US Episcopal Church could face sanctions for appointing gay bishops

The Episcopal Church could face sanctions from the Primates of the Anglican Communion, according to reports emerging from the week-long Primates Meeting in Canterbury. 

Seventeen members of the Community of St Anselm have been at Canterbury Cathedral all week, deep in prayer for the Primates.Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop of  Canterbury Justin Welby summoned all the Primates, or Anglican church leaders, from the 38 provinces around the world to this week's meeting in Canterbury in an attempt to prevent schism between the provinces of the "North" or West, and the more conservative provinces of the Global South.

Some conservative Primates had before the meeting even begun made it clear that they would walk out and convene their own gathering if no serious attempt was made to discipline the Episcopal Church of the United States. The Anglican Communion has been split over the issue of homosexuality since the 2003 consecration of the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson, who was at the time in a relationship with a man who he subsequently married and divorced. 

According to insiders, the first day of the meeting which began on Monday was "electric" with a sense of purpose as conservative bishops gained hope from the tone of Archbishop Welby's opening address.

The Primates became more subdued on day two on Tuesday when corporate management techniques were used to facilitate debate without division. Conservative Primates in particular feared their pleas for the Episcopal Church to be punished for its pro-gay liberal direction would in the end go unheard. Some failed to show up for that night's evensong, at which Archbishop Welby spent most of the service praying on his knees. 

By the third day, Wednesday, it was clear that the fears of a walk-out had not materialised. This, however, is expected to spell bad news for the liberal provinces because the only way conservative Primates will have been persuaded to remain in the room will be the promise of action against them.

The first official press conference will be held tomorrow in Canterbury when an action plan to hold the Communion together in spite of all the internal strife is expected to be announced.