years of penalties. The Primates Meeting in Canterbury agreed this week that for the next three years its bishops will "no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity."

The Episcopal Church primate Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said the sanctions will be "painful" for many in his Church, the most liberal on gay rights in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

"Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being 'a house of prayer for all people,' as the Bible says, when all are truly welcome," he said.

"Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.

"For so many who are committed to following Jesus in the way of love and being a church that lives that love, this decision will bring real pain," he said. "For fellow disciples of Jesus in our church who are gay or lesbian, this will bring more pain. For many who have felt and been rejected by the church because of who they are, for many who have felt and been rejected by families and communities, our church opening itself in love was a sign of hope. And this will add pain on top of pain."

He added: "I stand before you as your brother. I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society. And this conjures that up again, and brings pain.

"The pain for many will be real. But God is greater than anything. I love Jesus and I love the church. I am a Christian in the Anglican way. And like you, as we have said in this meeting, I am committed to 'walking together' with you as fellow primates in the Anglican family."

The Gafcon group, which represents the most orthodox of the Global South and conservative Anglican bishops, welcomed the sanctions but regretted there was not a stronger call for repentance and that Canada, another liberal province, had also not been punished. 

Gafcon said: "We are pleased that Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America has played a full part in the Canterbury meeting of Primates and that sanctions have been applied to the Episcopal Church of the United States, recognising the need for mutual accountability on matters of doctrine within the family of the Communion. However, this action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning. There is much that causes us concern, especially the failure to recognise the fact that the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has also rejected the collegial mind of the Communion by unilaterally permitting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of those in active homosexual relationships. We fear that other provinces will do the same.

"Since the beginning of the crisis in the Communion brought about by the actions of both TEC and the ACoC, the Anglican instruments of unity have been unable to guard biblical truth and restore godly order. There must therefore be doubt about the effectiveness of the sanctions that have been agreed.

"In particular, it must be recognised that the continuing brokenness of the Communion is not the result simply of failed relationships, but is caused by the persistent rejection of biblical and apostolic faith as set out in Lambeth Resolution 1.10. We are therefore disappointed that the Primates' statement makes no reference to the need for repentance."

The Anglican Consultative Council, the executive body of the Anglican Communion, is financed by contributions from the 38 provinces. Of those, latest figures show the two provinces where in secular law gay marriage is legal gave the most. The Church of England topped the list of donors at £492,900 and The Episcopal Church was second at £216,540.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will give his response to the Primates Meeting in Canterbury this afternoon.