South Africa’s Anglican bishops have taken an initial step toward including LGBT people as full members of their congregations with the passage of a resolution at a meeting in the Grahamstown Diocese. The resolution now goes to the Provincial Synod, the church’s top decision-making body, which meets later this year, said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town.
Restoring the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion should be the goal of a meeting called this week by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on how Anglicans should move forward, said the head of the Global Anglican Future Conference.
Welby’s meeting of Anglican leaders is planned for mid-January 2016 in Canterbury, England. It is being viewed as an attempt to heal the 80 million-member communion, which remains deeply wounded by disputes over homosexuality and women’s ordination in the global church.
GAFCON’s chairman, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, the primate of Kenya, said the meeting was a recognition of the deep concerns of the faithful Anglican Church leaders in the world. GAFCON, started in 2008 in Jerusalem, says its aim is to restore the integrity of the Anglican faith and order.
In an interview that aired last week, Stephen Colbert — possibly the only Catholic whose popularity rivals Pope Francis himself — admitted that one of the times the Eucharist felt “most real” to him was when he attended an Anglican service and heard a woman consecrate the bread.
“The freshness of hearing a woman say that gave the message a universality that it always should have,” said Colbert.
Today, if you walk through the red doors of an Episcopal church on Sunday morning, the person presiding over the Eucharist might be female, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. But on Sept. 12, some of the first women ordained as Episcopal priests reminded the church: it hasn’t always been that way.
Forty years ago last week — before women were allowed to be priests — four women were "irregularly" ordained as Episcopal priests before the altar of St. Stephen and the Incarnation in Washington, D.C. Closely linked with the "irregular" ordination of eleven women in Philadelphia (the “Philadelphia Eleven”) the previous year, the ordination of the Washington Four — Lee McGee Street, Alison Palmer, Betty Powell, and Diane Tickell — is seen by many as a key step in securing women’s ordination in the Episcopal Church.
Primates and bishops from the Global South attending a gathering in Toronto, said current proposals for a new Anglican Communion covenant don’t go far enough to heal the conflict in the communion over homosexuality.
The Wednesday gathering to mark the 50th anniversary of the Toronto Anglican Congress, suggested the worldwide Anglican Communion faces troubled waters. Anglicans from the Global South prepare to meet for their second Global Anglican Future Conference next month and the Toronto meeting showed no signs of reconciliation.
Archbishop Ian Ernest, primate of the province of the Indian Ocean, said decisions by the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada on issues involving homosexuality have torn the fabric of communion.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion, recently announced that he would step down by year's end. A few days later, the Church of England rejected a Williams-backed unity plan for global Anglicanism, a church fractured by issues of gender and sexual identity. The timing of the resignation and the defeat are probably not coincidental. These events signal Anglicans' institutional failure.
But why should anyone, other than Anglicans and their Episcopal cousins in the U.S., care? The Anglican fight over gay clergy is usually framed as a left and right conflict, part of the larger saga of political division. But this narrative obscures a more significant tension in Western societies: the increasing gap between spirituality and religion, and the failure of traditional religious institutions to learn from the divide.
A proposed "Covenant" aimed at ensuring unity across the worldwide Anglican Communion appears to have failed, leaving the world's third-largest Christian body facing an uncertain and likely fragmented future.
The covenant, born of an idea in 2004 to try to set boundaries in belief and practice for the Communion's 40 members churches, appears dead after a majority of dioceses within the Church of England voted to reject it.
With results still being counted, supporters of the Covenant effectively lost their battle within the Church of England when the Diocese of Lincoln cast the 23rd vote against it last week.
"The covenant is either buried or disabled," said Simon Barrow, co-director of the independent British think tank Ekklesia, in the aftermath of the decision.