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Religion and homosexuality


The worldwide Anglican
Communion & homosexuality

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"The international Anglican Church has been in dispute for more then 50 years, over an inability to resolve issues of human sexuality. In the 1950s, the dispute was inclusion of divorced persons. In the 1970s, the issue focused on female priests and bishops and this is still controversial in some places. The controversy of the 1990s was full inclusion of baptized lesbians and gays. In the 2000s, the dispute has focused on blessing gay relationships and including partnered gay clergy and bishops.  In these disputes, we are familiar with the vitriol from those who claim they speak for God in rejecting gay people."

Part of a homily delivered by Rev. Canon Dr. Martin Brokenleg at Christchurch Cathedral, Victoria, B.C. Canada on 2011-FEB-03, following the assassination of David Kato in Uganda for being gay.  [One might add that the Anglican Communion has not even begun to seriously discuss their churches' solemnizing of same-sex marriages.]

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The Anglican Communion is a world-wide faith. It is often considered to be a separate branch of Christianity, along with Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. Some consider it to be a part of Protestantism, even though its split from the Roman Catholic Church was not related to the Protestant Reformation .

This section discusses disagreements within the Anglican Communion concerning equal rights for homosexuals, and bisexuals in loving, committed relationships -- including the right to be considered for ordination as a priest, for consecration as a bishop, and to have their relationships formally recognized by church ritual -- either a union ceremony, or (where permitted by local law) marriage.

The fundamental cause of the conflict is a difference in belief among different provinces concerning the relative importance of three factors in what is called the "three-legged stool" of Anglicanism:

bulletThe Bible,
bulletChurch tradition,
bulletPersonal experience, including scientific and other sources of knowledge.

On sexual matters, conservatives within the Anglican Communion tend to stress the first two factors; liberals tend to stress the last one.

To complicate matters, liberals and conservatives interpret the Bible very differently. They generally agree on what the Bible says, but cannot agree on what the Bible means. In fact, to many conservatives, the core problem is not whether homosexuals should be treated equally in the Church, but how to interpret the Bible's authority.

Sadly, much of the attention and anger is over beliefs and policies concerning homosexuals. The root problem of biblical interpretaton and authority is less commonly discussed. Yet it is through discussion of these matters that resolution will finally occur.

As stated by an editorial in the Times Online:

"At the heart of Anglicanism lies a terrible dilemma. ... the Anglican Communion is not a single Church demanding adherence to a disciplined codex of canon law. It is a fellowship of 38 provinces, each with its own prayer book, traditions and legal structure, bound together only by bonds of trust and fellowship. When any one of those provinces takes a step considered by others to be morally or theologically unacceptable, there is no legal or institutional method for dealing with the breach. Tolerance and compromise -- loving or begrudging -- are the only way that the communion can be preserved. The alternative is schism."

"The communion now stands on the brink of schism. The pretext, which has racked the Church for more than a decade, is the split over ordaining gay priests. But the issue now goes far deeper. It has become a test of whether the Episcopal Church [,USA], the small but influential American branch of Anglicanism, has broken the bonds of fellowship with other churches, especially the conservative African and Asian provinces in the “Global South”, in ordaining [sic] a homosexual bishop" who is in a committed same-sex relationship. 1

Not mentioned in the editorial is the friction between both the North American provinces -- the Episcopal Church, USA and the Anglican Church of Canada -- and the rest of the Anglican Communication in holding rituals that recognize the unions of loving, committed same-sex couples.

Complicating the situation is the absolute certainty with which most conservatives and liberals hold their beliefs. Everyone is totally convinced that they have assessed the will of God with precision and are following it.

Still another complication was the Episcopal Church, USA's election of Bishop Jefferts Schori as the first female primate in the Communion's history. This happened at a time when only a handful of provinces allow women to become bishops and only a slim majority allow women to be ordained as priests.

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Topics discussed in this section:

bulletIntroduction to "the issue"
bulletComparing the conflict over homosexuality with past crises in the Communion (human slavery, role of women, female ordination...)

bullet1998 Lambeth Conference:
bulletPre-conference statements on homosexuality

bulletThe 1998 Lambeth Conference


Developments following the 1998 conference

bulletThe Anglican Communion splits over homosexuality; two possible resolutions.
bulletThe Anglican Consultative Council 2005 meeting, and subsequent developments
bulletCrafting a schism in the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church, USA
bulletThe 2008 Lambeth Conference:
bulletPreparations: 2006 to mid-2007
bulletPreparations: mid-2007-July to mid-2008
bulletGAFCON: a rival conference of conservative Anglicans
bullet Events leading up to the Lambeth conference
bulletAssessment of the conference

bullet Developments since the 2008 Conference
bullet 2011-FEB: Homily in memory of the assassination of David Koto of Uganda

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Related sections on homosexuality:

bulletThe Church of England,
bulletThe Episcopal Church, USA,
bulletThe Anglican Church of Canada,

and perhaps most importantly of all:

bulletSix viewpoints on homosexuality, and
bulletHomosexuality and the Bible

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Site navigation:

Home > Conflicts > Homosexuality Religious groups > Christian groups > here

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Reference used:

  1. Bitter Fudge: Anglicans have come close to an open split but baulk at schism," Times Online, 2007-FEB-19, at:

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Copyright © 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-FEB-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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