Some people suggest that leaders in the Church can maintain communion with other leaders as long as their differences do not touch upon Creedal matters. Others advise that false teaching such as today's revisions to human sexuality is every bit as important. Sexual issues were not addressed by the ancient creeds because they didn't need to be addressed, and to limit excommunication to just those who deny the creedal statements lets non-scriptural novelties such as same-sex marriage creep in, and that presents a danger to the Church just like the ancient heresies were a danger.
I think distinctions should be made between the excommunication of lowly pewsitters and the breaking of communion between Archbishops, bishops. dioceses, or denominations.
It is rare for an Episcopalian pewsitter to be excommunicated. I am aware of only two cases in recent history, Lewis Green for giving his priest the finger at the communion rail and Beverly Moore for pointing out a sexual predator in the church (see this post from 2009).
It would seem to me that promoting a false gospel would be a far greater sin than Mr. Green's or Ms. Moore's.
So why are the leaders of the church so hesitant to break communion over the issue of same-sex marriage?
Besides being wimps, I think they are over thinking things. So, I would like to help them by giving them some straight from the pew answers.
- What is fellowship? Christian fellowship occurs when we agree on the message of the Gospel, it ends when we disagree.
- Are there limits on fellowship? Yes, see next Q+A.
- How much can we associate with those who promote a false gospel? Only as much as we would with anyone else who needs to hear the Gospel. That means we can invite them to dinner or dine with them and work with them to correct their error. That does not mean that we should support their ministry.
- Can we share Holy Communion? Only after we have resolved the basic Gospel issue, and it cannot be argued away as a non-Gospel issue, because that argument has never, never, worked. Until then, any Eucharist that is shared is a "Fauxcharist".
- How were the churches that lost in the great Creedal controversies over false teaching treated? They probably persisted for some time, but for the most part, they have gone the way that the Episcopal organization, the Anglican church in Canada, the Church of England, and the Scottish Episcopal church are going. Does anyone really want to walk with them into obscurity?
- Isn't it a sin to be party to disunity in the Church? I defer my answer to ++Okoh,
There is a third possibility as to why many Church leaders won't break communion, and that is because they are privately in favor of same-sex marriage and other innovations being advanced in the Church.
- "A unity that includes those who persist in rebelling against God’s Word is a false unity." - The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria and Chairman, the GAFCON Primates Council
And that is a scary thought.