Episcopal Church Suspended From Anglican Communion

On Jan. 14th, the Episcopal Church was officially suspended from the Anglican Communion for three years. This comes after several years of conflict between the Communion and the Episcopal Church over questions about homosexuality. In 2003 Gene Robinson, an openly gay clergyman, was elected bishop of New Hampshire, and in 2015 the Episcopal Church leadership decided to allow its clergy to marry same-sex couples. These and similar decisions have set the Episcopal Church apart from the rest of the Anglican Communion, which has in general kept a more conservative stance. The latter of these decisions seems to have been the final straw, moving the Communion to suspend the Church. As a result of this decision the 1.8 million members of the Episcopal Church will not have a say in Anglican Communion decisions for three years.

Anglicanism is an expression of the Christian faith, and the Anglican Communion is the largest body of Anglicans in the world, consisting of 38 member churches and 85 million Christians. The suspension of the Episcopal Church is therefore a suspension of American Episcopals from communion with the vast majority of other Anglicans.

At the end of this three-year suspension another vote will be held by the Communion to decide whether to readmit the Episcopal Church. Jeffrey Walton, Anglican Program Director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington D.C., has stressed that while the suspension of the Episcopal Church is significant, it does not represent a rupture or tension within the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church has not been kicked out of the Communion; it has instead been suspended as result of the distance that Episcopals have formed between themselves and the Anglican Communion at large.

Some members of the Anglican community agree with this decision, while others express outrage. The latter of these think that the suspension is cruel. Many Episcopals have begun to wonder what the Anglican Communion will do about the churches that treat LGBTQ people as outsiders. Will those churches be suspended as well?

Other Anglicans in the United Sttates, who have previously separated from the Episcopal Church but not been accepted into the Anglican Communion, have wondered whether this is the opportunity for them to gain membership. Will the Anglican Church in North America, for instance, now be accepted into the Communion?

Only time will tell whether the suspension of the Episcopal Church will continue or end, and whether this will be the beginning of suspensions or unions with other churches.

Sources: religionnews.com, anglicancommunion.com

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