Leaders of the Anglican Communion on Thursday suspended the organization's US affiliate, the Episcopal Church, for three years, citing the US church's support for same-sex marriage.
J. Lester Feder reported for BuzzFeed:
Leaders of Anglican denominations from around the world headed into their summit this week in Canterbury, England bracing for a schism in the Communion over the issue. A conservative bloc known as the Global Anglican Future — or GAFCON — was threatening to walk out of the meeting if the Episcopal Church was not censured, and the global head of the church, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, went as far as to tell tell the BBC that such a split "would not be a disaster."
The Episcopal Church, meanwhile, stood by its decision to sanction weddings between same-sex couples. Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry argued before the communion's vote, in statements provided to the Episcopal News Service:
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 While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.
The Anglican Communion's decision shows the divisions not just between different religious groups over same-sex marriage, but also within religious groups. For global religious groups, cultural rifts could grow worse as members from the US and other Western nations increasingly support same-sex marriage, while other countries lag behind.
Still, for the US-based Episcopal Church, the decision to sanction same-sex marriages may have been the right call — if its members' views and the historical trend among religious groups are any indication.
Most Episcopalians in the US support the church's decision to sanction same-sex marriage
The Episcopal Church's decision to sanction same-sex marriages appears to be widely popular among its members: In a 2014 Public Religion Research Institute survey, 68 percent of white Episcopalian respondents said they strongly favor or favor allowing same-sex couples to marry.
But the Episcopal Church remains one of the few religious organizations to formally support same-sex marriage, as this chart from the Pew Research Center shows:
Still, the trend of late has been toward supporting same-sex marriage. Just in the past couple of years, the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (USA) moved from backing only same-sex unions — but not marriages — to supporting same-sex marriages. According to Pew, several other groups embraced same-sex marriage in the past couple of decades: the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the United Church of Christ.
That doesn't mean all religious organizations will eventually come around to same-sex marriages. But it does look like an increasingly popular position.