Episcopal Head: Two U.S. Churches Would Cause More Global Divisions

The head of the Episcopal Church, USA, said the denomination is still in a "process" toward reconciliation over homosexuality issues and that creating a separate church would cause more difficulties and divisions even outside the U.S. arm of Anglicanism.

In a formal response released Thursday, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold raised questions about some of the statements that came out of recent Anglican meetings, especially a suggestion by bishops in the Global South who called for the formation of another Anglican body in the U.S. – a body for those opposed to the consecration of homosexuals and gay “marriage.”

"The suggestion of such a division raises profound questions about the nature of the church, its ordering and its oversight," stated Griswold. "I further believe such a division would open the way to multiple divisions across other provinces of the [Anglican] Communion, and any sense of a coherent mission would sink into chaos."

The head of U.S. church was not alone in his concerns. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town and the Most Rev. Ignacio C. Soliba, prime bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, said they did not endorse the Kigali communiqué that was drawn up by African, Asian and Latin American Anglican bishops last week, which had affirmed support to U.S. conservative leaders against homosexuality.

While the dissenting bishops from the Global South said they did not sign the communiqué or was even made aware of it, Archbishop John Chew, primate of the Church of the Province of South East Asia countered their words saying a draft agenda had been sent out to the Primates ahead of the Global South meeting and that a communiqué drafting committee chaired by Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi was "unanimously appointed."

There were no signatories on the communiqué. Instead, the document was followed by a list of 20 "Provinces Represented."

Griswold also raised questions about the Global South leaders' request for another representative of the Episcopal Church other than Presiding bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, a supporter of homosexuality, at the next global Primate meeting in February.

"I have sought to bring to the primates' meetings the wide range of opinions and the consequent tensions within our own church. I have every confidence that Katharine will do the same," he stated.

The installation of Jefferts Schori on Nov. 4 will be broadcasted live on the Web.

As the issue of homosexuality has continued to wrack the Episcopal Church since New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson's consecration three years ago, Griswold, who supported the choice of Robinson, clarified the significance of the 2004 Windsor Report – a list recommendations on how to best maintain unity throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion.

"I believe the 'Windsor process' is a process of mutual growth which calls for patience, mutual understanding and generosity of spirit rather than stark submission."

But a suggestion for a separate ecclesial body, Griswold indicated, within the North American province appears to be an effort to undermine the "process" toward healing.

Conservative leaders, including Bishop Robert Duncan, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, have stressed that a divide is inevitable and that a separate Orthodox body is what they are ultimately seeking for.

He and other Windsor bishops had recently met in Camp Allen, Texas, to continue with efforts to resolve the homosexual divide.

"[T]he Texas meeting was in no way held at the Archbishop's initiative nor was it planned in collaboration with him," Griswold clarified.

The “Windsor bishops” had committed to try to maintain unity in the church while also recognizing the needs of the conservative dioceses that desire a new overseer.

While expressing appreciation for the concerns raised by the Camp Allen attendants, Griswold made clear that "such encouragement does not necessarily imply affirmation of or agreement with points of view expressed in the course of such exchanges."