Should Episcopalians repent? American liberals in a global communion

The Episcopal Church was and is right to affirm same-sex marriage. Now we should be willing to face the costs.

I was once in the company of an Anglican bishop from Sudan when he was interrupted by an inebriated man who had sought him out for food or money. In responding to the man, the bishop revealed himself to be a masterful and sympathetic pastor—patient, gentle, and firm. Shortly thereafter, our discussion turned to the then-raging Anglican debates over homosexuality and same-sex marriage. “I just don’t understand this whole . . . homosexual thing,” the bishop told me.

I was stunned. This bishop had just shown great pastoral sensitivity, and yet he seemed to speak flippantly about same-sex relations. I gave him the standard arguments, saying that for my own friends who experience same-sex attraction, it isn’t a choice. I said that the members of the Episcopal Church had deeply engaged scripture and tradition in our discernment of this issue and that we viewed affirming same-sex unions as a matter of justice.

Our exchange represented a division that continues to plague the Anglican Communion. That division was made clear again last month when, in response to the Episcopal Church’s decision to allow its clergy to perform same-sex weddings, the Anglican primates—the leaders of the autonomous churches that make up the Communion—voted to reprimand the Episcopal Church and bar its members from certain committees, ecumenical and interfaith dialogues, and decision-making bodies. In my conversation with the Sudanese bishop, I was offended by his resistance to a Western conception of sexuality. He was bewildered by my position, in part because most indigenous African cultures have had different ways of conceptualizing same-sex attraction.