The question for Anglicans in the next 20 years is no longer how the global family can stay together, but how orthodox Anglicans can help each other survive and guard themselves against the rising tide of Western liberalism, according to the archbishop of Sydney.
After years of talk of schism in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, the third largest Christian denomination in the world, Dr. Peter Jensen says uncertainty is now over.
"The decisive moments have passed," he said in a statement. "Irreversible actions have occurred. The time has come for sustained thought about a different future.
"The Anglican Communion will never be the same again."
Bishops of The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of Anglicanism – responded last month to requests made by Anglican leaders to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or authorize the blessing of same-sex unions. The Episcopal Church had deepened divisions in the global communion when it consecrated openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in 2003.
Anglican leaders demanded a response to their directive, which was viewed by some as an ultimatum, by Sept. 30. Episcopal bishops released a statement days before the deadline saying they would "exercise restraint" in approving partnered gays as bishop and authorizing public rites of the blessing of same-sex unions.
At the same time, the bishops called for "unequivocal and active commitment to the civil rights, safety, and dignity of gay and lesbian persons."
Conservatives, who wanted Episcopal bishops to pull back from their liberal-leaning agenda and express repentance, condemned the response and viewed it as The Episcopal Church's decision to go their own way, departing from biblical Christianity and traditional Anglicanism.
"The Americans are firmly committed to the view that the practice of homosexual sex in a long term relationship is morally acceptable," said Jensen. "Not only is it acceptable, it is demanded by the gospel itself that we endorse this lifestyle as Christian.
"They are prepared to wait for a short time while the rest of the Communion catches up," he added, referring to statements made previously by Episcopal leaders. "They want to persuade us that they are right, and that the rest of us should embrace this development."
Jensen believes the "Western view" of sexuality will spread to other parts of the world as it already has in the West, and thus called orthodox Anglicans to plan decades ahead for their survival.
"How can we ensure that the word of God rules our lives?" he posed. "How can biblical Anglicans help each other survive and mission effectively in the contemporary world?"
Jensen clarified that the main issue isn't about sexuality, politics, ultimatums and conferences, but theological differences.
"It is about theology and especially the authority and interpretation of Scripture," he said.
"We must now all take the actions and do the thinking required to safeguard biblical truth, not merely in the West but throughout the Anglican world."