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Anglican leader refuses to recognize bishops

Carey insists on 'rapprochement, reconciliation'

Saturday, February 19, 2000

By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, will not recognize as bishops the two Americans recently consecrated in Singapore unless the Episcopal Church in the United States does so.


Click here for more information and Web site referrals on Anglican response to the consecrations.


"Whilst recognizing John Rodgers and Charles Murphy as faithful and committed ministers of the gospel, I have to conclude that I cannot recognize their [ministry as bishops] until such time as a full rapprochement and reconciliation has taken place between them and the appropriate authorities within the Episcopal Church of the United States," Carey wrote in a four-page letter to the world's Anglican bishops.

Barring a major change in American attitude, that is tantamount to saying that Ambridge resident Rodgers and South Carolina resident Murphy can be seated at gatherings with other Anglican bishops when hell freezes over. Their consecrations were a declaration that the bishops involved consider many U.S. bishops heretical or apostate.

Rodgers was consecrated Jan. 29 as a bishop of the Anglican Province of Southeast Asia, and Murphy as a bishop of the Anglican Province of Rwanda. They were sent back to the United States to start theologically conservative congregations within the boundaries of Episcopal dioceses whose bishops have either denied central Christian doctrines or ordained openly gay priests.

The 2.4 million member Episcopal Church is one of 37 self-governing provinces in the 70 million member Anglican Communion.

Rodgers said yesterday that it was up to the primates who ordained him to work it out with Carey.

"As Christians we are under the authority of Jesus Christ, as bishops we are under the authority of the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, archbishop of the Province of Rwanda, and the Most Rev. Moses Tay, archbishop of the Province of Southeast Asia. As such, we will await the direction of these archbishops as they seek to resolve this matter at the highest level of our communion," he said in a statement.

Rodgers declined further comment, saying, "We don't really want to draw undue attention to ourselves and distract from the issues."

In an earlier interview with a conservative Episcopal Web site, Rodgers called the consecrations "valid and unusual." He did not criticize his critics, but said he believed the discussion the consecrations had stirred up was healthy for the church.

Carey is symbolic head of the Anglican Communion but has no governing authority outside England. He shares many of Rodgers' and Murphy's concerns about American bishops who question the creeds or who hold homosexual relationships to be as acceptable as heterosexual marriage.

In 1998, Anglican bishops declared 526-70 that homosexual relationships were "incompatible with Scripture." But they also said it was inappropriate for one Anglican bishop to enter the diocese of a bishop he considered heretical without that bishop's permission.

Some conservative Episcopalians within liberal dioceses had asked for outside oversight, from either a neighboring conservative bishop or from an African bishop. One Rwandan bishop already had sent a priest to take charge of a conservative parish that broke away from the Episcopal cathedral in Little Rock, Ark.

Carey's letter upheld what Anglican bishops said about diocesan boundaries, but scolded American bishops who had ignored the Anglican resolution on homosexuality.

"I hope that those bishops who have ... appeared to reject the resolution, will recognize the substantial difficulties they have raised for many of their colleagues around the world," Carey wrote.

"I do not question the motives of those involved in the service, not their own perception that the situation in the United States is so serious that this action could be justified. However, the understanding of Episcopal ministry, which appears to have allowed them to act unilaterally, without consultation and in secret, is quite foreign to the Anglican tradition."

Carey stated that the Singapore consecrations did not follow the constitutions of the provinces of Southeast Asia or Rwanda. Rodgers said earlier that he believed Tay followed the law of his church.

Many conservative Anglicans who agree, theologically, with Rodgers and Murphy have criticized the consecrations, especially regarding the timing. They believed that a summit meeting of conservative bishops in November had concluded that no radical action would take place at least until March. That is when the world's Anglican primates are to discuss the concerns of conservative Episcopalians.

In an earlier interview, Rodgers said the consecrations took place in January because the pastoral need was great, because the archbishop of Singapore was due to retire prior to the primates' meeting, and because they hoped their action would help the primates sense the urgency felt by conservative Episcopalians.

Carey wrote that conservatives expect too much from the primates, who cannot give orders to the Episcopal Church.

"We have no authority to impose our will on any Province. To talk of the Primates disciplining the Episcopal Church of the USA, or any other Province for that matter, goes far beyond the brief of the Primates meeting," he wrote.

The Anglican primate of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers, summed up the reaction of many moderate and liberal bishops to the consecrations:

"Bishops are not intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactured on one continent and fired into another as an act of aggression. The recent irregular ordination in Singapore is, in my opinion, an open and premeditated assault on Anglican tradition, catholic order and Christian charity."

James Solheim, a spokesman for Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, praised Carey's statement.

"This is a good reminder from the archbishop of how Anglican polity works," he said. "It is also an example of strong leadership that we have come to expect from him. While it will disappoint some, it is a clear call that the conversation around our differences must continue if we are going to stay together as a communion."

Among active U.S. bishops, the one who has expressed the most sympathy for the Singapore consecrations is Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, who called himself "ambivalent." Duncan is out of town because of his sister's death and could not be reached for comment on Carey's statement.

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