US branch ban threatens diversity, says church head
The Scottish Episcopal Church has warned that the decision by the global Anglican church to restrict the activities of its liberal US branch because of its support of same-sex marriage risks stifling its ability to express diversity.
The Most Rev David Chillingworth, primus of the Scottish church, said it would give “further consideration” to the contentious decision by Anglican primates, but stressed that it sees itself as “a diverse church in a diverse communion.”
The meeting of primates in Canterbury said the US church had made a “fundamental departure from the faith and teaching” by endorsing gay marriage.
In their statement, the primates sounded a warning to other Anglican provinces, including Scotland, which are considering changing church doctrine on marriage in order to allow for same-sex unions. The primates stressed that “possible developments in other provinces could further exacerbate this situation.”
It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury sought to heal divisions within the church as well as the wider community by apologising for the “hurt and pain” it had caused the gay and lesbian community.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said it was a “constant source of deep sadness” that people were persecuted because of their sexuality, but defended the primates’ decision, stating that it was not the place of Anglican leaders to “divide the church” and that union would be “painful as well as joyful.”
The US 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.
The decision, Mr Welby added, was supported by the “overwhelming majority” of Anglican primates.
However, his attempts at reconciliation failed to quell the sense of hurt felt by some.
One senior figure in the Scottish Episcopal Church said Mr Welby’s sentiments had been undermined by the outcome of the meeting of Anglican primates.
The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow and a prominent LGBT campaigner, tweeted: “What @JustinWelby is saying is often quite good but completely compromised by the actions of @Primates2016.”
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and former Anglican cleric, said he was turning his back on the church after accusing it of behaving “disgracefully” to its American counterpart.
He said: “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.”