-Rev. Jide Macaulay
It has been almost a week since the Anglican Communion announced its plan to sanction the Episcopal Church. Doubtless it is somewhat humiliating for the body that was once amongst the largest and most important in the communion to be sidelined. More importantly, Americans Episcopalians need to look at how they can continue to minister, how their sanctioning will immediately impact the communion, and what they should do to make the most of the future.
In the United States, the Episcopal Church has been a pioneering voice in favor of full LGBT inclusion within the church. Episcopalians should embrace this legacy and brand so they can leverage it to reverse decades of radical membership losses. By being the most progressive major denomination on this issue, the Episcopal Church can market itself as a body truly dedicated to being a part of the “Jesus movement.” More importantly, Episcopalians should use this sanction to more directly spread their liberal theology into countries presently in the grasp of homophobic primates. The Anglican primates, with this sanction and through recognizing the more conservative American Anglican dissidents, have set battle lines. Episcopalian leadership should feel free to openly criticize hateful and divisive rhetoric from African primates.
In the near term, this sanction may encourage Canadian, and the even more conservative Australian Anglicans, to continue to refuse same-sex couples the right to marry in the church. Episcopalians should try to build bridges with like-minded clergy within the communion. The sanctions are a demoralizing setback for LGBT Anglicans abroad. The Episcopal Church must project resolve and strength along with offering these people hope and encouragement.
The sanctions imposed on the Episcopal Church will only be in force for a few years. This is important since it retains the communion and seems not to actually require any change in behavior or doctrine from the Episcopal Church. Read in this light, the Episcopalians won. They are being punished for a few years, but they ultimately have gotten away with a radical change that has not broken up the Anglican Communion. Through patience and strategy, the Episcopal Church should regain full membership and the ability to fundamentally alter Anglican teaching on LGBT persons within the next decade.