Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion, meeting this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, have issued an ultimatum to the Episcopal Church of the United States, demanding an end to the appointment of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex couples.
According to the BBC, the document calls for the U.S. Episcopal bishops to "make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions."
It also orders the U.S. Episcopal Church not to ordain any other priests who are active homosexuals, requiring the bishops to agree that "a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent - unless some new consensus on these matters emerges across the Communion."
The Anglican Communion statement warns that if the above assurances can not be given by September 30th, the Episcopal Church could be removed from the worldwide Communion.
"If the reassurances requested of the House of Bishops cannot in good conscience be given,” the bishops write, “the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as a whole remains damaged at best…And this has consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said the document provided "a challenge to the Episcopal Church to clarify its position,” and “a challenge also to those who have intervened from elsewhere to see if they can negotiate their way towards an acceptable, equitable, settlement."
He admitted the communique would "certainly fall very short of resolving all the disputes", but said it would "provide a way of moving forward with dignity".
Archbishop Williams called the Tanzania meeting due to growing unrest over the issue. Following the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate the openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, many parishes, dioceses, and faithful in the U.S. began calling for a split of the U.S. church, and sought to unite themselves with dioceses abroad.
To address this growing unrest, the document also announced the setting up of a pastoral council to represent the international church leaders in the US.
Anglicans who do not agree with the Episcopal Church's stance on homosexuality will be able to worship separately to the others, under the auspices of the council.
The body will be made of up five members - three of whom will be appointed by non-US clergy.