Episcopal Leaders Developing Response to Anglican Requests

A draft of a response to the requests of worldwide Anglican leaders is ready for U.S. Episcopal bishops to consider.

Three months before The Episcopal Church's deadline (Sept. 30) to respond to the Anglican Communion's latest communiqué requesting the American church body to make an unequivocal pledge not to authorize same-sex blessings and confirm another openly gay bishop, the Executive Council began a four-day meeting Monday to discuss the draft report.

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, who chairs a work group appointed earlier this year to draft a potential response, announced that the Executive Council – the Episcopal Church's governing body – reportedly discussed the draft report in private conversation Monday and will discuss it during an open plenary session on Thursday, according to the Episcopal News Service.

"How do we keep the space open so that we can truly learn from each other?" Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori asked on Monday.

While the majority of the Anglican Communion is demanding "true repentance" from The Episcopal Church for its recent actions, including the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop, Episcopal leaders have expressed that they will not be moving "backward" from their previous decisions.

"I don't believe that there is any will in this church to move backward," Jefferts Schori told The Boston Globe in April.

Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, believes The Episcopal Church's response in September will be to "walk apart" from the global Communion.

Duncan is thus calling fellow Anglican splinter groups to raise the level of their Common Cause Partnership and prepare to create a separate "Anglican Union" in the United States.

In the meantime, Davis Mac-Iyalla, an Anglican gay-rights advocate from Nigeria and founder of the country's only gay-rights organization – Changing Attitude Nigeria – is on a speaking tour across U.S. Episcopal Churches and met this week with the Executive Council's Concerns (INC) and National Concerns (NAC) committees.

He claimed that Church of Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola has been directly involved in a bill that would impose a five-year jail sentence for relationships, activism, advocacy and shows of affection among lesbian and gay people. The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006, currently pending before the Nigerian legislature, bans both same-sex "marriage" and those who advocate for gays.

Claiming 2,500 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members in his organization, Mac-Iyalla said, "It is wrong to say that homosexuality is a Western, imported culture," according to Episcopal News Service.

He urged The Episcopal Church to petition the Nigerian government to oppose the bill.

"Our hope is in The Episcopal Church," he said. "If you don't speak out for us, we don't know where we will take our voice."

Although Akinola initially supported the bill, he later expressed concerns "about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation."

The 77 million-member Anglican Communion affirms homosexuality as incompatible with Scripture but encourages pastoral care to all persons, including homosexuals. Anglican churches around the world have also been mandated to partake in the "Listening Process" to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and to give such persons a "safe place" to voice themselves.

The Executive Council meeting, scheduled for June 11-14, is being held in Parsippany, N.J.

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