Top bishops in the Anglican Communion have voted to suspend the U.S.-based Episcopal Church from full participation in the worldwide family of churches historically descended from the Church of England. The suspension will last for three years; enough time for the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to address the matter at the denomination’s next governing General Convention in 2018.
The gathering of leaders (known as ‘primates’) from 38 Anglican Communion provinces, including Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Foley Beach, was convened by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to discuss pressing issues facing the third largest family of Christian churches.
The worldwide Anglican Communion has been locked in arguments since the U.S.-based Episcopal Church consecrated an openly partnered homosexual man as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire in 2003. The consecration brought to the forefront long-simmering disagreements about scriptural authority and resulted in impaired communion between the Episcopal Church and more traditionalist provinces located primarily in the Global South.
IRD Anglican Program Director Jeff Walton issued this statement to make sure everyone is 100% clear:
“This sanction is the ecclesiastical equivalent of being placed in ‘time out.’ But the goal of ‘time out’ is to change behavior, and the Episcopal Church has clearly spoken that it will not deviate from its chosen trajectory.
There will be no formal schism, but primates will continue — as they have since 2003 — refusing to take the Holy Eucharist with their fellow bishops due to the ‘impaired’ or ‘broken communion’ between their provinces and the Episcopal Church.
The primates who have taken this step have cited three reasons for doing so: the lack of reconciliation between the Episcopal Church and their provinces, obedience to Scripture, and the admonitions of the Book of Common Prayer. For them it’s a question of faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
The other major development from the Canterbury gathering is the seating of Archbishop Foley Beach among the primates as an equal with voice and vote. From the primates’ perspective, the Anglican Church in North America is now a de-facto province of the Anglican Communion.”