Two bishops at the heart of a deepening rift between the U.S. Episcopal Church and much of the worldwide Anglican Communion will not be invited to a global gathering next year of Anglican leaders, the secretary-general of the communion said Tuesday.
Neither Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire nor Bishop Martyn Minns of the breakaway Convocation of Anglicans in North America have been asked to attend the next Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade gathering hosted by the archbishop of Canterbury. The conference is scheduled for next summer in England.
The communion's secretary-general, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, spoke at a briefing for reporters in London, and his remarks were later distributed.
In the invitation sent Tuesday to more than 850 Anglican and Episcopal bishops, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the 77-million-member communion, said he had decided to forgo invitations to Robinson and Minns so that the meeting would focus on holding the increasingly fractious fellowship together.
Including bishops "whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the communion" would hurt efforts to create trust, Williams said.
But Robinson, whose 2003 consecration as the Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop caused an uproar with conservative church members in the U.S. and abroad, may be asked to attend the conference as a guest, Kearon said.
He said there was no question that Robinson had been properly elected as a bishop according to Episcopal Church rules. The 2.3-million-member church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion.
He said Williams was not considering a guest invitation for Minns, who was installed May 5 by Nigerian Archbishop Peter J. Akinola to lead conservative congregations that have broken away from the Episcopal Church.
In a statement to U.S. bishops, Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, urged a calm reaction to the announcement and noted that "aspects of this matter may change."
In February, Anglican leaders gave the U.S. church until Sept. 30 to state that it would stop consecrating gay bishops and take other actions or risk losing its full membership in the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal bishops are scheduled to meet in New Orleans about a week before the deadline.
Robinson said in a statement that he was disappointed by the news: "At a time when the Anglican Communion is calling for a 'listening process' on the issue of homosexuality, it makes no sense to exclude gay and lesbian people from that conversation."
Akinola said in a statement that it was premature to say whether he or others would attend the conference.
The Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, said in an interview that he was saddened by Williams' exclusion of Robinson and had not decided whether to attend.