The fallout from the appointment of the first openly gay Anglican bishop continues, with the archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams calling an October meeting of church primates to discuss the issue. Dr Williams also authorised the republishing of an essay written six years ago, in which he calls for a reinterpretation of the Bible regarding homosexuality and supports faithful gay relationships.
The move follows the appointment of openly gay Reverend V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire on 5 August by the Episcopalian Church (the US Anglican church). The appointment was made at the Episcopalians’ national convention, at which an ambiguous endorsement of same-sex union within individual dioceses was also approved. The convention voted to recognise that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.
Dr Williams’s reiteration of support for gay clergy and same-sex unions worldwide follows his more cautious actions only last month, when he supported gay Canon Jeffrey John’s withdrawal from appointment as bishop of Reading. Dr Williams announced at the time that estrangements of churches in developing countries from the UK’s Anglican Church would be a very heavy price to pay.
A price is being paid in some churches, with protests, withdrawals of funds and, in some cases, congregations splitting from the Anglican Church. The Advocate reported moves by conservatives to create a separate North American communion, while in Florida, CBS News reported a First Coast Church has withheld donations to the national church indefinitely. The East African Standard reported the condemnation of the appointment by more than 600 women members of the Anglican Church of Kenya. Bizarrely, the Charleston Post And Courier noted a possible merger between a congregation in South Carolina angry at the appointment, with members of the Reformed Episcopal Church. The Reformed Episcopal Church split from the main church after the Civil War, when the Episcopal Church refused to allow black clergy.