Anglicans try to head off split over gay U.S. bishop

Panel might recommend rebuke for Americans

October 17, 2004|By Larry B. Stammer | Larry B. Stammer,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LONDON - A panel appointed by the archbishop of Canterbury is poised to unveil recommendations tomorrow on how to head off possible schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion triggered by the consecration of a gay American bishop.

While the Lambeth Commission's recommendations are known to only a few, there is widespread speculation that the Episcopal Church, the self-governing U.S. member of the Anglican Communion, will be disciplined or rebuked over the consecration last year of the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

Two knowledgeable church sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they had been informed that, at the very least, American bishops who consented to Robinson's consecration would be given a deadline for apologizing for failing to seriously consider how their actions would affect the rest of the 77-million member worldwide communion.

"This is a very significant moment, there's no question about it," said the Rev. Canon Ian T. Douglas, a church historian at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. "It is a defining moment of how we as Anglicans are going to be in the world."

The Rev. Canon Kendall Harmon, theologian for the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and a leading conservative voice in the U.S. church, said the commission could call for an international canon, or law, that would bind all 38 self-governing Anglican provinces - national or regional churches like the Episcopal Church in the United States - to minimal standards of discipline. At the moment, all operate under their own canons.

Reports yesterday also described a "covenant" that might require national churches to surrender some of their autonomy in the name of unity.

"It's a major proposal about the whole structure of how we operate as the Anglican Communion," another source told the Los Angeles Times. Word of the covenant was first reported yesterday by the Times of London.

Presumably, such a covenant could not only bar the Episcopal Church from ordaining gay bishops, but rein in conservative African bishops who have assumed jurisdiction over some dissident American parishes. However, it would take at least several years, for all the provinces to ratify such an agreement.

"What we choose in the interim will be more important than what ultimately is suggested by the Lambeth Commission because the communion is so fragile," Harmon said.

Conservative Anglican bishops in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, along with several in the United States, have charged that the Episcopal Church had broken with 2,000 years of Christian moral teaching by consecrating Robinson.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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