Conservatives may expel U.S. Anglicans

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Conservatives may expel U.S. Anglicans
By MICHAEL VALPY
RELIGION AND ETHICS REPORTER
Saturday, August 30, 2003 - Page A9

Leaders of world Anglicanism's conservative evangelical wing disclosed plans yesterday to force the expulsion of the U.S. church from the Anglican Communion unless it recants its decisions to condone active homosexuality and bless same-sex unions.

The evangelicals -- most of them primates, or heads of national churches, in the Third World -- said they will use an emergency meeting of world primates in October to effectively excommunicate the Episcopal Church, as U.S. Anglicanism is called. The conservative primates believe they have the numbers -- a majority of the primates of 38 autonomous churches or provinces -- to compel the Communion's president, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to declare that churches that condone active homosexuality are no longer Anglican. By pushing Archbishop Williams into a corner at the London meeting, they feel they will diminish his chances of trying to broker a compromise position between conservative and liberal factions.

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the primate of the West Indies, was quoted in the London Telegraph as saying the Episcopal Church can "choose whether it wishes to remain with us or not" by reversing its policies.

The U.S. bishops, at the Episcopal Church's general convention earlier this month, voted to allow the blessing of same-sex unions in churches. In Canada, meanwhile, the audacious decision by an unnamed priest in Hamilton to marry a homosexual couple -- not merely bless their union -- left Anglicans pondering just what their priests can or cannot do.

Provincial governments license religious clergy to marry people, but only on the condition they are in good standing in their particular religious organization.

The Hamilton priest unequivocally violated Canadian Anglican canon law by marrying the couple. The national canon says marriage is between a man and a woman.

However, the priest -- his or her identity is being closely guarded -- did not violate civil law.

The question is, can a member of the clergy -- licensed by the state to perform marriages only on the condition of being in good standing with his or her religious organization -- perform marriages that violate that organization's rules? "It's an interesting question," said Bishop Ann Tottenham of the Diocese of Toronto. The answer is, she said, that the state, once it licenses a member of the clergy, couldn't care less who they marry so long as it's legal under civil law.

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