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Anglican Communion Temporarily Suspends U.S. Episcopal Church


The U.S. Episcopal Church has been barred temporarily from full participation in the worldwide Anglican Communion. That means, for now, it has no say on Anglican doctrine and policy. The word came from Anglican leaders meeting this week in Canterbury, England. They said they were angered by the U.S. church's decision last summer to perform same-sex marriages. NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The U.S. Episcopal Church has always been part of the worldwide Anglican Communion tied to the Church of England. But U.S. Episcopalians are generally liberal on matters of sexuality, marriage and the role of women, in contrast to Anglicans in Africa, for example. Those differences were highlighted today by Rev. Josiah Idowu Fearon of Nigeria, secretary general of the Anglican Communion. Speaking in Canterbury today, he acknowledged there are Anglican gays and lesbians in Africa.


JOSIAH IDOWU FEARON: But generally on the continent of Africa, our culture does not support the promotion of this type of lifestyle.

GJELTEN: Nigeria alone has more Anglicans than the U.S., Canada and Great Britain combined. When Anglican leaders from the global South insisted on punishing the U.S. church for same-sex marriage, they had the votes to get most of what they wanted. A joint statement said U.S. church's policy on same-sex marriage represented a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of the Anglican provinces. Here's Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion.


JUSTIN WELBY: If you do certain things, you're perfectly entitled to do them, but there will be consequences as a result of you doing them - not within your own church. We have no power over that. But there'll be consequences in your participation in the wider community.

GJELTEN: In an audio message posted on Facebook, the new presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, said the punishment will bring heartache and pain to many.


MICHAEL CURRY: It may be part of our vocation to help the communion to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us. And we can one day be a church in a communion where all of God's children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people.

GJELTEN: The suspension of the Episcopal Church will be revisited in three years. But Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the diocese in Washington, D.C., says the action in Canterbury will not cause U.S. Episcopalians to reconsider their support for same-sex marriage.


MARIANN EDGAR BUDDE: This is a broad consensus that has been honed and reflected upon for over 40 years.

GJELTEN: Still, Bishop Budde says, there's considerable dismay among U.S. Episcopalians over what they see as implicit anti-gay sentiment in the latest Anglican statement.


BUDDE: The real concerns that we have are for gay and lesbian transgender people in other parts of the world who do not have protection. In fact, the laws are against them. And when church leaders speak out in this way, it makes them all the more vulnerable.

GJELTEN: The communique issued by Anglican leaders today in Canterbury did include a statement condemning homophobic prejudice and violence, while committing the churches to offer pastoral care irrespective of sexual orientation. Tom Gjelten, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.
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