Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), July 25, 2003
By Kelly Burke, Religious Affairs Writer
The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has joined forces with conservative primates from Africa and Asia and issued a veiled threat to the American branch of the church over the ordination of gay clergy.
The group, known as the Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion, has warned that a “constitutional crisis” was inevitable if the Episcopal Church USA voted in favour of approving homosexual bishops or same-sex blessings at its convention next week in Minneapolis.
The convention is expected to ratify the appointment of Canon Gene Robinson, a priest who lives in an openly gay relationship, as Bishop of New Hampshire.
The Vancouver diocese of New Westminster has already proceeded with the blessing of gay couples living in committed relationships.
But at a meeting of the fellowship in Virginia earlier this week, Dr Jensen and the primates of Nigeria, Rwanda, Central Africa, the Southern Cone, the West Indies, South-East Asia, and a core group of conservative US bishops and rectors announced that a vote ratifying Mr Robinson’s appointment would be unconstitutional, alienate the US branch from the global communion and ultimately “shatter” the church.
“The proposed actions will precipitate a dramatic realignment of the church,” said the statement, which went on to warn: “Should these events occur, the majority of the primates anticipate convening an extraordinary meeting [ie, not sanctioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury] at which they too will respond to the actions of General Convention.”
The statement did not specify what action the primates would take at the meeting, but have made it clear in the past they are unlikely to split from the church because they believe they represent the views of the majority of Anglicans.
Dr Jensen was the only archbishop to sign the statement who is not a primate.
“Perhaps he sees himself as the next primate of Australia,” the Australian primate, Archbishop Peter Carnley, said in response to Dr Jensen’s warning.
Dr Carnley, who has maintained Mr Robinson’s appointment was a matter for the US church only, said he had no intention of attending an international meeting that was not sanctioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
He said the statement was unhelpful and dismissed its claims that a ratification of the appointment of a gay bishop was unconstitutional as “just garble”.