The Anglican Church of Mexico has issued a statement urging a calm and conciliatory reaction after media and social media reports, many of them erroneous, about a rift between the worldwide Anglican Communion and the U.S. Episcopal Church (TEC) based on TEC’s approval of same-sex marriage last July.
Rumors about an “expulsion” or “excommunication” of TEC (the Anglican province that includes many U.S. dioceses as well as Venezuela, Ecuador, Taiwan and other far-flung areas) began to circulate after a vote taken last week by 38 bishops at the Anglican Primates Meeting in Canterbury, England.
While the primates’ decision requires that TEC, for a period of three years, not represent Anglicanism in interfaith groups nor participate in some other pivotal activities, Alfonso Walls, secretary general of the Iglesia Anglicana de México, pointed out that “the Episcopal Church is not kicked out by any means.”
But social media posts and even prestigious publications are characterizing the decision in stark terms. The Atlantic magazine and Daily Beast, for example, used a tone of outrage and expressions such as “punishment” to describe what more sober Anglican organs called “consequences” for TEC’s change of the marriage doctrine.
The hyperbole appears to be what led Walls and Francisco Moreno, the primate bishop of Mexico, to take pains this week to send out a letter in Spanish to Anglican clergy and lay people here saying that even though “we don’t always agree with everyone, we can seek to remain united with each other in understanding and love.”
The e-mail also took the unusual step of revealing that at the Canterbury meeting Bishop Moreno voted against the anti-TEC resolution, although it was approved by a majority of the primates at the meeting.
“My personal opinion on this is exactly the same as the church’s,” explained Walls. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to reconcile. We respect what people choose in their own social contexts. What an individual province decides only applies within their own boundaries. I’m very concerned that some people have made an idol of this one topic, when there are so many other important topics facing us — immigration, poverty, oppression, violence, racism, and so on.”
Anglican primates from around the world met at Canterbury Cathedral in England last week. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is the tall man in the front row, center, while Francisco Moreno, the primate of Mexico, stands at the archbishop’s left side. Moreno revealed he did not vote with the majority to require the Episcopal Church notto participate for three years in certain activities that affect the entire Anglican Communion, in response to their approval of same-sex marriage in 2015. Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry is in the third row, his head directly behind Welby.
Other sources say worse was feared from the Canterbury meeting.
“Before our meeting there was intense media speculation that the Anglican Communion would split, irrevocably,” said Archbishop Philip Richardson on an Anglican Communion Web site. He described “rumors of cars waiting outside the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral, with motors running, poised to whisk schismatic archbishops to an undisclosed venue. …We faced a simple choice: to stay inside the room and work with these enormous differences of view — or to walk away from each other. We chose to stay.”
Likewise, those who put a better spin on the meeting noted that the primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence, and rejected criminal sanctions that exist in some countries against same-sex attracted people.
Walls noted that Mexican Anglicans may look at the issue of same-sex marriage at a meeting planned for June in Monterrey, Mexico.
“Personally, I don’t think the Mexican Church is ready to legislate,” he said. “I think it’s better to keep discerning rather than to make a decision in favor.”
He also praised Mexico’s choice to promote friendship between Episcopalians and those who are critical of them.
“Mexico as a country and a people has a tradition of being friends with everybody. We stayed friendly with both the United States and Cuba for 40 years while they uttered angery words at each other. If we had picked sides, we might not be in such a good position now.”