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Anglican schism over gay clergy inevitable
by Graeme J. Davidson
25 July 2009

The decade-long feud over gay clergy and church-sanctioned gay unions within the 80-million member worldwide Anglican Church reached a bitter climax. Both sides acknowledge irreconcilable differences and have, in effect, filled for divorce. Both accuse the other of unfaithfulness.

... The Anglican barney over gays is like a TV soap in which headstrong family members ignore efforts at reconciliation and cries of despair from the rest of the family as they continue to tear it apart.
... Over the last month, the decade-long feud over gay clergy and church-sanctioned gay unions within the 80-million member worldwide Anglican Church reached a bitter climax. Both sides acknowledge irreconcilable differences and have, in effect, filled for divorce. Both accuse the other of unfaithfulness.
... Several weeks ago, Britain’s Sunday Telegraph interviewed a senior Anglican Church leader, the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali. He insisted that people who don’t uphold the traditional teaching of the Bible about marriage being between a man and a woman don’t share the same faith: “They are acting in a way that is not normative according to what God has revealed in the Bible”. He then went on to say, "We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed".
... Even though Bishop Nazir-Ali said this last comment was taken out of context, it earned him several death threats and a period of police protection.
... The uproar had barely died down when one of those so-called unfaithful churches, the 2 million-member Episcopal Church in the United States, flouted the Anglican Church’s worldwide moratorium on ordaining homosexuals. Six years ago, it became a rogue church when it ordained Gene Robinson, a divorced grandfather who is now living in a gay union, as the world’s first openly gay bishop. Last week, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention met near Disneyland in California in what detractors are calling the “Disney Convention”. By an overwhelming majority, they voted that all baptised persons have full access to any ministry. Sexual orientation will no longer be a barrier to ordination – gays, lesbians and transsexuals will have equal rights.
... The vote was no surprise to the 100,000-member splitter group of Anglicans, known as the Anglican Church in North America, or ACNA. In a pre-emptive move late in June, they held their inaugural meeting in Texas to ratify their own ethically conservative constitution that emphasises the importance of the Bible and traditional Anglican doctrines.
... That prompted the Presiding Bishop of the larger pro-gay Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, to urge the Archbishop of Canterbury not to officially recognise this breakaway group. She insisted "schism is not a Christian act" and that recognition of groups like the ACNA would only encourage further secessions.
... But who is splitting from whom? People like Bishop Nazir-Ali and groups like the ACNA represent the views of about a third of all Anglicans, especially those of the fast-growing Anglican churches of Central Africa. They could equally accuse the US Episcopal Church of schism from the rest of the Anglican Church.
... Bishop Nazir-Ali is resigning as Bishop of Rochester to head a lobby group of conservative Anglicans. Queen Elizabeth II, who’s the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, upset pro-gay advocates by sending a letter of support.
... How do these impending divorces on distant shores affect New Zealand? During the 1990s, a few Anglican churches, mainly in our larger cities, adopted inclusive policies symbolised by a rainbow to show that they welcomed all people, especially gays. In at least one case, local families who were otherwise sympathetic to gay issues felt an exclusive pro-gay agenda had hijacked their expression of Christianity. It dominated to the point where most of the locals abandoned their parish church.
... There are pockets of both pro-gay activists and Biblical conservatives within the New Zealand Anglican Church today. But it’s highly unlikely that either group will want to push for a split from the majority of worldwide Anglicans. After all, the New Zealand Church is already divided into three churches within a church with its three tikanga or cultural streams – Maori, Pacifika and Pakeha. A further break-up based on pro and anti-gay policies would weaken the Church further and give Kiwi Anglicans an even more confusing array of choices.





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