LONDON — The Anglican Communion has suspended U.S. Episcopalians from serving on ecumenical bodies because of the election of a lesbian as a bishop in California.
The U.S. church opened a rift in the global communion, and within its own ranks, seven years ago by electing a gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. Conservative African Anglicans have taken a lead in opposing moves in the United States and Canada to promote gays and to bless homosexual relationships.
Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, had called for a moratorium on appointing homosexuals to leadership positions. He asked for action against the Episcopal Church after the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool was made an assistant bishop of Los Angeles.
The Anglican Communion is an association of 44 regional and national member churches, most founded by Church of England missionaries, with more than 80 million members in more than 160 countries.
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, announced Monday that Episcopalians had been downgraded from members to consultants in formal ecumenical dialogues, annual meetings between Anglicans and clergy in other churches intended to build friendship and better understand one another's traditions and issues of mutual concern such as points of theology and ways of worshipping.
Kearon said he had also written to the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada to ask whether it has formally adopted a policy backing same-sex blessings.
The Canadian church's governing General Synod is meeting this week, and is discussing whether to debate a motion on the issue.
The Episcopal News Service said the Rev. Katherine Grieb, an Episcopal priest and professor of New Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary, was downgraded from member to consultant to the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity Faith and Order.
Those who were stripped of membership in ecumenical dialogues, according to ENS, were the Rev. Thomas Ferguson and Assistant Bishop William Gregg of North Carolina, both involved in the Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue; Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart of Montana had been a member of the Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity in Mission; and the Very Rev. William H. Petersen, professor of ecclesiastical and ecumenical history of Bexley Hall in Columbus, Ohio, who was serving on the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission.
Brookhart said the individual clergy members' opinions about the moratorium were not a factor in the archbishop's decision. Brookhart said he supports the moratorium, did not participate in Glasspool's consecration and that his policy has been not to authorize the blessing of same-sex couples.
"This is ironic, isn't it?" he said.