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LGBT topics and Christian faith groups

The Church of England and LGBT topics:
Events and developments:: 2003 to 2006

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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 from 2003 to 2006:

bullet 2003-JUN-23: Archbishop of Canterbury supports appointment of gay bishop: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said that he had no objection to the appointment of Jeffrey John, 50, as suffragan (assistant) Bishop of Reading, outside London, England. John is open with his homosexual orientation, and is celibate. After a firestorm of opposition, John withdrew his acceptance.

bullet 2003-JUL-11: Conservatives meet to plan strategy: Conservative members of the Church of England's General Synod met in a secret session to plan strategy. Journalists and other observers were barred. Since Evangelicals hold most of the Synod seats, this group was essentially planning the future of the church. Professor Anthony Thiselton said: "It is an intimate forum where people can express concerns before they are raised in the public arena." There are rumors that:

bullet Liberals in the church are furious that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was manipulated to press Dr. Jeffrey John to resign as bishop-designate for Reading.

bullet Conservatives are furious that Dr. Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, nominated Dr. John.

bullet Conservatives are developing a long-term strategy to drive gays out of the Church. 1

bullet

2003-SEP-19: Archbishop of Canterbury attends Evangelical meeting: Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England, led prayers at the opening of the National Evangelical Anglican Congress. The meeting included 2,000 attendees -- the largest gathering of evangelical members of the Church in 16 years. They held a vote to decide whether to invite Williams; they decided that he would be allowed to come, but only to lead prayers. Some members left to hold a separate prayer gathering. A UK newspaper, the Guardian, commented:

"Dr Williams, in post for less than a year, and possibly the most intellectual, charismatic and deeply spiritual leader the church has had in many years, is seen by many as the last and best hope to re-enthuse an increasingly indifferent and secular nation. But to some in his congregation yesterday he is little better than a heretic, a false teacher and the catalyst for the showdown they have been itching for. Even though he is regarded as theologically orthodox, he is not orthodox enough on just one subject for them. Some will not even have a man they privately call the arch-heretic in their churches."


The Guardian interviewed Roy Clements, an ex-minister of a large Baptist church in Cambridge. He said that the leaders of the Evangelical movement:

"... believe the Church of England has been so corrupted by error and moral compromise for so long that they want to complete the reformation that should have happened in the 17th century. Homosexuality is an opportunist issue. They knew they had to have something to crystallize opinion in their constituency and they identified it as the thing most likely to galvanize it. They could not do it over women's ordination because evangelicals were themselves split but I was told 15 years ago that this was the issue on which to risk schism....Evangelicals have not absorbed the idea that homosexuality is an identity, not a practice. It is not like being a murderer. They believe it is a sin. There is no question that they are out of touch with modern British culture. They are suspicious of the world and the fact that the secular world does not support them merely proves that they are right....Everyone knows there are gay clergy and gay bishops. Would they prefer it if those people remain locked in the closet? This shows how out of touch they are: people in the outside world are tired of things being hidden. They see that that has no integrity."
Clements came out as a gay in 1999, after a twenty year struggle with his sexual orientation. He was immediately fired. 2

bullet

2003-OCT: World: Lambeth Commission formed: Rowan Williams, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, created a 19-member Lambeth Commission to "find ways of keeping the worldwide Anglican Communion from disintegrating in the wake of the Episcopal Church's ordination of an openly gay bishop and a Canadian diocese's sanctioning of same-sex blessings." The Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham in the Church of England is a member of the Commission. He said:

"...the primary question to be answered by the Lambeth Commission is one of communion, not homosexuality....We're looking at questions of how you hold the church together when that happens. Only secondary is the question of homosexuality." 3

bullet 2004-MAY-11: UK: Opposition to dean's consecration: Jeffrey John is a priest in the Church of England, has a homosexual orientation, and is involved in  a celibate relationship with another priest. Although he is not sexually active, he was forced to refuse an appointment in 2003 as Bishop of Reading. Now, opposition is mounting against his appointment as Dean of St. Albans. Philip Giddings, a lay preacher at Greyfriars Church in Reading and convenor of a lobby group Anglican Mainstrem, has initiated a campaign to warn the Queen, Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury that John's appointment could split the church.  4

bullet 2004-NOV-22: UK: Commitment ceremonies increasing: About 300 commitment ceremonies were conducted by Church of England priests unofficially during 2003, a 10% increase over the previous year. They are similar to blessing services which are offered to thousands of divorcees each year who have civil weddings following their divorce. When the Civil Partnership Act which recognizes same-sex unions comes into force during 2005, the number is expected to increase to about 1,000 annually.

The church does not formally recognize these ceremonies. However, church spokesperson Peter Crumpler said: "Clergy are free to pray for anyone in a private and pastoral situation." Rev. Martin Reynolds, a priest from Wales who expects to have a union ceremony with his partner next year, said: "Here we have a Church struggling like mad not to allow its buildings to be used for the registration of same-sex partnerships, while at the same time privately acquiescing to the blessings of same-sex partnerships in church buildings." The Right Rev David Beetge, Bishop of Highveld in South Africa and a member of the Lambeth Commission, said: "There is a concept in the Church called ‘reception’. It is a theological concept, to do with how a Church receives something that is new. The Church is in a process of reception at the moment. I long for a Church that is courageous enough to extend the boundaries." 5

bullet 2006-MAY-28: UK: Bishop calls for change: Richard Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, England, said in a press interview that "there has to be a conversion to a new way to see that gay partnerships are not contrary to biblical truth." 6

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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. Paul Vallely, "Behind closed doors, the evangelicals decide how to oust gays," 2003-JUL-12, The Independent, at: http://news.independent.co.uk/
  2. Stephen Bates, "No room in the church: archbishop finds himself cast out by evangelicals. Congress exposes Anglican leader's position as split over gays grows deeper," The Guardian, 2003-SEP-20, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  3. "Bishop of Church of England Comments on Gay Ordination. Dispense of rhetoric is the best key to any discussion," Christianity Today, 2004-MAR-31.
  4. "Gay canon: leader in plea to Queen. LAY PREACHER: Giddings is now against John’s new appointment," Reading Evening Post, 2004-MAY-11, at: http://www.getreading.co.uk
  5. Ruth Gledhill, "Bishops turn blind eye to gay wedding ceremonies in church," Times Online, 2004-NOV-22, at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
  6. "Bible Supports Homosexual Partnerships," Says Bishop," London Telegraph, 2006-MAY-28.

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Copyright © 2003 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2011-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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