What does “suspension” of the Episcopal Church mean?

This week the Primates of the Anglican Communion met in Canterbury, England. The Primates are the heads of the Anglican churches that make up the Anglican Communion. Our own Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is one of the primates, and he was there for the meeting, as was Justin Welby, the Archbishop of England.

At their meeting, the Primates issued a communique “requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us… not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and… not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

So what does this mean?

Not very much, really. The Primates are only one of four bodies in the Anglican Communion, and their harrumphing about the Episcopal Church doesn’t change much. The important work of the Anglican Communion goes on in a network of relationships between parishes, dioceses, schools, and other groups. That won’t change. We’ll continue to pray for and give to the Anglican Church of Jerusalem as we always have.

The Primates are a bunch of grumpy old men, led by the very conservative heads of Anglican Churches in Africa and Asia, who disapprove of the Episcopal Church’s approval of same-sex marriage rites last summer at general Convention.

The world is changing, and people everywhere are accepting that gay and lesbian people are no different from anyone else and deserve the same rights. The African Primates are trying to maintain the repression of LGBT people as long as they can.

Our own Presiding Bishop said in his response to the Primates meeting, “It may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed.”

The Anglican Communion is a network of relationships, not a court of law, and the Primates’ statement is mostly hot air.

Links for more information:

Presiding Bishop Curry’s statement about the meeting

Bishop Greg Rickel’s post about the Primates’ action

Andrew McGowan from the Berkeley Divinity School 

Bishop Curry, the saint emerging from the Primates’ meeting

Official Statement from the Primates’ Meeting