This weekend’s General Synod in York resolved to create a disciplinary covenant that might see some gay-friendly clergy and bishops thrown out of the Anglican church.
There is no resolution in sight as the Church of England continues to equivocate on the issue of the ordination of gay clergy.
The rows over the blessing of same-sex relationships and the ordination of gay clergy threatens to split the worldwide Church.
The decision to consider a mechanism by which those who dissent from the majority opinion could be forced out of the Church is a significant win for the conservative and evangelical elements in Anglicanism.
Reverend Drexel Gomez, the Archbishop of the West Indies asked:
“Do Anglicans have a clear and shared identity?”
He insisted that it was inevitable that the unity be based on a common “covenant”, which, “accurately describes a sufficient basis to hold us together and for us to want to stay together.”
Liberals say that to have a common covenant will undermine the diversity of the Anglican churches around the world.
The synod held that the issue of homosexuality, and the ordination of gay clergy in particular, exposed the ‘deep flaws in how Anglican unity is maintained.’”
As the next obvious step, plans are being drawn up on how these “deep flaws” will be resolved within the Anglican church.
The 482-memeber General Synod, which comprises clergy, laity and bishops of the Anglican Church, heard a range of views on the issue of a covenant.
Rev John Plant, from the diocese of Leicester, said doctrinal certainty was “not always a virtue” and Anglicans did not have access to “an infallible source of truth.”
Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, a noted evangelical who threatened to discipline clergy who took part in a civil partnership ceremony, said a vote against the covenant was a vote for anarchy.
Blackburn’s Tim Cox, argued that the covenant should be strengthened towards heterosexual marriage.
This suggestion was rejected by the Synod, who said that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York must be given time to respond to the draft covenant.
A number of conservative African churches are poised to boycott the Lambeth Conference next year.
The split in the Church began with to the ordination of an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire by the US Anglican Church in 2003.
The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) said that from a secular point of view to have a common covenant will inevitably lead the Church to take a regressive swing to the right.
Chairman of GALHA, Jim Herrick commented:
“We are alarmed that the General Synod has approved this move – it will eventually lead to liberal, pro-gay churches being kicked out of the Anglican Communion, and the Church becoming dominated by the likes of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, who thinks gay people are ‘lower than pigs and dogs.’”