U.S Episcopal Church Withdraws from International Council

Leaders of the U.S. Episcopal Church announced Wednesday their decision to withdraw delegates from a key international Anglican conference.

The denomination’s Executive Council members released the statement after holding an unannounced session in Mundelein, Ill., where they considered the international request for them to “voluntarily withdraw” from the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting.

“This is a weighty matter for the Episcopal Church since the ACC is the primary instrument of communion in which the fullness of the Body of Christ is represented. Representative consultation is an essential component of our life as a church. We struggled to discern how best to respond to the request,” the statement read.”

The Anglican Consultative Council, which is held once every three years, is slated for June of this year.

The majority of the world’s Anglicans broke fellowship with the US Episcopal Church in one way or another after the denomination ordained an active homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire.

The conflict culminated this February at the Primate’s meeting in Northern Ireland, during which the international heads urged the U.S. church to withdraw from the ACC meeting and reassess its divisive actions.

Last month, the Episcopal leaders agreed to halt the ordination of homosexual individuals – but at the same time said they will stop ordaining heterosexuals as well – at least temporarily.

Conservative factions in the church criticized last month’s decision as well as the announcement made on Wednesday, saying both statements are deceptive.

“What the response of the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council to the 2005 Primates’ Communique gives with one hand, it takes away with the other,” the US-based Anglican Communion Network said in a statement. “While it gives an appearance of complying with the Primates’ request, in actuality it does not. The Primates asked the ECUSA delegation to withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council (AAC) – the only appropriate response is therefore to stay at home.”

The U.S. representatives made clear that they will indeed be present at the ACC – but only to observe discussions and “be available for conversation and consultation.”

“The response to the Primates is a technical yes and an actual no. The response is extremely disappointing. It is also, of course, dishonest in any coherent moral analysis,” the ACN said in its statement.

Meanwhile, the head of the entire Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, applauded the U.S. bishops for acting “Very generously and constructively.”

“I hope this will bear the fruit that it should,” Archbishop Rowan William said.