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Over 3,000 Anglicans are lobbying for the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion to retract a recent statement he made on the election of The Episcopal Church’s second openly gay bishop.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury has failed to exercise moral leadership to protect gays & lesbians in Uganda and has instead exercised political pressure to attack a bishop-elect in Los Angeles because she is a lesbian,” state the members of the Facebook group “Anglicans who want THIS statement from Canterbury,” which has recruited over 3,000 people since it was created this past Tuesday.
“As Anglicans who treasure their Communion and expect more from their Archbishop, in the Advent spirit of John the Baptist's cry to the religious leaders of his time, we call on Rowan Williams to repent of his earlier statement and issue this one instead,” they add before offering a three-paragraph statement addressing the "lack of outrage ... by the Church of Uganda" regarding the punishments included in the country's contentious Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
On Saturday, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles paved the way for the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool to become the second openly gay bishop in The Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion by electing her to the office of bishop suffragan after a seventh round of voting.
Following Glasspool’s election as the second of two suffragan bishops, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, released a statement, saying that the election “raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole.”
“The bishops of the Communion have collectively acknowledged that a period of gracious restraint in respect of actions which are contrary to the mind of the Communion is necessary if our bonds of mutual affection are to hold,” he added, referring to the plea of conservative Anglican leaders to The Episcopal Church for a moratorium on consecrating practicing homosexuals as bishop.
Since the election of The Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, relations between the U.S. Anglican arm and the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion have been strained to the point of tearing.
While adherents of the Christian faith have historically taught that homosexuality is a sin according to Scripture, liberal believers say biblical teachings on inclusiveness should take precedence and nullify any such teachings against homosexuality.
Conservative Christians, meanwhile, hold onto the belief that homosexuals should not be allowed to hold positions of leadership within the Church. They also feel that the Church should not bless homosexual relationships, as this would be tantamount to blessing a sinful act.
Despite the strife that the row over homosexuality has caused, The Episcopal Church's top legislative body earlier this year approved a resolution declaring the denomination's ordination process open to all individuals, including practicing homosexuals.
Conservative bishops in the global Anglican fellowship say the move marks a clear break with the rest of the Anglican Communion. Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, however, maintains that the resolution changes nothing and merely reaffirms what "church law has said for a long time."
Following Saturday’s elections, Archbishop Williams noted that the process of selection is only partly complete and that the election of Glassglow has to be confirmed by diocesan bishops and diocesan standing committees.
“That decision will have very important implications,” the Anglican leader stated.
In response to Williams’ statement, members of the Facebook group created by former Integrity USA leader Susan Russell are pressing the archbishop to call upon Anglican church leaders in Uganda to lead the opposition against the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which they say “will have very important implications.”
The bill, which is currently being debated by a parliamentary committee, has drawn global attention from gay rights advocates and religious leaders alike, many of whom are condemning the legislation for promoting hatred and handing down severe penalties against homosexuals and their family, friends, and even pastors. Punishments range from a fine and a three-year imprisonment to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
“We believe with God all things are possible – and we pray together during this Advent season of repentence (sic) and new beginnings for the revitalization of our Communion on behalf of the Gospel and for the liberation of all held captive by homophobia,” members of the Facebook group conclude.
Integrity USA, which is promoting the Facebook group, is an organization that works for the full inclusion of lesbians, gays and transsexuals in the Anglican Communion. Russell is the immediate past president of Integrity.