Anglicans sanction US Episcopal Church over gay marriage


Church leaders have agreed to sanction the American branch of the Anglican Communion over its views on marriage and homosexuality.

A meeting of Anglican primates in Canterbury reached an agreement on measures against the US Episcopal Church, which a statement said had made a "fundamental departure from the faith and teaching" by endorsing gay marriage.

The agreement upheld a "traditional doctrine" of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The summit aimed to avert a permanent schism in the Anglican Communion amid division dating back to the liberal church's consecration of Canon Gene Robinson, who is gay, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

The primates' statement said: "The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, life-long union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."

The leaders added there was a "unanimous desire to walk together" and the divisions had caused "deep pain throughout our Communion".

And they asked the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, to lead a task group "with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences".

The Episcopal Church has been banned from taking part in ecumenical and interfaith bodies, internal committees or votes on doctrine or polity for a period of three years.

Members of the conservative Anglican group Gafcon welcomed the action but added: "This action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning.

"There is much that causes us concern, especially the failure to recognise the fact that the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) has also rejected the collegial mind of the Communion by unilaterally permitting the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of those in active homosexual relationships. We fear that other provinces will do the same."

Gafcon added the divisions had meant Anglican leaders had been "unable to guard biblical truth and restore godly order" and it was "disappointed" the agreement made no reference to "repentance".

But the decision was met with dismay by some.

Senior Labour MP and former Anglican minister Chris Bryant, who is gay, tweeted: "I've finally given up on Anglican church today after its love-empty decision on sexuality. One day it will seem wrong as supporting slavery."

The summit itself was tumultuous, as the Archbishop of Uganda walked out after failing to get a resolution passed for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from Communion activities.

Stanley Ntagali said the church's should be excluded "until they repented of their decisions that have torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level".

Archbishop Welby is expected to make a statement on Friday.