By George Conger
THE EPISCOPAL Church has mishandled the debate on human sexuality by misleading the Anglican Communion about its intentions to regularise gay bishops and blessings, the Primate of the West Indies said on May 15. By placing autonomy above unity it has brought the Anglican Communion to the brink of collapse, Archbishop Drexel Gomez told the clergy of Central Florida. Archbishop Gomez criticised the leadership of the Episcopal Church for not being entirely straight forward with the Communion. “You just cannot have collegiality,” he explained, “if when you meet with your colleagues you don’t share.”
He also chided the African-led missionary jurisdictions, the AMiA and CANA, operating in the United States, saying they were an unfortunate “anomaly.” It was “most unfortunate” that the Episcopal Church had hid its intentions to regularise gay bishops and blessings, Archbishop Gomez said, as it had not seen “fit to share with the rest of the Anglican Communion what it intended on doing.” During the 2003 Primates’ Meeting in Gramado, Brazil “we had a long discussion on this business of [gay] blessings and samesex unions,” he said. But at “no time during the meeting, did [US Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold] even indicate that a situation was developing in the Episcopal Church that would lead to the consecration of Gene Robinson.” “It is not good enough as Frank [Griswold] had said that The Episcopal Church has been wrestling with this issue for 30 years and the Spirit has led them to this decision. We were unaware of the problem. It must be a shared discernment if we belong to the body,” Archbishop Gomez said. ACC-13 in Nottingham was the “first time any presentation had been made by The Episcopal Church” on these issues, he argued.
At the 2003 emergency Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth Palace, “We said unanimously, including Frank Griswold, if The Episcopal Church were to proceed with the consecration of Gene Robinson that it would tear the fabric of the Communion. And yet it proceeded and the fabric has been torn,” he said. The consecration of Gene Robinson was “the first time in the history of Christendom that someone has been made a bishop who could not function as a bishop,” Archbishop Gomez argued. “Theologically I do not consider him to be a bishop,” he said. Bishop Robinson’s episcopal ordination was an example of Augustine’s argument, Archbishop Gomez stated that “a sacrament could be valid but non efficacious.” He “has been sacramentally ordained, validly ordained as a bishop, but he cannot function as a bishop in most of the Anglican Communion.”
Archbishop Gomez stated he was also “very concerned” about the formation of rival Anglican jurisdictions in the United States under the sponsorship of overseas primates. These “new groupings are anomalous in Anglicanism” he told Central Florida, adding “I tried hard at the last Primates’ Meeting to find an answer to that” difficulty, which “complicates the situation.” One of the triumphs of the Tanzania Primates’ Meeting, he said, had been the agreement made by the onterventionist primates to turn over their US jurisdictions to an international pastoral council. “We got them to the point where they would stop. This was not easy to achieve,” he said. “I thought the House of Bishops would jump at the opportunity” to end foreign interventions, but they “wouldn’t look at it.” The rejection of the pastoral council by the House of Bishops now makes it “twice as difficult to get this back on the table,” Archbishop Gomez said. He also stated the Dar es Salaam CommuniquÃ© was the first statement by the Primates where each was asked to give their personal assent.
At prior meetings “we worked by consensus in our decisions,” but Archbishop Williams “felt that the decision was so important, so critical” that all should be polled for their views. “Individually [Archbishop Williams] went around and individually every person said yes [to the CommuniquÃ©]. [Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori] said yes, but said it would be a difficult sell, but she would try.” The question put to the Presiding Bishop was whether she accepted the communiquÃ©, “and Katharine agreed to the proposal.” Archbishop Gomez did not expect a decisive response from the House of Bishops to the September 30 deadline for compliance to the Primates’ CommuniquÃ©. “On the basis of past actions, certainly over the past 10 years, I would presume that the Episcopal Church would seek someway of fudging it. And that would be a consistent pattern,” he stated. He told the gathering that he had suggested a September 30 deadline for a response from the House of Bishops. “The intention was to give them two full meetings” before an answer was due, although Archbishop Williams had pressed for more time. The Episcopal Church “will have to make a decision” whether it will remain part of the Anglican Communion. “The official Church speaking through its General Convention places autonomy over its mission. That is the reality we have to face in the Communion,” Archbishop Gomez said.
–This article appears in the Church of England Newspaper, May 25 2007 edition, page 7