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NM’s Episcopal leader dismissive of Anglican action

SANTA FE, N.M. — A rebuke by Anglican leaders is unlikely to reverse Episcopalian support for same-sex marriage, which emerged from decades of heated debate within the U.S. church, New Mexico’s top Episcopal leader said Wednesday.

Bishop Michael Vono, head of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, also criticized conservative Anglican leaders who demanded disciplinary action against the Episcopal Church, the U.S. body of the Anglican Communion.

Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion announced last week that it would suspend Episcopal Church for three years, which bars the U.S. church from posts on policy-setting committees in the worldwide family of churches.

“It doesn’t mean much,” Vono said of the action by Anglican leaders at a meeting in Canterbury, England. “We don’t have much representation on those committees, and when was the last time you heard about policy changes in the Anglican Communion?”

The action was seen as a victory for conservative Anglicans, especially those in Africa, who for years have pressed the Anglican Communion to discipline the U.S. body.

Of particular issue was a 2012 decision that authorized Episcopal priests to sanctify same-sex marriages in states where they were legal.

Anglican bishops in nations such as Uganda and Nigeria “are actually supporting the governments that are criminalizing and executing people because they are gay,” Vono said.

The same bishops want to expel the U.S. church from the Anglican Communion for “extending the pastoral love to these people who happen to be gay people,” he said. “That’s a big issue.”

In New Mexico, Vono announced in January 2013 that priests in the diocese could bless same-sex marriages. Vono estimates that since then, fewer than 10 same-sex couples have sought blessings in the 29,000-member diocese.

Conflict within the Anglican Communion is likely to dissipate over the next decade as other Anglican churches around the world adopt the U.S. position in support of same-sex marriage, he said.

Vono also said he has received favorable response to a statement he issued last week in which he expressed no concern about the disciplinary action by Anglican leaders.

“I am more concerned about the elderly homeless man I met the other day in Santa Fe who was hungry, cold and friendless,” Vono said in the statement.