Anglicans sanction US Episcopal Church over gay marriage

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. (PHOTO: The Guardian).

Originally published in ABC News

Anglican leaders today (Thursday, January 14, 2016) temporarily restricted the role of the US Episcopal Church in their global fellowship as a sanction over the American church’s acceptance of gay marriage.

Episcopalians have been barred for three years from any policy-setting positions in the Anglican Communion while a task force is formed that will try to reconcile conflicting views over sexuality in the 85-million-member family of churches. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States.

The announcement came near the end of a weeklong meeting in Canterbury, England, called by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, to heal rifts over same-sex relationships and keep the Anglican Communion from splitting apart. Welby, the Anglican spiritual leader, has set a news conference Friday in Canterbury to explain the leaders’ decision.

There was no immediate comment from the New York-based Episcopal Church, whose leader, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, has been attending the meeting in England.

Liberal Episcopalians questioned the leaders’ authority to impose any such penalty. The Global Anglican Future Conference, which represents theologically conservative Anglican leaders, had sought sanctions against the American church, and some said they would walk out of this week’s meeting unless some penalty was applied. In a statement Thursday, the conference known as GAFCON said their leaders were pleased by the outcome of the meeting, but “this action must not be seen as an end, but as a beginning.”

Anglicans, whose roots are in the missionary work of the Church of England, are the third-largest grouping of Christians in the world, behind Roman Catholics and the Orthodox.

Fracturing fellowship
The fellowship has been fracturing for decades over gay relationships, women’s ordination and other issues. Those rifts blew wide open in 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in New Hampshire. Last year, the top US Episcopal legislative body, or General Convention, voted to authorize gay marriages in their churches.

The most vocal protests to the Episcopal embrace of gay rights came from Africa, home to some of the fastest-growing churches in the Anglican communion and the deepest opposition to gay relationships as a violation of Scripture. Many African countries have criminalized gay relationships.

Theological conservatives from around the world joined together to form the Global Anglican Future Conference as a fellowship within the communion, distancing themselves from the US Episcopal Church and refusing to participate in some Anglican gatherings.

In 2009, Anglican national leaders in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and other church provinces helped create the Anglican Church in North America, as a theologically conservative alternative to the US Episcopal Church. Welby had invited the leader of the conservative North American body to participate in the Canterbury assembly.

The press office for the Anglican leaders in Canterbury said the statement released Thursday affirmed the leaders’ “unanimous commitment to walk together.” The statement acknowledged “deep differences” over understanding of marriage and said the majority in the meeting “reaffirm” the teaching that marriage is only the union of a man and a woman. The leaders called the Episcopal Church approval of gay marriage “a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching” of the majority of Anglicans.

While the US Episcopal Church is alone among Anglican provinces in approving gay marriage, other Anglican national churches, in Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand and Scotland, have taken steps toward accepting same-sex relationships. The top body of the Anglican Church of Canada is scheduled to vote in July on a proposal that would authorise gay marriage.


  1. I remember the 2003 event when the Episcopal Church consecrated the first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, he is a wonderful man of God. There is a documentary about it all in a video called “For The Bible Tells Me So” (available on YouTube) one would have hoped the Anglicans would have progressed forward from this by now. To my knowledge, most Anglican churches in SA are quiet gay-friendly

  2. Ultimately the Gay Marriage issue is decided by the Head of the Church which is His Body: Jesus Christ. He defined “Marriage” in Matt 19:4-6. Marriage is based on God’s creation of humankind as “male and female”, and He used the word “wife”. All this excludes any idea of same-sex ‘marriage’. Jesus left no room for ambiguity. It is not being intolerant, when we obey Jesus as Lord. I ask gently but firmly: Can a Bishop who disobeys Jesus be ‘a wonderful man of God’? The love of Jesus extends freely to ALL sinners, telling them to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Heterosexual sin and Homosexual sin both exclude those who practice them from God’s Kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The grace of God teaches us to say “No” to these named sins, because God who accepts sinners as they are does not allow them to continue as they are. (Titus 2:11). We devalue God’s grace when we make Him tolerate sin. Let’s keep sending a message of loving redemption in Jesus to all sinners, and never forget that we too are only citizens of His Kingdom because of His undeserved mercy to us.

  3. AMEN to Hugh Wetmore ! Either we take the Bible as God’s Word, or we stray into Humanism and interpretations that originate in our own sinful needs.
    Gays ,repent, and God will relief you from this sinful behavior. TEST HIM IN THAT..

  4. Mike Guest (B.Th.)

    In 1 Co 6:9 God says that homosexuals, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Surely any church (or denomination) that calls itself “Christian” should live by (and endorse) every word of God? I don’t see anything in my Bible that allows one to select the portions of Scripture that I wish to obey and discard those that I don’t like or that are not “politically correct”.
    We are surely living in the times of 2Ti 4:3 when “… they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth” …

  5. The Bible, and the Bible only, is our point of reference. 1 Cor 6:9. However we love the sinner but not his sin.

  6. Two points – it is not God being unkind or intolerant – scripture shows God is for life, chaim, it is Who He is. Two males or two females do not promote life. Of course He loves gay people, it comes down to not practicing it. They are no different to widowers or widows in the Church – no sex outside of marriage – if they can tough it out, so can gays.