Episcopal Church Won't Stop Supporting Gay Marriage Despite Anglican Suspension, Says Bishop

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has admitted that the Episcopal Church's suspension in January by the Anglican Communion for supporting gay marriage is fair, but said that it will not change their stance on the issue.

(Photo: Reuters)Retired Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay priest elected as a bishop in a major Christian organization, Gene Robinson.

"We're not changing — so there shouldn't be an expectation that in the next three years the Episcopal Church is going to change," Curry said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, according to an article on the Institute on Religion & Democracy blog Juicy Ecumenism.

"This is who we are," Curry added.

Anglican Communion leaders announced at a major meeting in January that they are suspending the Episcopal Church for three years due to its 2015 vote to authorize same-sex marriage ceremonies in church.

(Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville)The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (L) speaks with protestors in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, southern Britain January 15, 2016. The Anglican Church has slapped sanctions on its liberal U.S. branch for supporting same-sex marriage, a move that averted a formal schism in the world's third largest Christian denomination but left deep divisions unresolved. The Anglican communion, which counts some 85 million members in 165 countries, has been in crisis since 2003 because of arguments over sexuality and gender between liberal churches in the West and their conservative counterparts, mostly in Africa.

"The traditional doctrine of the Church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching," the Anglican Primates affirmed.

"Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our provinces on the doctrine of marriage. Possible developments in other provinces could further exacerbate this situation," they added.

Curry reflected that the Anglican decision makes sense because of the doctrinal disagreements, but insisted that the Primates "did not vote us off the island." He said that Episcopalians are still part of the "Anglican family" despite the developments.

"Because we differ on a core doctrine, it would not be seen as appropriate for us to represent the Anglican Communion in ecumenical, interfaith, ambassadorial relationships. That's fair," Curry added.

"Because we disagree on core doctrine they are asking that we not cast our vote on matters of doctrine or polity — not about our life together and a whole bunch of other things that get considered."

Retired New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in a relationship, thanked Curry for the way the Episcopal Church has handled the controversy.

"Thanks for not throwing us under the bus — the LGBT community as well as the Episcopal Church, we're proud of you," Robinson said.

Robinson has been an outspoken voice for LGBT rights, and in March 2014 wrote to Pope Francis asking him to change the Roman Catholic Church's official doctrine that defines homosexuality as a disorder, arguing that such a teaching is "the basis for discrimination, rejection and violence the world over."

Anglican leader Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has continued trying to push for reconciliation between conservative African bishops and their more liberal North American counterparts.

Welby said back in January that the Episcopal Church is facing "consequences" for stepping out of line with the Anglican Communion, but clarified it is important not to refer to the decision against the Episcopalians as "sanctions."