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THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION AND HOMOSEXUALITY

Various statements issued prior
to the 1998 Lambeth Conference

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Two statements were issued by conservative Anglican bishops in 1997, in pre-Lambeth meetings.

John Shelby Spong, bishop of Newark NJ, responded in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Kuala Lampur Statement (1997-FEB):

This statement on human sexuality was adopted unanimously by the 80 delegates to the "Second Anglican Encounter in the South" in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. Bishops from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania attended. Some excerpts are:

bullet"Jesus' teaching about lust in the Sermon on the Mount...makes it clear that sexual sin is a real danger and temptation to us all.....We are convinced that this includes homosexual practices."
bulletGod's clear will is that human sexuality "is to be expressed only within the life-long union of a man and a woman in (holy) matrimony."
bullet"This conference, in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in life-long union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called for marriage. . . . (and) cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions or ordaining of those involved in same sex unions."
bullet"We are deeply concerned that the setting aside of biblical teaching in such actions as the ordination of practising homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions call into question the authority of the Holy Scriptures. This is totally unacceptable to us."
bullet"As provinces and dioceses we need to learn how to seek each other's counsel and wisdom in a spirit of true unity, and to reach a common mind, before embarking on radical changes to Church discipline and moral teaching."

The statement emphasizes two matters:

bulletThe range of ethical sexual behavior is to be defined in accordance with the traditional interpretation of the Bible.
bulletIn an apparent reference to the six "clobber passages" they assert that the Bible is clear and unambiguous in its condemnation of homosexuality.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, and 88% of the bishops who voted approved of the document. Archbishop Carey said, "I see no room in Holy Scripture or the entire Christian tradition for any sexual activity outside matrimony."

Bishop John Spong of New Jersey, USA, attended the conference. He was unable to get sufficient support to have a report issued which expressed minority views on homosexuality.

This is a non-binding resolution. However, the high percentage of bishops from the southern hemisphere who voted in favor of the statement and the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury provides the statement with a great deal of moral authority.  1,2,3

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Dallas Statement (1997-SEP):

In preparation for the 1998 Lambeth Conference, 49 religiously conservative bishops and archbishops from 16 countries met in Dallas, TX. They attended a five day meeting, starting 1997-SEP-20. They issued "The Dallas Statement" which dealt in detail with two issues of concern to the Communion: international debt and human sexuality. Some of the points raised by the statement on sexuality are:

bulletThe statement on human sexuality issued at the conference at Kuala Lumpur earlier in 1997 was affirmed.
bulletThe Bible is "the rule and ultimate standard of faith." It is clearly written and adequate for the guidance of Christians.
bulletIt is not from isolated texts but from the consistent teaching of the whole of Scripture that: "...lifelong heterosexual monogamy...[is] the God-given norm for sexual relationships."
bullet"Scripture offers no positive examples of non-marital sex; and it contains specific condemnations of fornication and homosexual practice as sin."
bullet"Biblical teaching thus protects the sanctity of sex within the marital commitment and liberates humanity from unrestrained sexual obsession and abuse."
bullet"Full humanity has consisted of two genders from the very beginning male and female. The created order comprises sexual differentiation as God-given and good."
bullet"...only both genders together can mould the world in a humane way."
bulletThe Bible provides no justification for the church to ordain non-celibate homosexuals or bless same sex relationships.
bulletThe "...persecution and ostracism of homosexual persons as well as sexual hypocrisy are evils and have no place in the church."
bullet"Forgotten by the church were often those homosexually orientated men and women who want to change. More and more Christian resource groups have developed and many individuals have found with the help of God a way out of a destructive lifestyle."
bullet"It is not acceptable for a pro-gay agenda to be smuggled into the church's programme or foisted upon our people and we will not permit it." 2

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A statement by Bishop John S. Spong of Newark NY (1997-NOV):

Bishop Spong is perhaps the most prolific liberal author within the Anglican Communion. He has written a series of books which recommend abandonment of many historical beliefs in the church. One is "Living in sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality." 5 In it, he develops a more inclusive and flexible approach to human sexuality.

Bishop Spong and the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. George L. Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, exchanged letters which dealt with homosexuality and the Kuala Lampur statement, the Dallas statement, and the upcoming 1998 Lambeth Conference.

The following is an excerpt from a letter that Bishop Spong sent to Archbishop Carey concerning homosexuality:

The church has "...had deep divisions before over important issues like slavery, segregation, apartheid and the full humanity of women and their right to pursue equality in both church and society. The Church can live with divisions. The issue is not that these divisions exist, but who is right. Church unity is important to me, but it is not an ultimate value. Truth and justice are. A Church unified in racism, chauvinism or homophobia cannot be the Body of Christ. Our task as God's Church is to discern truth and to proclaim justice, and if that disturbs the unity of the Church, then so be it."

"In our effort to discover truth, however, we cannot close our minds or ignore new insights that challenge even the literal truth we quote from holy Scripture. I am aware, as I am certain you are, that church people have used biblical quotations, as well as what you have called 'theologies and reasons' for centuries to justify attitudes that today are universally rejected. Why do we not recognize that quoting an ancient text to try to solve a complex moral or scientific issue is as irrelevant today as it was when the book of Joshua was quoted to condemn the discoveries of Galileo? I am amazed that this is not clear. It certainly is to so many in the secular world who have rejected the Church as no longer viable for their lives."

"How many more moral debates will we have to undergo in the Christian Church before people recognize that the literal Bible was wrong on the seven day creation story, wrong on epilepsy being demon possession, wrong on sickness resulting from sin, wrong on the sun rotating around the earth, wrong on slavery, wrong on defining women as inferior people, and is now wrong on the origins, causes and meaning of homosexuality? How many irrelevant rear guard battles must we Christians lose before we give up this tactic? How much longer will we pretend that this is about divisions in the Church?"
6

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References:

  1. The text of the Kuala Lampur Statement is at: http://www.firstpromise.org/
  2. David Kyle Foster "The Summer of Our Discontent: The Church Fights Back in the Culture War on Homosexuality" Mastering Life Ministries, 1998 at: http://www.gospelcom.net/
  3. Rev. John Richardson, "A tale of two statements - Kuala Lumpur and Bishop Baker," 1997-DEC-1, at: http://www.btinternet.com/
  4. "The Dallas Statement" is at: http://newark.rutgers.edu/ and http://www.episcopalian.org/
  5. J.S. Spong, "Living in sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality," HarperCollins (1993).
  6. Letter: Bishop Spong to Archbishop Cary, 1997-NOV-26, concerning homosexuality, at: http://www.btinternet.com/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2004-OCT-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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