Anglicans avert schism over homosexuality, exclude US church for three years, gay community furious

(Photo: REUTERS / Neil Hall)The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks with female priests after their march celebrating the 20th anniversary of women becoming ordained priests in the Church of England in London May 3, 2014.

The worldwide Anglican Communion has averted a break-up - but voted to partially exclude its American branch, the Episcopal Church, due to its stance on homosexuality, but the lesbian and gay community reacted with fury to the move.

Archbishops and bishops from around the world, met this week behind closed doors in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral in England.

"Recent developments in The Episcopal Church with respect to a change in their Canon on marriage represent a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage," the bishops said in their Jan. 14 statement.

"Possible developments in other Provinces could further exacerbate this situation," the primates warned.

They voted to condemn same-sex marriage as a "fundamental departure" from traditional Anglican teaching.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Anglicans told BuzzFeed News that the vote emphasises the "second-class citizen" status of gay people in Anglican churches, puts LGBT people in danger of further persecution, and will lead to dwindling church attendances.

Later on Jan. 15, Welby apologised for the "hurt and pain" the Anglican church has inflicted on lesbian, gay and transgender people as he attempted to defend Anlgican Communion's decision to sanction the U.S. church.

In his closing press conference, Welby said: "It's a constant source of deep sadness that people are persecuted for their sexuality. I want to take this opportunity personally to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, that the church has caused and the love that we at times completely failed to show, and still do, in many parts of the world including in this country."

The primates, or head bishops from almost 40 countries also decided to bar the U.S. branch of Anglicanism, The Episcopal Church, which has officially recognized same-sex marriage – from key bodies for the next three years.

But, fundamentally, it remains part of the Global Anglican Communion, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"It is our unanimous desire to walk together," the primates said.

"However given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity."

There is also no formal sanction against the Canadian church which takes a similar stance on homosexuality to the U.S. church but has not yet officially endorsed same-sex marriage services.

The agreement followed four days of talks and skirting the prospect of full schism in the global Anglican Communion, which claims some 85 million members around the world.

It also represents a personal boost for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev Justin Welby, who has made "reconciliation" a key plank of his tenure in the role said the Telegraph.

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