Has The Episcopal Church Been Penalised For Its Support Of Gay Marriage – Or Not?

The Primates at the 2016 meeting at Canterbury Cathedral.Primates 2016

Senior members of The Episcopal Church of the United States have said they are "dismayed" by an Anglican Communion report that they did not vote on "doctrine" at a recent meeting

The Episcopal Church, which endorses gay equality, consecrates gay bishops and clergy and allows same-sex marriage.

As a result, the Church had "consequences" imposed on it by Anglican leaders at last January's primates' meeting in Canterbury.

These consequences, which the primates insisted were not "sanctions", included not permitting members of The Episcopal Church to vote on matters of doctrine at Anglican Communion meetings of policy bodies such as the Anglican Consultative Council. 

Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, Ian Douglas and Gay Clark Jennings, who attended the 16th Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia last April on behalf of The Episcopal Church, say in a post on the Episcopal Digital Network that they were dismayed to read on the Anglican Communion News Service "an article that claims we did not vote on matters of doctrine or polity at the most recent meeting of the ACC."

They state that each one of them attended the entire ACC meeting and voted on every resolution that came before it, including a number that concerned the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion.

"As the duly elected ACC members of a province of the Anglican Communion, this was our responsibility and we fulfilled it."

They add: "It could be inferred from today's ACNS story that we did not fulfill our voting responsibilities at ACC-16 to comply with a communique issued by the primates of the Anglican Communion in January 2016. The communique sought to impose consequences on the Episcopal Church for its adoption of marriage equality at our 2015 General Convention. Such an inference would be incorrect."

At the end of the ACC meeting, six outgoing members of the standing committee also released a letter reasserting: "ACC16 neither endorsed nor affirmed the consequences contained in the Primates' Communiqué."

The latest row came after the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote to every Anglican primate setting out his hopes for the next Primates' Meeting, in Canterbury next October.

He referred to the recommendation by Church of Engand bishops last week that the current teaching on marriage should remain unchanged, meaning there can be no same-sex weddings in the Church of England.

He also noted that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples needs clarification and that the Church needs to repent of the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke.

Secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said: "But it is right that we acknowledge that some of our brothers and sisters do have same-sex attraction and I support the move for a 'fresh tone' in the way the issues are debated. Anglicans are called to love all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation. We are committed to welcoming and loving people with same-sex attraction. More than that, we need to fight against homophobia and anything that criminalises LGBTQ people."

The Anglican Communion News Service reports: "Members of TEC participated in ACC-16 in Lusaka, but none took part in formal votes on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primates' communiqué. In fact, all matters of doctrine and polity were agreed by consensus so no formal vote was necessary."

A prominent member of The Episcopal Church wrote on Facebook: "The intent here is to show that the top bishops of the communion have the power to discipline churches for allowing same-sex couples to marry, and have done so. But they have no such power, and the Episcopal Church's reps voted on every issue at the meeting in question. I know those reps personally and have spoken with them about this."