Ecumenical sanctions imposed on Southern Cone province

By Matthew Davies

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, has written to Bishop Tito Zavala of Chile informing him that his membership on the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) has been withdrawn and inviting him instead to serve as a consultant to that body.

The decision, announced Oct. 14 by the Anglican Communion Office, was made because the primate of the Argentina-based Province of the Southern Cone, under whose jurisdiction Zavala’s diocese falls, failed to respond to Kearon’s request for clarification about his involvement in cross-border interventions.

Southern Cone Archbishop Gregory Venables has offered oversight to conservative members of parishes and dioceses breaking away from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Venables and Zavala could not be reached for comment.

Kearon’s decision comes four months after similar sanctions were imposed on Episcopal Church members serving on Anglican dialogues with the Lutheran, Methodist, Old Catholic and Orthodox churches, as well as one member of IASCUFO, who also was invited to serve as a consultant.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams had proposed in a May 28 Pentecost letter that representatives currently serving on ecumenical dialogues should resign their membership if they are from a province that has not complied with moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.

The Episcopal Church sanctions were made in light of the May 15 consecration of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool, who is openly gay.

“These decisions are not taken easily or lightly, but relate to the gracious restraint requested by successive meetings of the instruments of communion and the implications for communion bodies when these requests are not honored,” Kearon said in his Oct. 14 announcement.

The Anglican Communion Office had previously confirmed that its secretary general, in consultation with the archbishop of Canterbury, appoints members to the ecumenical commissions and to IASCUFO and therefore has the authority to remove people from those bodies.

The moratoria were first mentioned in the 2004 Windsor Report, a document that made several recommendations on how the communion might maintain unity amid disagreements over theological interpretations and human sexuality issues. The moratoria have since been supported by the communion’s primates at their February 2009 meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main policy-making body, at its May 2009 meeting.

No mention was made in Kearon’s announcements or Williams’ letter about ecumenical commission members from other provinces — such as Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda — that are currently involved in cross-border interventions in the United States.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on June 2 issued a pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church, in which she referred to Williams’ letter and urged continued dialogue with those who disagree with recent actions, “for we believe that the Spirit is always calling us to greater understanding.”

“We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which ‘have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the instruments of communion.’ We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard?”

Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.

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