An international conclave of Anglican clerics gathered together in Northern Ireland from the Anglican Church’s 38 provinces scattered all over the world, has sent their North American brothers and sisters to the woodshed for a couple of years while they clarify their thinking on the matter of the participation of outed homosexuals in the sacraments of the church.

It is a symbolic gesture, a compromise with the bishops of the Anglican Church in Asia, Africa and South America — some of who are so adamant that they refused to kneel at the communion rail alongside their equivalents from North America.

But it is very clear advice and a signal on the acceptability of sanctified same-sex marriages and/or the election of clergy and bishops admittedly homosexual. In the nicely, nicely wordage of ecclesiasticals, the Canadian Anglican Communion, and the Episcopal Church of the United States of America have been asked to “withdraw” from the worldwide Anglican Consultative Council for a period of three years.

Canadian Primate Archbishop Andrew Hutchinson, who attended the meeting in Northern Ireland, said he thought it could have been much worse, “part of a pain that needs to be endured.”

Anglican Essentials, a fundamentalist movement within the Canadian Anglican Church was quick off the mark with its interpretation of what the woodshedding meant. Their website release rejoiced: “The message is clear as it can get. In an unprecedented action the Anglican world was changed last Thursday….no more dramatic action could have been taken…. Clearly, there is before the Anglican Church of Canada the need to make a choice.”

For the Essentials movement and its adherents there clearly is only one choice: sacraments of the church are for heterosexuals practicing their sexuality within the bounds of heterosexual marriage.

But for the Primates, a much feared schism over the “homosexual issue” has been averted, at least for the time being. “The issue is not over,” commented Archbishop Hutchison. “It doesn’t lay to rest the issue of homosexuality.”

Entering the thorny thicket of language as practiced by these church leaders is enough to cause headaches and the early onset of psoriasis. The language is dense, circumlocutious and devoid of clear meaning. Which, I suppose is why it is written that way for any of the 70 million Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide who have an interest in the potential splitting of the church.

That is the eventuality the Primates are trying, at almost any cost, to head off.

It may well be, in the end, a vain hope. This is not an issue that bears compromise.

The Primatesâe(TM) statement, issued at the close of their conference noted: “…there remains a very real question about whether the North American churches are willing to accept the same teachings on matters of sexual morality as is generally accepted elsewhere in the communion…” meaning, of course, Asia, Africa and South America, cultures not without blemish when it comes to moral behaviour to minority groups in their midst.

In the same statement, a number of paragraphs later, the Primates seek to assure gays and lesbians that even though they were being denied sacraments of the church , “they were not being persecuted.”

Said the Primates: “…we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.”

Sue Moxley, the Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI, was disappointed at the Primates’ decision. One effect is that she and a female bishop from the U.S. are to be denied participation in the council’s decision making. “My whole thing is: as long as we can stay at the table, we can talk. If we’re not there, how can we go forward?”

Maybe that’s the point, Bishop Sue: there is no going forward. There is only a last ditch attempt before schism, to try and force the Canadian and American churches to oust the gay Bishop of New Hampshire, along with the Bishop of New Westminster who ordered his priests to sanctify same sex marriages.

This, even though the official communiqué from the conference says explicitly that: “…it is acknowledged that these developments within the Episcopal Church (U.S.) and the Anglican Church of Canada have proceeded entirely in accordance with their constitutional processes and requirements.”

The communiqué also has a message for homosexuals: “We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.”

The communiqué might have added: as long as homosexual people don’t want to marry or be offered other sacraments of the church such as becoming a priest or even a bishop. For a few paragraphs later, the Primates say in para 18: “…we ask our fellow primates use their best influence to persuade their brothers and sisters to exercise a moratorium on public Rites of Blessing for same-sex unions and on any bishop living in a sexual relationship outside Christian marriage.” That is, of course, man-woman marriage, here defined as the only acceptable “Christian marriage.”

Which takes us neatly to the point of all this when the ecclesiastical verbiage is stripped away.

There can be no doubt that gay men and women, in and out of permanent sexual relationships, have been confirmed in the Anglican Church and have attended the communion rail with regularity and as much piety as the heterosexuals in the congregation.

There can also be no doubt that gay men and women have been accepted as priests of the church, have been ordained and are serving the church right now.

And I would strongly suspect that the gay Bishop of New Hampshire is not the first gay bishop in the history of the worldwide Anglican Church (or any other church, for that matter) over the past 500 years.

They were accepted into the sacraments because they did not assert their sexual nature. They kept secret, as we used to say, “the love that dare not speak its name.”

Their banning from the sacraments of the Anglican Church, as they are banned from the Roman Catholic Church and most, if not all Christian fundamentalist churches, for the sake of their honesty about their sexual nature will continue. For these brothers and sisters, celibacy is the only avenue, for these churches would ban them from the only acceptable recourse and release in the practice of their sexuality — Christian marriage.

Some children of God are more equal than others when it comes to the sacraments — or so it would seem.

Six weeks before his death at the age of 84, the American politician, inventor, philosopher and writer Benjamin Franklin wrote that the most acceptable service anyone can render to God is doing good to his other children.

Within the teachings of Christianity, honesty is a virtue to be praised and rewarded; deceit and hypocrisy are sins.

I think old Ben had it right.