(1st Add: Includes reaction from Episcopal Church)
(CNSNews.com) - A traditional-minded group of American Episcopalians Thursday issued a near unanimous backing of a statement repudiating the church for its position on homosexuality and requesting the global Anglican Church leadership to "intervene in the Episcopal Church."
The American Anglican Council's declaration, issued at its meeting in Dallas, Texas, rejects the elevation of Rev. Gene Robinson, who is homosexual, to the position of bishop and describes Robinson as "a man engaged in sexual activity outside the bonds of Holy Matrimony."
The American Anglican Council (AAC), according to its mission statement, "is a network of individuals, parishes, specialized ministries and Episcopal bishops who affirm Biblical authority and Anglican orthodoxy within the Episcopal Church."
Bruce Mason, AAC media officer, told CNSNews.com that Thursday's conference ended with a "great sense of unity." The organization, Mason said, decided to "move forward" in responding to the Episcopal Church's new policy on homosexuality, specifically the church's decision that "it was okay to have a gay man as bishop of New Hampshire."
Robinson divorced his wife, with whom he had two daughters, in 1986 and openly declared himself homosexual. He has been with his partner Andrew for 13 years. Robinson was elected bishop of New Hampshire earlier this year and formally elevated to the position in August at the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, Minn.
"These actions directly contradict Holy Scripture, the traditions of the Church, and our own (Episcopalian) Constitution," the AAC declaration states. "They also imperil our relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion."
AAC members are calling on the worldwide leaders of the Anglican Communion, which includes the U.S. Episcopal Church, to punish Episcopal bishops who "departed from biblical faith and order" by electing Robinson as bishop and allowing homosexual marriages in and by the Episcopal church.
The declaration also asks the primates of the Anglican Communion's 38 worldwide branches to "guide the realignment" of Anglicanism in North America when they meet in London next week.
Mason said the declaration sends "a very clear message" to the worldwide Anglican leaders that AAC and like-minded Episcopalians "desperately" need their help.
"We are no longer safe in our dioceses from harassment," Mason said. "We essentially have been orphaned by our church that has walked away from historical biblical teachings. We are energized and we are unified and ready to turn to the primates to see what they might be able to do."
Rev. Frank Griswold, the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop and primate in the U.S., sounded conciliatory in a statement published on the Episcopal News Service website.
"Regardless of what has been said or concluded" by AAC in Dallas, they are "our brothers and sisters in Christ," Griswold stated. But he added that he was "deeply" concerned by the "inflammatory rhetoric" and issuance of ultimatums in the AAC declaration.
"In such a climate, mutual pursuit of ways to build up rather than tear down is made more difficult, and the vast deposit of faith upon which we all agree is obscured," Griswold stated.
Mason said the AAC hopes that once Anglican primates take formal disciplinary action against the Episcopal Church, USA, the primates will make provisions for the AAC to remain formally attached to the Anglican community.
"The ideal case scenario for us is that (the primates) would create a new (Anglican) province (in the United States) or declare those who opposed the actions at the 74th convention the true historic Episcopal Church and to essentially de-recognize those who voted in support of Gene Robinson," Mason said.
The rift extends beyond American borders. According to the AAC News , Rev. Bill Atwood of Richardson, Texas, earlier this week described the "frustration" felt by African, Latin American and other Anglican community members in the southern hemisphere over "American arrogance."
Atwood reportedly recounted how one bishop had told him that while the West may have introduced those in the Global South to Jesus, "now we do not need to go to the West to know what He thinks."
Having just returned from visiting ministries in Latin America, Griswold said the primary mission of the Episcopal Church, USA was "reconciliation."
"Division and splintering, while much in the news, are not the spirit which gives life to our church," Griswold said.
Christ Church Episcopal of Plano, Texas, sponsored Thursday's conference, originally planned as a strategy session by 200 to 300 activists to formulate a response to the elevation of Robinson as bishop. However, approximately 2,700 Episcopalians (not all AAC members) attended, according to press reports.
The 38 Anglican primates will gather in London Oct. 15 for a two-day emergency meeting called by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to address the U.S. Anglican Church dispute, along with a similar issue involving the Anglican community in Canada.
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