Bishop: Episcopal Church Would Not 'Abandon' Gays for Anglican Communion

If the Episcopal Church had to choose between the Anglican Communion and not "abandoning" homosexual Christians, it would choose the latter, one bishop believes.

The Anglican Communion is asking its U.S. wing to clarify its stance on same-sex unions and the consecration of homosexuals by Sept. 30. Some Episcopal leaders who support homosexual ordination are suggesting that the church should leave the communion, saying the demands of the Communion amount to bigotry.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, bishop of New York, told Newsweek magazine that the Episcopal Church has not authorized the blessing of same-sex unions, which is one issue that the Anglican Communion has called for clarity by the U.S. body. The stance had not been made clear at the recent Primates meeting as the Anglican Communion had recognized that there are dioceses in America working towards the development of a public Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions.

The Anglican Communion has also called for affirmation that the Episcopal Church would not confirm a bishop who is in a same-sex union, which it had done in 2003.

"My own guess is that we would not respond positively to that request," said Sisk.

Conservative Anglicans have remained divided with the Episcopal Church over the denomination's departure from scriptural authority. The consecration of an openly gay bishop had widened the rift, offending many Anglicans and causing a small yet significant exodus of churches from the denomination. All Anglican primates had agreed in 2004 on a moratorium on the ordination of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions in an effort to keep unity amid controversies. They also agreed to the ministering of all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Conservative Anglicans, especially from the Global South, are still asking for true repentance from the Episcopal Church for its violation.

The majority of the 38 Anglican Primates believe the Episcopal Church has violated scriptural authority, particularly in its stance on homosexuality. Episcopal leader Katharine Jefferts Schori argues that both sides can be defended by "Scripture, tradition and reason."

The Anglican Communion had reaffirmed over the weekend its 2004 report that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture.

Conservative Anglicans in the United States, including those in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, are hoping for a separate orthodox Anglican structure that would replace the Episcopal Church, seeking to remain faithful Anglicans. Although only a minority left the Episcopal Church since the 2003 consecration, the majority of Anglican leaders around the world remain at odds with the Episcopal Church and continue to seek clarity.

Episcopalians are already choosing to remain firm in their stance that favors homosexual ordination, even at the cost of splitting from the Anglican Communion.

"I am prepared to work quite hard to maintain connections in the communion," Sisk told Newsweek, "but if it comes to having to choose between the communion and abandoning my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters — much as I value the Anglican community, I think they will be the losers."

For now, the Anglican Communion has asked both sides of the debate to "forbear for a season."

In terms of the third demand by the global church body that asked parties involved in church property disputes to back away from litigation, remaining Episcopalians in Virginia have reorganized themselves as continuing congregations in the Episcopal Church and have indicated their continued efforts to recover property.

"It would be universally regarded on our part ... that we would like to get back into the historic church as a place of worship," said Falls Church Senior Warden Bill Fetsch in The Virginia Episcopalian.

Fetsch and about 100 people opposed the majority of The Falls Church congregation that voted to leave the denomination in December. Since the departure of some of the most historic and largest churches in the Diocese of Virginia, the diocese and later the Episcopal Church filed lawsuits and complaints to recover the multimillion dollar properties.