The worldwide Anglican Communion met this week in Canterbury, England, and voted to suspend the American-based Episcopal Church over its support for same-sex marriage. The head of the Episcopal Church shot back, comparing the decision to racism. Which is ironic, because a large number of conservative Anglicans are native Africans.
“The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union,” the leaders of the Anglican Communion, which represents 44 national churches, said in a statement. “The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”
Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church’s newly elected first African American presiding bishop, responded forcefully. “I stand before you as a descendant of African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society,” Curry said. “And this conjures that up again, and brings pain.”
The allegation is ironic, since African Anglicans—who tend to be conservative—have been on the front lines in pressing the Anglican Communion to discipline the pro-gay Episcopal Church. As the Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey reported, “the active membership of the U.S., Canadian and British Anglican churches combined is less than the number the Nigerian church, which has roughly 20 million members, has added in the past 15 years, according to Philip Jenkins, historian at Baylor University.” Of its membership of about 85 million, slightly less than 40 million live in Africa, more than in any other continent.
The suspension will last for three years and prohibit members of the Episcopal Church from holding key voting positions in the global Anglican Communion.