The Rev. Mike Kinman, prominent in Missouri’s Episcopal Church, likens a possible split over the consecration of an openly gay bishop to a big family fight at the Thanksgiving dinner table: ugly at the time but ultimately reconcilable because of the deep ties that bind.
“Something has happened that has broken our relationship, and we either need to sort it out, or maybe we decide never to show up for the family dinner again,” Kinman said Tuesday from Washington University in St. Louis, where he oversees campus ministries in eastern Missouri for the church. “The basis of our communion is that at the end of the day God has thrown us together and our meal is the Eucharist.”
Kinman was referring to the Anglican Communion, an assembly of 38 independent national Anglican churches that includes the U.S. Episcopal Church.
On Monday, Anglican Church leaders took the next step in a possible break with the U.S. Episcopal Church over the Rev. Gene Robinson’s consecration Sunday as bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese.
They declared a “state of impaired
communion” with the Episcopal Church — meaning that some conservative churches think they can no longer be associated with the communion.
“Impaired communion is communicating through someone else like asking Uncle Albert to tell Aunt Ethel to pass the potatoes,” said Kinman, chairman of the 2003 deputation in which the Missouri Diocese voted to approve confirming Robinson as bishop.
Anglican leaders in Asia, Africa and Latin America believe gay sex violates Scripture and have warned Episcopalians since the summer that consecrating Robinson would “fracture the Anglican Communion.” Robinson has lived with a partner for 14 years.
The Rev. Fred Thayer of Calvary Episcopal Church in Columbia, who voted in favor of Robinson’s consecration, said the Bible condemns homosexuality. But he said some scholars maintain that committed same-sex relationships were not known in biblical times and were not anticipated by the writers of Scripture.
“Personally I don’t think any of those passages anticipate the kind of relationship in which Gene Robinson and others are involved,” Thayer said Tuesday. “I think those passages are set in a different context and speak about a different form of sexual activity.”
Some conservative churches such as the Anglican churches of Egypt and Uganda consider those who participated in Robinson’s consecration separated from the church and plan to cut ties with the New Hampshire Diocese.
Archbishop Peter Akinola of the 17.5 million-member Anglican Church of Nigeria said he will boycott all meetings at the global level attended by the Episcopal Church.
The international church will not announce a permanent schism until a commission formed by the communion’s spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, reports next year on whether a split can be averted.
“There are people on the extremes of both sides who are gunning for a split, and it’s a challenge for the rest of us to resist those voices,” Kinman said. “Whatever happens, we’ve got faithful people who are determined to be the church.”
He said the church needs to deal with the conflict lovingly or respectfully.
“We need to look at this as God’s creative love in our church — or are we going to make decisions where we are never going to eat with each other again?” he said. “I’m hoping this will open up really new ways for us to listen to each other.”
Kinman acknowledged the conflict is testing him.
“As much as I strongly believe that Robinson should be bishop of New Hampshire, I need to control my own self-righteousness,” he said. “Most of us have the arrogance of our own convictions, and I need to control those with humility.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.