Roughly 2,700 conservative U.S. Episcopalians gathered in Dallas in October to ask the Anglican Communion's highest-ranking archbishops to rebuke their church for rejecting historic Christian teaching on homosexuality.

After two days of confrontational, humorous, and confident speeches, these Episcopalians expected the primates (archbishops with national or transnational authority) to issue a stern rebuke.

Instead, the primates issued an ambiguous statement in which both sides found reasons for hope. While reaffirming the church's traditional teaching on sexual morality, the statement calls for a committee to study the Archbishop of Canterbury's role in leading Anglicans.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, summoned primates to the October 14–15 meeting even while the Episcopal Church's General Convention was still in session in early August.

"My initial reaction was that it was bureaucratic, diplomatic," conservative Bishop James Stanton of Dallas told CT. "On second reading, and after speaking with some of the primates involved, I'm satisfied with it." Stanton described the statement as a "compassionate call on the Episcopal Church to change its path."

Stanton said he believes orthodox primates from around the world remain committed to decisive action if the Episcopal Church consecrates Robinson.

In 1998, Anglican bishops meeting at the decennial Lambeth Conference described homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture. Meeting again October 14–15 at Lambeth, the archbishops warned the Episcopal Church in the United States that consecrating an openly noncelibate homosexual bishop would "tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level."

Frank Griswold, presiding bishop of the 2.5 million-member Episcopal Church, joined in the unanimous statement of the primates. But he also reiterated his support of Robinson's consecration. Indeed, Griswold presided at Robinson's consecration on November 2.

The Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, which elected the openly gay Gene Robinson as its next bishop, did not see the statement as posing any obstacles to his consecration.

Conservative leaders, however, emphasized the statement's warnings about the divisive nature of Robinson's consecration. Philip Jenkins, distinguished professor of history and religious studies at Penn State University and author of The Next Christendom, praised the statement.

"I was surprised somewhat that it was so negative toward the American Episcopal Church," he told CT. "It looks more schism-oriented than I first thought."
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The statement also warns about similar division caused by blessing homosexual couples. The Diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver, British Columbia, officially sanctions these ceremonies and the Episcopal Church leaves the decision to local bishops.

The primates' statement leaves priests such as Filmore Strunk Jr. of Charlotte, North Carolina, awaiting more developments. "I think it's a half measure on the way to oblivion," Strunk told CT. "It represents a noble attempt to maintain unity in the face of a secularist onslaught that will not be sated short of total victory."

Related Elsewhere:

Christianity Today's earlier coverage of the Anglican Communion's strife includes:

The Gay Bishop's Global Fallout | How each of the 39 provinces in the Anglican Communion have responded to Sunday's consecration. (Nov. 07, 2003)
Translating the Anglican Primates | Interpretations vary widely on what last week's statement means, how forceful it was, and what's next. (Oct. 21, 2003)
Anglican Leaders Criticize Episcopal Church, Canada's New Westminster Diocese on Homosexual Actions | Future of the Anglican unity "in jeopardy," they say, but don't break communion—yet. (Oct. 16, 2003)
Anglicanism's Communion of Saints | Under the somber portraits of their predecessors, Anglican archbishops will discuss the fractious issues of the church and homosexuality. (Oct. 15, 2003)
Florida Bishop Defies Episcopal Church Head | The consecration of a new bishop becomes the latest battleground between Frank Griswold and the American Anglican Council. (Oct. 10, 2003)
Reimagining Anglican Bonds of Affection | Orthodox American leaders begin describing what realignment of the Anglican Communion might look like. (Oct. 09, 2003)
Conservative Episcopalians Challenge Church Politics as Usual | "A Place to Stand" conference combines unofficial convention, pep rally, and communiqué to Anglican leaders. (Oct. 08, 2003)
Our Brothers and Sisters, the Episcopalians | The Episcopal Church needs our help. Here's why we should give it. (Oct. 03, 2003)
To My Episcopal Family | Final thoughts from the Episcopal Church's General Convention. (Aug. 08, 2003)
Bishops Sanction 'Resources,' Not Rites | Having confirmed gay bishop, Episcopal leaders turn to discussing same-sex unions. (Aug. 7, 2003)
Darkness in the Afternoon | Openly homosexual Episcopal priest cleared of misconduct, confirmed as bishop (Aug. 6, 2003)
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The Bitter Harvest of Sexual Ideology | No one wanted the Gene Robinson bishopric debate to take this sad turn (Aug. 5, 2003)
Deputies Slice into the Gordian Knot | The Episcopal Church's House of Deputies approves Gene Robinson as New Hampshire Bishop. The House of Bishops will vote today. (Aug. 4, 2003)
Praise the Lord and Pass the Condoms | Southern Hemisphere primates warned that approving Gene Robinson would place the church outside most of the world's 72 million Anglicans. "You'll get over it," responded about 60 percent of the House of Deputies. (Aug. 4, 2003)
Gene Robinson Takes Questions in a Church called Gethsemane | Speaks on reparative therapy, potential schism, and whether he really "/left" his wife for his male lover. (Aug. 4, 2003)
What in the World Is God Doing? | For Episcopalians, the night may be darkest before the dawn. (Aug. 4, 2003)
Integrity Doles Out God's Not-So Inclusive Love | The Integrity Eucharist has become a triennial sort of mass pity party. (Aug. 1, 2003)
Gay Rites Would Not Bless Ecumenism | Could also impair Anglican work overseas. (Aug. 1, 2003)
Gene and Me | My history with the openly gay man elected bishop of Rochester. (July 31, 2003)
Anglican Communion Frays | Bishops worldwide chastise Canadian bishop who approved gay unions. (July 09, 2003)
The African Lion Roars in the Western Church | Anglican liberals are fretting, conservatives rejoicing, and all are scrambling to their history books: whence this new evangelical force on the world scene? (June 27, 20 03)
Anglican Diocese Endorses Same-Sex Unions | Traditionalists walk out, issue global call for outside intervention. (July 12, 2002)
Weblog: Is Anglicanism's First Election of an Openly Gay Bishop an Exit Sign? (June 9, 2003)
Commission Will Try to Resolve Tensions Within Anglicanism Worldwide | Group will examine strains over homosexuality, as well as role of Archbishop of Canterbury. (March 20, 2001)

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