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LGBT topics and Christian faith groups

The Church of England and LGBT topics:
Events and developments: Year 2002

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In this web site, the acronym LGBT stands for
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and transgender persons

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Developments concerning homosexuality during the year 2002:

bullet 2002-JUL: Comments by the Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams: He attacked the current ban which prevents sexually active homosexuals from ordination. He noted that the church has accepted stable same-sex relationships within the laity but not the clergy. He said: "If the Church's mind is that homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful, then it is intrinsically sinful for everyone. It is that unwillingness to come clean that can't last. It is a contradiction." He also stated that the Bible does not necessarily support a ban on committed same-sex partnerships. 1

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 to ordain female priests in some provinces. Later, they became eligible to be consecrated as bishops in a few provinces. 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. 2

bullet

2002-OCT: Conflict over the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: He was the previously the Archbishop of Wales and was installed as the new Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003-JAN. 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 formally approved the appointment. 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 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' support for LGBT 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. Most vocal among the opposition is "Reform", a conservative Evangelical network of more than 500 clergy led by the Rt. Rev. Wallace Benn -- suffragan Bishop of Lewes. They said that they would not welcome Dr. Williams because of his "non-biblical" views. Reform has stated: "Even shortly before the appointment, he publicly said he is 'not convinced that a homosexual has to be celibate in every imaginable circumstance'."

Williams has admitted ordaining as a priest a sexually-active homosexual. They have asked him to resign "for the sake of the Church's gospel witness and unity" unless he is willing to condemn any and all sexual behavior outside of a one-man, one-woman marriage. This, of course, would include sexual activity within a loving, committed gay or lesbian relationship. 3 They have asked that he affirm and defend church teaching:

bullet To "abstain from sexual relations outside holy [heterosexual] matrimony",

bullet To support "appropriate discipline" where necessary and

bullet To ordain only those who uphold and live by this teaching.

Rev Richard Kirker, spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said:

"The presumptuous self-righteous tone of Reform simply beggars belief and will, I suspect, make them even more isolated than they already are in the Anglican Church." 4


bullet

2002-DEC-10: Anglican Evangelicals meet to oppose new Archbishop of Canterbury: Four of the most conservative groups within the Church of England -- Reform, the Church Society, the Church of England Evangelical Council, and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies -- are meeting to challenge the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Evangelicals within the denomination had called on Dr Williams either to recant his belief that biblical passages can be interpreted to support committed same-sex relationships, or to resign his office. Figures from the 2000 Church Attendance Survey indicate that the Evangelical movement within the denomination represents over one in three Church of England members, and is growing rapidly. If Evangelicals were to withhold donations in the form of the "parish share" they could drive the Church near bankruptcy.

In a column in The Church of England Newspaper, Andrew Carey, the son of the former Archbishop, wrote:

"God always has plenty more work to do, even in the lives of distinguished churchmen. Which is why evangelicals must continue to have a conversation with Dr Williams, to ensure that he understands why we believe him to be utterly wrong on human sexuality."

The Rev David Holloway, Vicar of Jesmond said: "At the time of Rowan Williams and gay theology, you don’t only have to teach the truth and refute error, you also have to take action." He quoted Romans 16:17: "Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching that you have learnt. Keep away from them." The Rev George Curry, chairman of the Church Society, said:

"As loyal Anglicans, we are faced with the fact that we have bishops across the world and in the Church of England who are teaching error when their job is to drive away error and teach the Gospel."

Christina Rees, a prominent member of the General Synod who resigned from the Church of England Evangelical Council after some members criticized Dr Williams, said:

"I have seen a draft of the statement and, although it does not mention the archbishop by name, it clearly alludes to the Rowan situation. It is intended to be a rallying point. It refers to sexuality....Making a person’s attitude to homosexuality a touchstone of the Christian faith is elevating it to a place it has never held in Christian tradition." 5

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References used:

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

  1. Jonathan Petre, "Archbishop hits out at ban on gay clergy," 2002-JUL-22, at http://www.dailytelegraph.co.uk/
  2. Jonathan Petre, "Carey warns of Church split on gays," 2002-SEP-17, at: http://www.dailytelegraph.co.uk/
  3.  "Controversial liberal named as next leader of Anglican church," Yahoo News at: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/020723/1/30stn.html
  4. Jonathan Petre, "Denounce gays or quit, church body tells Williams," Daily Telegraph, at:  http://www.dailytelegraph.co.uk/
  5. Ruth Gledhill, "Evangelicals ready to challenge Williams for the Church's soul,"
    The Times (England), 2002-DEC-10. Online at: http://www.gospelcom.net/

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Copyright © 2002 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2011-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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