The leaders of the Church of England have voted to condemn same-sex marriage and penalised the Anglican Church in the US for officially recognising it.
After all 37 Primates from around the world met in Canterbury, they issued a statement saying that, according to traditional doctrine, marriage should be between “a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union”.
The decision prompted outrage from liberal clergy with one prominent supporter of gay marriage saying he was “thoroughly ashamed to be Anglican” because of the decision.
The issue has divided the Church, with conservatives and many Anglicans in African countries opposed to same-sex weddings, while liberals and the Episcopal Church in the US support them.
The Primates’ meeting – called by the Archbishop of Canterbury in an attempt to sort out the conflict – appears to have come down firmly on the side of the conservatives.
A document spelling out what had been agreed – leaked ahead of a planned announcement on Friday – said there were “ongoing, deep differences… concerning our understanding of marriage”.
“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 document said. “The traditional doctrine of the Church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”
It added that the US Episcopal Church’s decision to recognise gay marriage was “a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion”.
“Such actions further impair our communion and create a deeper mistrust between us,” the document said.
It added that “given the seriousness of these matters” they had decided to ban the Episcopal Church from taking part in “decision-making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”, among other sanctions.
The decision was lambasted by the Rev Giles Fraser, a leading liberal parish priest in London and a canon of a cathedral in Ghana, who said the Anglican Church in the UK should back their American colleagues.
He tweeted about the Primates’ decision: “Today is one of those days that makes me thoroughly ashamed to be an Anglican.”
Dr Fraser told The Independent that he had heard the news after attending a gay marriage on Thursday afternoon. “It was a joyous occasion and the fear-mongering that comes from certain parts of the Communion cannot destroy and should not be able to destroy the love that two people have for each other and the way people feel the need to express that love in marriage,” he said.
However he dismissed the significance of the statement, saying: “These sort of grand, transnational agreements are actually a bit of a vanity project really. If I’m a parish priest … it makes absolutely zero difference.”