Bishop of Kansas responds to primates’ action

[Episcopal Diocese of Kansas] I am deeply saddened by the statement released today from the Primates meeting being held in Canterbury, England. The fact that certain parties “leaked” the document before it was to be formally released says much about the current state of affairs among the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

This statement is a familiar rebuke of The Episcopal Church for faithfully attempting to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our context through the full inclusion of gay, lesbian and transgendered persons in the Body of Christ. The Episcopal Church has chosen to offer all the Sacraments of the Church to all the baptized people of the Church, including the Sacrament of Marriage. Our part of the Anglican Communion made this decision prayerfully and after a long and painstaking season of conversation and debate. We made this decision finally believing Our Lord does not condone discrimination against God’s precious Creation.

The statement released by the Primates fails to recognize the glaring reality that every part of the Anglican Communion faces the same questions we have faced, and every Province of the Anglican Communion will have to decide to whom they are willing to deny the Sacraments.

The Primates state The Episcopal Church should “no longer represent the Anglican Communion on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating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.” At the very moment when closer relationship and deeper conversation would be most helpful, the Primates suggest we all go to our separate corners. We have been asked to absent ourselves from interfaith and ecumenical conversations before, but that was widely perceived as having been relationally destructive and an interruption of important, ongoing work.

As our Presiding Bishop, Michael B. Curry, told the Primates at Canterbury, “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.”

Statements from the Primates over the years have included courageous proclamations advocating for the world’s dispossessed, and challenging persistent racial injustice and income inequality. Such statements gave voice to the highest values we hold as Christians. Unfortunately, this is not one of those statements.


The Right Reverend Dean E. Wolfe
Vice President, House of Bishops, The Episcopal Church
Ninth Bishop, The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas


  1. Primates, Politics and Power Peter Davison
    The very word ‘communion’ is based not on legalisms, but on the simple recognition that, despite our differences, and they are many and deep, we are one. It is somewhat ironic that the primates of the Anglican Communion have threatened some churches of the communion with ‘sanctions’ because they disagree on how to apply the gospel, and have done so when the Revised Common Lectionary for the second and third Sundays after Epiphany feature Paul’s passionate statement about the church as the Body of Christ. Paul explicitly condemns the exclusion of some members. “On the contrary,” he says, “the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this.”
    The reality of communion is that we are one, whether we like it or not. Communion can indeed be inconvenient; but the gospel clearly states that, for better or for worse, we are all neighbours, and we cannot select those we will live with, or not.
    The Epiphany season is all about the manifestation of Jesus as the Christ, not least in his miracles. And what is a miracle but the revelation that things are seldom what they seem to be? Water is turned into wine, people who have been written off as ‘hopeless causes’ and social outcasts are restored to health and communion, and even the laws of nature are brought into harmony with the divine will that all things should work together for the good of all.
    The GAFCON primates and their collaborators are not being orthodox when they argue a single biblical norm of marriage. ‘Holy Scripture’ reveals that marriage has taken many forms within different cultures and circumstances. It seems clear, however, that competition between Christianity and Islam in the Global South is a factor in the positions taken by primates and others in that area. Bishops in much of that region often function in cultures where autocracy is the norm, and some of them brook no dissent from the authority they claim. But, as Lord Acton famously noted, “All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
    The Anglican Communion is a family of autonomous churches which has flourished because it has recognized the right and obligation of member provinces to apply the gospel as best they can to the situations in which they find themselves. That family becomes dysfunctional when certain members tell others, “Do what we say or get out!” The healing of our wounds begins when we take Paul’s theology of the Body seriously. We would all do well to read 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 deeply for starters. And we should never allow ourselves to be deluded into thinking that communion is of our own making or breaking. It is what it is simply by the grace of God. Jesus opened our eyes to this reality, and we can choose only to follow him, or to betray him. That choice, and that choice alone, is ours to make.

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