Episcopal Church commended for respecting differences on marriage

By Mary Frances Schjonberg
Posted Apr 11, 2016
Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, delivers his report to members of the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: ACNS

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, delivers his report to members of the Anglican Consultative Council, meeting at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: ACNS

[Episcopal News Service – Lusaka, Zambia] The Episcopal Church and its individual members earned praise here April 11 from Anglican Communion Secretary General Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon for working hard to walk together despite differences over same-sex marriage.

The secretary general’s remarks came in his report to the Anglican Consultative Council about this work since he took up his post last July.

The 78th General Convention’s decided last summer to change canonical language that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and, in Resolution A054,  to authorize two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples. Resolution A054 also requires bishops who oppose same-sex marriage to “make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies.”

Idowu-Fearon praised the resolution’s provision that “no bishop, priest, deacon or lay person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities, as a result of his or her theological objection to or support for the 78th General Convention’s action contained in this resolution.”

The secretary general also said he was happy to learn about a small group of bishops that will be appointed to continue seeking unity within the House of Bishops and within and between dioceses.

The House of Bishops, meeting at convention, also passed Mind of the House Resolution X022, titled Communion across Difference, which recognized that a group of minority of bishops were opposed to the General Convention’s approval of same-sex marriage. “We affirm that they are an indispensable part of who we are as the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church,” the resolution said. “Our church needs their witness.”

The resolution came in response to a statement from a group called Communion Partners dissenting to Resolution 054.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry told Episcopal News Service April 11 that in February he met with a small group of the bishops representing those who signed onto the statement. “We agreed that I would appoint a working group to discern ways and to make recommendations on how to move the vision of the mind of the house resolution forward,” he said.

The group was discussed at the House of Bishops retreat in March and bishops were invited to volunteer, according the presiding bishop, who said he will be appointing the group soon.

“This is not a formal or legislative committee but a working group to think through ways that we can live out the spirit of the mind of the house resolution,” Curry said. “For me this is a working group to think through how bishops can pastorally and practically help us as church to follow Jesus in the Episcopal way by truly living together as ‘a house of prayer for all people’.”

During his speech, Idowu-Fearon said he was “encouraged that such a committee is to be appointed and, while this may not be an easy task, I have hope that this position will be respected with good intent.”

“I am also happy to let the ACC know that within TEC there are bishops in dioceses where same-sex marriage is practiced who make provisions for those who do not accept that with bishops from other with dioceses where it is not practiced,” he said. “So, there is this walking together; there is this communication; there is this partnership that is already going on within TEC and I am happy to tell you that.”

The Episcopal Church’s decision to change its marriage canon and approve new marriage rites soon became a source of tension in the Anglican Communion. A majority of the leaders of the communion’s 38 provinces – known as primates – during their January gathering called for three years of “consequences”  for the Episcopal Church in response to that decision.

General Convention in June also extended the existence of its Task Force on the Study of Marriage, which had already been operating for three years. Included in its mandate is to continue its study of contemporary trends and norms in terms of marriage but also those who choose to remain single; unmarried persons in intimate relationships; couples who cohabitate either before or instead of marriage; couples who desire a blessing from the church but not marriage.

“This has been an ongoing and very extensive theological, scriptural, moral, ethical study on all aspects of human relationships,” the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the Episcopal Church’s ACC clergy member and president of the House of Deputies, told the meeting.

Ongoing ENS coverage of the ACC is here.

The House of Deputies News page is also posting stories about the meeting.

Tweeting is happening with #ACCLusaka.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


Comments (10)

  1. JOHN S WILLIAMS says:

    I’m a very simple person. I support my bishop. I support my dean. I support my parish. These are the three most important influences in my religious life. I have never found our membership in the Anglican Communion of any benefit whatsoever. In view of the African-led sanctions recently imposed the relevance of the Anglican Communion is less so. I wish TEC would remove itself from this body of fog thinkers and go its own way. I’m sure the money we throw down the Anglican Communion sinkhole could be put to much better use here — our poverty, our Native American communities, our senior care programs, homelessness, etc. The Anglican Communion has kicked us out for three years. Let’s take our contributions and leave permanently. Let Africa and the rest of the gang fend for themselves. Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s how I feel.

    1. Rich McDonough says:

      John…I don’t think you are alone! Many of us here in the US no longer feel connected to the Communion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, TEC may as well quietly leave the Communion and let them make whatever decisions they choose. We can continue our relationships with the ELCA, the Anglican Church in Canada, and others, but as far as showing some fealty to the ABC, it’s a waste of time. My local church and diocese are far more important to me than what is said in Uganda, South Asia, or somewhere else.

    2. Jim McGill says:

      I certainly understand your frustration, John. I have shared those frustrations. And you are correct: TEC funds, by far, the lion’s share of the costs of the instruments of communion. But one of the things that is so frustrating is that, as faithful members of this (or any) body, we don’t get to vote with our dollars. How many times have we quarrelled with our rector, yet pay or pledge, knowing that one has little to do with the other. (That is the “don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” thing that Jesus talks about.) As people of faith, we don’t get to respond to a perception of unfaithfulness with more unfaithfulness, because we know that if we live by the rule of “an eye for an eye,” all we end up with is a church full of blind people.

    3. Frank Riggio-Preston says:

      I sincerely agree. The time has come for TEC to gently move along without the rest of the Anglican Communiin from which all we really have is history. We “govern” completely differently from every other church in the Communiin and they cannot fathom that at all, especially the African churches. Let them fend for themselves and continue their bigamy and support of brutal discrimination

    4. David Rayburn says:

      The TEC has been a mess since the previous Presiding Bishop who prompted large amounts of good Episcopalians to leave our church and join the Anglican community. She was indeed a Liberal of the first order. I will remain a true Episcopalian but I will still regard the definition of Marriage as between a MAN and a WOMAN. If homosexuals want to have a UNION, I can understand that but a marriage should and always be between a MAN and a WOMAN. I am not against homosexuals in any way. I have many homosexual friends.

    5. Stephen Abraham says:

      If you believe that the Episcopal or the Anglican Church is your Diocesan, Dean and Parish, I am afraid it is far wider than that. It is that is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. You appear, my dear brother in Christ, to believe that the withdrawal of your money will bring down the Anglican Communion. That is not true. If you think the money donated by God fearing people of America for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom and for supporting the poor is, in your view, for supporting anti Scriptural causes, then brother, just leave and leave the Church of Christ alone. What the world needs is Christian love and we will do well with that, not your money. No amount of money can buy love. The message to all who try to induce fellow Christians to accept anti Scriptural teachings with money is: the ‘gospel’ of s/he who pays the piper calls the tune is dead in the Church of Christ. The true Church of Christ is the poor.

  2. Ralinda Gregor says:

    If no one is to be coerced or penalized for refusing to conduct same sex marriages/blessings, then why did the Bishop of Kentucky, Rt. Rev. Terry White, refuse to support one of his priests, the Rev. Johnathan Erdman, who could not in good conscience perform these rites but graciously referred couples to the cathedral two miles away? The parish hired Erdman knowing his conservative beliefs. I suppose Fearon’s remarks will help him secure TEC funding for the Anglican Communion Office and convey a false sense of unity — and that appears to be the most important goal of this institution.

  3. Rev Amanda Bordenkircher says:

    I am curious what room will be made in the future for those clergy whose conscience would affirm the passing of resolutions A036 and A054 but who minister in dioceses where their bishop was led by conscience to be one of the Communion Partners.

  4. Cynthia Katsarelis says:

    This is a very gracious statement by Archbishop +Josiah Idowu-Fearon and seems to mark an evolved understanding and appreciation for TEC. In only a few months, TEC has moved from being a difficult problem province to being a model of walking together. That seems like the movement of the Holy Spirit.

    As truly annoyed as I was with some of +Josiah’s pre ACC statements, there seems to be some really honest engagement and discernment going on in him. It’s very respectable for a struggle playing out in public.

    Again, I advocate for staying engaged with our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Communion. There’s a lot of great work going on and lots of relationships that should not be severed because of some of the brothers.

  5. Joel Morris says:

    I agree with attempts to remain a part of the Anglican Comunion. However our primate has made it clear that TEC will not compromise on our acceptance of our gay brothers and sisters in allowing marriage. There is undoubtedly quite a few in our church who don’t believe allowing and participating in gay marriages is the right thing for our church, but remain within the church. If the majority of members of the Comunion, largely the African churches, cannot accept these differences, then it is up to them to expel our church. I hope this does not happen, but I believe it will be their loss.

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