A service consecrating two bishops on January 29 in the Anglican Church in Singapore has raised fundamental questions for the Episcopal Church in the U.S. about Anglican unity and the limits of dissent.
The normal procedure in the worldwide Anglican Communion allows each national church to regulate its own ordination of bishops, with the Episcopal Church presiding over the American scene. But in Singapore two American Episcopal priests, the Revs. Charles H. Murphy III and John H. Rodgers, Jr. were ordained by six bishops, none of whom reside in the United States.
The newly ordained bishops, allied with the conservative renewal group First Promise, headed by Bishop Murphy, explained the consecrations were intended as a response to the “failure” of the Episcopal Church to “defend the truth of the Bible” against ordination of homosexuals and acceptance of rituals for same-sex couples. The bishops who performed the act were from the Third World, a conservative region gaining increasing influence in the worldwide Anglican communion.
The most influential of Anglican leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George L. Carey called the ordinations “irresponsible”, and warned they “only harm the unity of the communion.” Religion writers Gustav Niebuhr and Richard Ostling point out in Beliefnet.com (see beliefnet.com/story,9/story_947_.html) that unless major compromises or concessions are made by the conservative bishops and their Third World counterparts, the already-strained threads of unity in the Anglican world communion will be tested as never before, perhaps to the breaking point.
— By Erling Jorstad, RW contributing editor