The Episcopal Church will not face discipline from the worldwide Anglican Communion for its liberal stance on homosexuality, which has pitted the U.S. church against more conservative members of the global church.

Wrapping up their annual meeting at a North Carolina conference center in early March, the presiding bishops, or primates, of the 38 autonomous churches in the Anglican Communion deferred a proposal that would have sanctioned the Episcopal Church.

The 70-million-member Anglican Communion, which has its roots in the Church of England, officially condemns homosexual behavior. But the Episcopal Church unofficially allows local dioceses to ordain practicing homosexuals and to bless same-sex unions.

Conservative leaders wanted to give the primates authority to reprimand the U.S. church and even excommunicate it if its policies did not change.

That proposal will now be considered by an Anglican theological panel.

In a pastoral letter issued at the end of the closed meeting, the primates said they had engaged in honest discussion. "We also resolved. … to show responsibility toward each other, and to seek to avoid actions that might damage the credibility of our mission in the world," the primates said.

The head of the U.S. church, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, had the support of the communion's leader, Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, in derailing the proposal.

The issue will likely continue to nag church leaders, even though they would prefer to focus on issues such as the African aids crisis, global debt, and anti-poverty efforts. When the primates meet again next year, the theological commission may issue a report on the proposal, as well as present a paper on authority in the communion and how each church should ...

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