A troubled denomination
of the Christian
church. The British section of this denomination was recently in the news for the selection of Dr. Jeffrey John as the openly homosexual bishop of Reading. Amidst an outcry of protests, and signs that his appointment would cause a split in the worldwide Anglican church, John witdrew himself from nomination.
Shortly after, the US version of the denomination, the Episcopal Church, elected Gene Robinson - an openly gay man - as the bishop of New Hampshire.
Dr. Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury and thus the head of the Anglican Church, is a liberal who is known to support gay clergy
Facts on Anglicanism,
a major branch of Christianity
, and its American branch, the Episcopal Church:
NUMBERS: 77 million adherents in the 38 Anglican and Episcopal churches around the world. The mother Church of England is the largest branch but many of its 26 million baptized members are inactive. America's Episcopal Church reports 2.3 million members, a notable drop from decades ago. The population has shifted to developing nations, with half of Anglicans now in Africa (17.5 million in Nigeria alone).
LEADER: Anglicanism's spiritual leader is the Archbishop of Canterbury, currently Rowan Williams
, who also heads the Church of England. Recognition by Canterbury defines a church as Anglican.
HERITAGE: Anglicanism originated when the Church of England broke with the papacy under King Henry VIII in 1534. These Christians cherish diversity and generally view themselves as standing between Catholicism
STRUCTURE: Each of the 38 branches is self-governing. Policy guidance comes from the Lambeth Conference
, a meeting of all Anglican bishops once per decade. The 38 primates who head the branches (including U.S. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold) confer annually.
BELIEFS: Anglicans worship according to the Book of Common Prayer. The 1888 Lambeth Conference listed four points of unity: The Bible
as the ``ultimate standard of faith,'' the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds
, the sacraments of baptism
and the Lord's Supper and the ``historic episcopate'' (leadership by bishops in a line extending to the 1st century apostles).
GAY DIVISION: The 1998 Lambeth Conference voted 526-70 (45 abstaining) that homosexual practices are ``incompatible with Scripture,'' thus opposing same-sex relationships and actively homosexual clergy. The Primates' May meeting declared against same-sex unions. But the Anglican diocese in Vancouver, Canada, authorizes same-sex ceremonies, as do some U.S. Episcopal dioceses. A gay bishop candidate in England stepped aside
last month after Nigerians and others protested.
Homesexual Clergy Vs. The Bible
The following newspaper editorial clearly explains why conservative Christians consider the appointment of gay men as clergy to be wrong:
When the Rev. Gene Robinson, who openly defies his own church’s doctrine by having a fully active romantic relationship with another man, sought to become the Anglican bishop of New Hampshire, he was challenging the church’s commitment to ancient (and, in 1998, recently reaffirmed) moral teachings.
Though the Bible says nothing about homosexuality as defined today — because the notion that sexual preferences are determined genetically had never entered the mind of anyone until this century — it does offer clear and undeniable prohibitions against sex 1) outside of marriage, and 2) with someone of the same sex.
It has been argued that these restrictions are essentially ritualistic and are therefore outdated. But most churches, including the Anglican church, hold that they are moral teachings, and therefore timeless and universal.
By confirming Rev. Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, the leadership of the American Anglican Church, both lay and clerical, has declared that at least one of the Bible’s long-accepted teachings is invalid.
The fear of traditionalists, and we count ourselves in that camp, is that once this is done, there will be no end to the rewriting of the Bible based on the political preferences of the moment. This, not the placement of a homosexual in a leadership position in the church, is why the confirmation of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire is troubling.
We have no doubt that homosexuals have served the Christian faith ably throughout the millennia and will continue to do so. But when a major tradition-guarding institution whose authority is based on the Bible calls into question the very validity of the Bible itself by promoting to bishop someone who publicly contradicts Biblical teachings, then traditional morality itself is seriously weakened.
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