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THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION AND HOMOSEXUALITY

The Windsor Report by the Lambeth Commission on Communion:

A brief summary

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Overview:

The worldwide Anglican Communion is severely split along North-South lines.

bullet Anglicans in North America and Europe tend to be more liberal; many approach the homosexual issue as a matter of elementary human rights.
bullet The rest of the world, particularly Africa and Asia, tend to be more conservative; they generally approach the homosexual issue as an abomination, hated by God.

This is, of course, an over-simplification. There are members and clergy in every Province of the worldwide Anglican Communion who hold diverse beliefs about the issue. Unfortunately, many hold these beliefs with an absolute certainty. Dialogue is quite rare. Few seem willing or able to modify their position.

The Lambeth Commission on Communion was created by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury -- the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- in 2003-OCT. Its basic goal is to find ways by which Anglicans can agree to disagree by preventing schism of the Communion over the question of homosexuality.

On 2004-OCT-18 the Commission's 92 page report was released to the public. 1

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Preamble:

In his foreword, the Most Reverend Dr. Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Chairperson of the Lambeth Commission noted that "Since the 1970s controversies over issues of human sexuality have become increasingly divisive and destructive throughout Christendom." Since:

bullet The Episcopal Church, USA confirmed the election of bishop Gene Robinson to the Diocese of New Hampshire and 
bullet The New Westminster diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada authorized a Rite of Blessing for couples involved in a same-sex union,

there have been discussions of "crisis, schism and realignment" within the Anglican Communion.

Dr. Eames noted that the current crisis over homosexuality is far more divisive than earlier conflicts, like the ordination of women. He wrote in very diplomatic language: "The depth of conviction and feeling on all sides of the current issues has on occasions introduced a degree of harshness and a lack of charity which is new to Anglicanism. A process of dissent is not new to the Communion but it has never before been expressed with such force nor in ways which have been so accessible to international scrutiny. Not all the opinions voiced have been expressed in ways which are conducive to dialogue or the encouragement of communion."

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A very brief summary of the report's findings:

bullet The archbishop of Canterbury should be regarded as "the central focus of both unity and mission" of the Anglican Communion.
bullet A "council of advice" composed of "suitable persons, who would possess a knowledge of the life of the communion" would be helpful to advise and support the Archbishop during major conflicts.
bullet The commission recommended that each Province should adopt a covenant which would describe its common identity with the rest of the Communion and include mechanisms for handling disputes within the Communion.
bullet Synods and Provinces should review the broader consequences whenever it consecrates a new bishop.
bullet The Episcopal Church, USA, is "invited to express its regret" for the pain that the election of Bishop Robinson caused within the Communion.
bullet No future consecrations of bishops who are living in a committed same-sex union should be made until a "new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges."
bullet The bishops involved in Bishop Robinson's consecration are "invited to consider...whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion."
bullet The Archbishop of Canterbury should "exercise very considerable caution in inviting or admitting [Bishop Robinson]...to the councils of the communion."
bullet Bishops should not authorize public rituals for the blessing of same-sex unions.
bullet Bishops in Canada and the U.S. who have authorized such rituals should "express regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached." Until they apologize, they should "withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion."
bullet The report calls for a study of biblical and theological aspects for and against same-sex unions.
bullet For those Anglicans who cannot accept liberal decisions by their bishops, as a last resort, a "conditional and temporary provision of delegated pastoral oversight" should be implemented. Bishops who have already intervened in other jurisdictions without permissions are asked to "express regret for the consequences of their actions...affirm their desire to remain in the communion... effect a moratorium on any further interventions...[and] seek an accommodation with the bishops of the dioceses whose parishes they have taken into their own care." 2

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References:

  1. The Windsor 2004 report is available in English, Spanish and French. See:  http://www.anglicancommunion.org/  The reports are in PDF format. You may require software to view the report. It can be obtained free from: 
  2. "A brief summary of the Windsor Report's main findings," The Jamestown Cross, at: http://www.southernvirginia.anglican.org/
  3. "21st October - A Summary Guide to the Windsor Report 2004," The Lambeth Commission on Communion," at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/

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Copyright 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-FEB-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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