sadLiberal political campaigning earns Episcopalian Church a three-year suspension from the Anglican Communion

“Anglican leaders on Thursday temporarily restricted the role of the U.S. Episcopal Church in their global fellowship as a sanction over the American church’s acceptance of gay marriage,” The Associated Press reports.

“Episcopalians have been barred for three years from any policy-setting positions in the Anglican Communion while a task force is formed that will try to reconcile conflicting views over sexuality in the 85-million-member family of churches. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States,” the AP continues.

The Anglican Communion is the world’s largest Protestant Church and the third largest Christian church after the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The suspension comes after the Episcopalian Church’s decision to ordain an openly gay and practicing bishop back in 2003. The decision led to many local churches splitting from the main U.S. body and joining more conservative Anglican churches based in Africa and other international provinces.

After members voted to leave the Episcopalian Church, the remaining dissident members reorganized and filed a lawsuit to seize back the church’s 300-year-old historic sanctuary in D.C. suburb, Falls Church.

The Episcopalian Church prevailed in court and gained back the property, despite the fact its construction and the church’s charter pre-date the post-Revolutionary War founding of the Episcopalian Church.

But the split between liberal Episcopalian and conservative Anglican churches extends beyond the gay rights issues.

Even as members are becoming more pro-life, the Episcopalian Church is increasingly pro-abortion creating conflict with the sharply pro-life U.S. Anglicans.

In January 2006, the Episcopal Church of the United States joined the so-called “Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom”, a pro-abortion political group.

The union reversed nearly 40 years of pro-life activism by the Church.

Although The Anglican Church in North America – mostly comprised of sub-churches that left the Episcopalian Church – is not a formal member of the Anglican Communion, this week’s decision may change that.

“In 2009, Anglican national leaders in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and other church provinces helped create the Anglican Church in North America, as a theologically conservative alternative to the U.S. Episcopal Church. Welby had invited the leader of the conservative North American body to participate in the Canterbury assembly,” the AP reports.

However, this is also problematic, since the Anglican Communion as a whole is far more liberal on economic issues and welfare than many of the U.S. congregations.