.- The U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada withdrew yesterday from a key body of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
It marked the first formal split in the communion over the issues of homosexuality and same-sex unions, which had become intense issues in the last two years. The U.S. church consecrated an openly homosexual bishop, and the Anglican church in both countries have begun blessing same-sex unions.
The Anglican primates, who gathered for a five-day meeting in Northern Ireland to discuss the explosive issue, issued a statement saying that the withdrawal of the two churches from the Anglican Consultative Council is temporary, until 2008.
James Rosenthal, spokesman for the Anglican Communion, said the U.S. and Canadian churches voluntarily withdrew.
“In the meantime, we ask our fellow primates to use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public rites of blessing for same-sex unions and on the consecration of any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage," the statement said.
Discussions ongoing, meeting in June
The primates also called for the U.S. and Canadian churches to explain their thinking on these issues at a meeting in Nottingham, England, in June.
The statement reaffirmed a resolution adopted by all Anglican bishops in 1998, which opposed ordinations of homosexuals and same-sex blessings and declared that homosexual practices were "incompatible with Scripture."
The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank T. Griswold issued a brief statement, in which he stressed that discussions were continuing.
"These days have not been easy for any of us and the communiqué reflects a great deal of prayer and the strong desire to find a way forward as a communion in the midst of deep differences which have been brought into sharp relief around the subject of homosexuality.
"Clearly, all parts of the communiqué will not please everyone. It is important to keep in mind that it was written with a view to making room for a wide variety of perspectives," he said.
"I am grateful that the Anglican Communion is still able to make room for different points of view, so we can avoid schism and fracturing and stay together for the sake of the Gospel," Griswold said.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, was made no comment Thursday but has planned to speak at a news conference today.