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The Anglican Communion and homosexuality

Recent developments: 1999 to 2002

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Recent developments

bullet 1999-SEP: U.S. Conference: The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) concluded in Dundee, Scotland on 1999-SEP-24. An announcement was made at the Council that a group of Anglican bishops will meet in New York later in 1999 for a "consultation" on homosexuality. They expect to have bishops at the meeting who represents "all shades of opinion" on the matter.
 
bullet 1999-OCT-8: Gay rights in parts of Africa: The Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Frank T Griswold, issued a statement in his capacity as the Presiding Bishop on Human Rights for Homosexual Persons. He "read with alarm and deep concern accounts of statements by the presidents of Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe which have become a provocation for the harassment and persecution of homosexual persons...Within the Anglican Communion we are seeking to discern a common mind on the issue of homosexuality in the life of the church. However, regardless of one's views on the matter, there should be no debate among us about human rights for all people - which are enshrined in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights." [Author's note: Actually, the UDHR does not mentioned sexual orientation as a protected class.]

bullet 2000-FEB-20: Bishops' meeting in Portugal: A week-long meeting of bishops from around the world was announced, to be held in Portugal, starting on 2000-MAR-22. According to a ReligionToday news summary, the leader of the Anglican church worldwide, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, said that he holds traditional view of human sexuality and the family. He believes that "a vast majority" of bishops worldwide do so as well. However, he wants to consider the ideas of "faithful Christians, some of whom are homosexual themselves," who are challenging the Church's teaching on human sexuality because "they have felt excluded from the Church for many years."

bullet 2000-FEB-20: Irregular consecration of two bishops: The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, issued a letter to the primates of the Anglican communion which described "the recent consecration in Singapore of two priests of the Episcopal Church of the United States as bishops by the Archbishop of South East Asia and the Archbishop of Rwanda." The intent of the consecration was to create two bishop-missionaries to the United States. Movement towards equal treatment of persons of all sexual orientations within the Episcopal Church has alarmed religious conservatives. The Archbishop stated that: "neither the constitution of the Province of South East Asia nor that of the Episcopal Church of Rwanda, to whose primates John Rodgers and Charles Murphy have sworn an oath of canonical obedience, have been followed. In addition, Anglican polity requires that ordained ministers should be properly authorised to pursue their ministry in the Province within which they wish to work, and according to the Canon law of that Province. It appears that this is not the intention in this case, and it is doubtful in the present circumstances whether such authorisation would be forthcoming." Archbishop Carey is withholding recognition of Rodgers and Murphy as bishops. 1 According to ReligionToday, "Anglican Primate of Canada Michael Peers said the action is 'an open and premeditated assault on Anglican tradition, catholic order, and Christian charity.' Bishops are to be chosen and approved by local churches within a province, then ordained by bishops with authority in that province, he said. 'Bishops are not intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactured on one continent and fired into another as an act of aggression.' " 2

bullet 2000-MAR-20: Reform groups in the USA:The American Anglican Council, a conservative reform group from Dallas TX issued a statement stating that they believe that the worldwide Anglican Communion faces "a grave moment" in which "nothing less than the integrity of the Gospel and the future of the church is at stake." Their concern centers around ordination of sexually active homosexuals, and the blessing of homosexual unions in the U.S. However, they feel that these are symptomatic of a much deeper problem. A second conservative group, Georgia-based Concerned Clergy and Laity of the Episcopal Church, states: "Today, there are two religions in the Episcopal Church. One remains faithful to the biblical truth and received teachings of the Church, while the other rejects them." The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. (ECUSA), Frank Griswold, disagrees. He feels that the church is not in crisis; a recent survey shows that most members are satisfied. He criticizes conservative elements within the denomination of pushing an anti-homosexual agenda. 

Anglican archbishops gather in Oporto, Portugal for a six day conference starting MAR-23. 3
bullet 2000-MAR-22: Follow-up: Irregular consecration of two bishops: Bishop John Rodgers now heads an Association of Anglican Congregations on Mission in Chicago IL. He now oversees about six churches. Bishop Charles Murphy heads First Promise and oversees a few American churches that he has aligned with the Province of Rwanda. 3

bullet 2000-MAR-28: Follow-up: Bishops' meeting in Portugal: According to ReligionToday, Irish Archbishop Robin Eames is the meeting's official spokesman. He has commented that "dignified anger" and "disgust" have been expressed by conservatives about the liberal attitudes towards gays and lesbians being advanced in parts of the Anglican community -- most noticeably in the U.S. 2 In the Final Communiqué, the bishops included a some material relating to homosexuality:

bullet The communiqué states: "For some, new life in Jesus Christ, the movement from darkness to light, necessarily involves the recognition that homosexuality is part of the brokenness of human life which needs to be healed by the power of the Gospel. Consequently, integrity and effectiveness in evangelism will require a clear stand on issues such as homosexuality. So, the differing views expressed or implied in the practice of other Provinces are experienced as actively hurtful to and undermining of mission." This appears to say that some within the Anglican communion regard a homosexual orientation as a disorder or disease -- something that can be changed or "healed." They apparently believe that the church must be undivided in its beliefs and practices towards gays and lesbians.

bullet The communiqué continues: "For others, even if they share a traditional interpretation of Biblical ethics, this should not be identified as the question on which the Church's integrity depends. In their situations mission would be held back in a context where the Church is seen to be too concerned with sexual matters at the expense of other crucial issues." This appears to say that others in the communion feel that there is an excessive concentration on sexual matters within the communion. 

bullet The bishops seem to have made no reference to a third group: those who feel that a homosexual orientation is not chosen, is unchangeable and is a normal, natural minority sexual orientation. From those beliefs, this third group frequently concludes that persons of all sexual orientations should receive full human rights, be given access to membership and ordination within the church, and have their marriages and unions recognized.

bullet Near the end of the communiqué, the text refers to developments within the Episcopal church in the U.S.:
"We believe that the disagreement over sexual ethics and differences in the reception of Lambeth Resolution I.10 that clearly exists within and among the Provinces does not necessarily amount to a complete and definitive rupture of communion. However, it has caused very great concern in many parts of the Communion that the Lambeth Resolution I.10 which was overwhelmingly adopted by bishops at Lambeth '98 has been rejected in some dioceses of our Church. Such clear and public repudiation of those sections of the Resolution related to the public blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of declared non-celibate homosexuals, and the declared intention of some dioceses to proceed with such actions, have come to threaten the unity of the communion in a profound way. We strongly urge such dioceses to weigh the effects of their actions, and to listen to the expressions of pain, anger and perplexity from other parts of the Communion. We urge all bishops to recognise that further public actions of the kind mentioned above strain the reality of mutual accountability in a global Communion, where what may seem obvious and appropriate in one context may be harmful and unacceptable in another. Nevertheless, Resolution I.10 and the Section Report which accompanied it also calls on us all to listen to the experience of homosexuals in the Church. We endorse the Archbishop of Canterbury's concern in his letter to the bishops of the Communion (Feb 17th 2000) to encourage dialogue between those who hold that the Church's historic teaching on this matter is so clearly evident in scripture as to be fixed and final and those who  are not convinced that the Bible speaks at all clearly to the questions currently before us. Such listening does not prejudge the outcome for the Church. But a careful, patient and pastoral process must be encouraged; it is not created by the demonising of opponents or by overheated, politicised and polarised language in our conflicts."

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bullet 2002-JUL-24: New head of the Anglican Communion appointed: Rowan Williams, currently the Archbishop of Wales, is the new Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of 70 million Anglicans worldwide. He will replace George Cary who had a tumultuous task overseeing the Anglican Communion during a time when the once all-male priesthood was changed. Under Cary's leadership, females were ordained as priests and later consecrated as bishops.

Because the UK lacks separation of church and state, Prime Minister Tony Blair chose Williams from a list of two submitted by a special commission after months of secret debate. Queen Elizabeth later approved the appointment formally. A spokesperson for Tony Blair praised Williams' "wisdom, intellectual stature and deep spirituality [qualities which would be] invaluable as he seeks to lead the Anglican church in ever more complex and challenging times". The spokesperson added: "The government may not always agree with everything that is said (by senior members of the church) but people are perfectly at liberty to express their views." Williams has backed a gradual separation of church and state in England. The Reverend Richard Kirker, general secretary of the lesbian and gay Christian movement, welcomed Williams' past support for homosexual rights. Kirker said: "Dr Williams' commitment to justice and dignity for all people including lesbians and gay men gives us great heart. Under his leadership homophobia will be challenged and intolerance rooted out." Some conservative elements from within the Anglican Community are displeased with the selection of Williams. 4 

bullet 2002-JUL: Archbishop rejects blessing of gay unions: During an address at Oxford University, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. George Carey, departed from his prepared speech. He discussed a prior decision by the New Westminster diocese in British Columbia, Canada. In 2001-JUN, the diocese's governing body -- the synod -- voted 63% in favor of blessing gay and lesbian unions. To our knowledge, this is the first diocese in the entire Anglican Communion to take this step. Carey said that the diocese's decision was schismatic because it divides the Anglican Communion and "makes us a very embarrassing partner in ecumenical circles." 7 It may be worth noting that if one synod is not allowed to be the first to make a change, then change becomes impossible for any synod, for any province or for the Anglican Communion itself.

bullet 2002-SEP: Comments by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, George Cary: He is the spiritual leader of 70 million Anglicans worldwide. He had the tumultuous task of overseeing the Anglican Communion during a time when the long-lasting tradition of an all-male priesthood was changed. Under Cary's leadership, females were ordained as priests. Later, they became eligible to be consecrated as bishops. This change came close to inducing a schism in the Communion.

In mid-September, Dr. Cary warned that the Anglican Communion was on the brink of a fundamental split over the issue of homosexuality. He noted the trend "towards serious fragmentation and the real possibility of two - or, more likely, many more - distinct Anglican bodies emerging....This erosion of communion through the adoption of 'local options' has been going for some 30 years but in my opinion is reaching crisis proportions today."

Dr Carey has condemned both:
bullet The "schism" created by traditionalists and evangelicals in reaction to the actions of a number of liberal bishops -- particularly over homosexuality.
bullet Liberal forces within the Community for refusing to desist in such actions as blessing the unions of gay and lesbian couples. 5

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The story continues....

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. George Carey, "Letter to the primates of the Anglican communion," ACNS 2037, issued 2000-FEB-20
  2. "Episcopalians face liberal-conservative split," at: http://www.religiontoday.com/
  3. "Anglicans confronted with fractured American church," Maranatha Christian Journal, 2000-MAR-22, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/
  4. "Controversial liberal named as next leader of Anglican church," Yahoo News at: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/
  5. Leslie Schrivener, "Bishops urged to overrule B.C. diocese on gay unions," The Toronto Star, 2002-OCT-22, Page A23.
  6. Jonathan Petre, "Carey warns of Church split on gays," 2002-SEP-17, at: http://www.dailytelegraph.co.uk/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-FEB-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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