In his Pentecost letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury asked that the Episcopal Church’s representatives to interfaith and ecumenical conversations be lowered to “consultant” status. This week, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Kenneth Kearon, did his master’s bidding, effectively disinviting Episcopal involvement in dialogues with the Orthodox, Lutherans, and Methodists.
The internet is abuzz with stories concerning the “sanctions” imposed on the Episcopal Church. There’s a wonderful irony here, because the Lutherans and the Methodists have each seen controversy in the US over sexuality, although apparently the Lutherans’ decision last year to permit the ordination of gays and lesbians went relatively smoothly. Even more amusing is the fact that last year there was great concern when the Church of Sweden voted to allow gay marriages. Not only that, the Bishop of Stockholm, Eva Brunne, is a lesbian in a registered partnership, with a three-year old son. Because of the Porvoo Agreement, the Church of England is in full communion with the Church of Sweden. As a punishment, it seems rather silly to prevent Episcopal representatives from meeting with Lutherans whose policies on sexuality are more clear and more open than ours.
Of course there are other matters at stake. One of the key issues in the reception of the Anglican Covenant is section four which deals with disciplinary action. There has been some resistance from various sectors of the Anglican Communion to these proposals for a more tightly-run ship. I suspect the ABC would have liked to do something a little more ruthless to the American Church but lacked the nerve. Where’s Ratzinger when you need him?
There’s a local connection to this controversy. Tom Ferguson, who is Chaplain at St. Francis House and who also works for the national church on ecumenical matters, is one of those who has been disinvited. He was a participant in the Anglican-Orthodox dialogue.
As always, you can follow developments at Thinking Anglicans and The Episcopal Café.