The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality
Preparations for the 2008
Conference: mid-2006 to 2007-MAY
2006-MAR: Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury:
Lambeth Conferences are held every decade in the year ending in an "8."
It allows bishops from church provinces worldwide to discuss matters of
common interest. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual
leader of the Anglican Communion, said that he found little support for
re-examining in 2008 the 1998 Lambeth Conference's condemnation of same-sex
unions and gay or lesbian clergy who are in loving, committed same-sex
relationships. Williams issued a letter to primates of each of the 38
Anglican provinces. He wrote, in part: "...in my judgment, we cannot
properly or usefully reopen the  discussion as if it did not continue
to represent the general mind of the Communion."
Sir David Frost interviewed Williams on Sunday TV, a UK television
program. Williams warned that the Anglican Communion faces the possibility
of a schism over the confirmation by the Episcopal Church, USA of a gay
bishop, V. Gene Robinson. He had previously been elected by Anglicans in his
diocese. He said that it could take "decades to restore some sort of
relationship" if a break happened.
A second concern for conservatives in within the Communion is the
blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples in some dioceses of the Anglican
Church of Canada.
Some have suggested that the Anglican Communion might reorganize into a
federation of national branches. This would allow individual provinces to
set their own policies independently of each other. Williams commented: "If
there is a rupture, it's going to be a more visible rupture. It's not just
going to settle down quietly into being a federation....if the communion is
broken we may be left with even less than a federation."
The Anglican Communion has faced a number of possible conflicts in the
past which were based on ethical pressures granting equality to persons of
different races and genders. The church in the U.S. survived debates and a
civil war over human slavery without undergoing a schism. The Communion
survived debate over discrimination against women for ordination to the
priesthood without splitting. It more recently endured conflict over
consecrating women priests as bishops with little disruption. It remains to
be seen whether it will be able to survive the conflict over homosexual
equality without a schism. 1
2006-DEC: Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury:
The schism within the Anglican Communion was reinforced by a letter on
2006-DEC-18 by The Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams. Archbishop of Canterbury, in
advance of the meeting of the primates during 2007-FEB in Tanzania. He noted
that the Episcopal Church, USA has agreed to "... withdraw its representation
from certain bodies in the Communion until Lambeth 08." He decided to invite Bishop Katharine Jefferts, primate
of the Episcopal Church, to the meeting in Tanzania in
spite of heavy opposition to her presence. Many primates are outraged at the
Episcopal Church's granting of equality to homosexuals, and the fact that Jefferts is the first female primate of an Anglican province in history; only a
little over half of the provinces allow women to be ordained as priests.
However, he has undercut her authority as the elected representative of the
Church by inviting "contributors" from the Episcopal Church to represent the
opposing views. Archbishop Williams wrote:
"I believe it is important that she be given a chance both to hear and to
speak and to discuss face to face the problems we are confronting together.
We are far too prone to talk about these matters from a distance, without
ever having to face the human reality of those from whom we differ. However,
given the acute dissension in the Episcopal Church at this point, and the
very widespread effects of this in the Communion, I am also proposing to
invite two or three other contributors from that Province for a session to
take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation
may be reviewed, and I am currently consulting as to how this is best
2007-MAY-22: Two duly consecrated bishops excluded from Lambeth Conference:
The first invitations were sent to the bishops in the Anglican Communion.
Eventually, over 850 will be invited.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, wrote:
An article in the Washington Post, now offline, stated:
"...At this point, and with the recommendations of the Windsor Report
particularly in mind, I have to reserve the right to withhold or withdraw
invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have
caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion.
Indeed there are currently one or two cases on which I am seeking further
advice. I do not say this lightly, but I believe that we need to know as we
meet that each participant recognises and honours the task set before us and
that there is an adequate level of mutual trust between us about this. Such
trust is a great deal harder to sustain if there are some involved who are
generally seen as fundamentally compromising the efforts towards a credible
and cohesive resolution..." 3
According to the Times Online, Rev. Martin Reynolds, Press Officer for the
Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said:
"Bishops V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and Martyn Minns of the
breakaway Convocation of Anglicans in North America were not among
more than 850 bishops invited, said Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary-general
of the Anglican Communion..."
"... 'The question of Gene Robinson ... I think has exercised the archbishop
of Canterbury's mind for quite some time,' he said, and there was no
question that Robinson was duly elected and consecrated a bishop in
accordance with the rules of the Episcopal Church.
" 'However, for the archbishop to simply give full recognition at this
conference would be to ignore the very substantial and very widespread
objections in many parts of the communion to his consecration and to his
ministry,' Kearon said." 4
"We would respectfully remind the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Dromantine
Communiqu where it says: 'The victimisation or diminishment of human beings
whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is
anathema to us.' This is a flagrant example of victimisation that quite
clearly intends to diminish Bishop Robinson's status'."
"If the Archbishop of Canterbury is unable to follow the dictates of the
Primates Group, yet alone the dictates of his own conscience, we are in a
very unsafe state. We are deeply sorry for the failure of the Communion to
live up to its own standards. Bishop Robinson and the diocese he was duly
and canonically elected to serve have our full support and we believe they
deserve much better. This decision places the vast majority of American
bishops along with other through out the world in an embarrassing position.
If they accept their Lambeth invitations this might appear to support Bishop
Robinson's victimisation, while if they reject the invitation they will
abandon our Communion to the homophobes."
BlogRunner has links to a group of blogs on this topic.
Thus, it appears that the main topic at the Lambeth Conference 2008 will
concern the consecration of homosexual priests in loving, committing
relationships to the rank of bishop. Meanwhile, the two bishops most closely
tied to this topic, Robinson and Minns, will not be able to participate. A
purchase order will probably be sent out to buy two proverbial two 900 pound
invisible gorillas to be present in the bishops' place.
- "Williams rules out gay sex debate," Associated Press, 2006-MAR-09.
- Rowan Williams, "Archbishop Rowan Williams Writes to the Primates of the
Anglican Communion," TitusOneNine, 2006-DEC-18, at:
- "Lambeth Invitations," Father Jake Stops the World, 2007-MAY-22, at:
- Ruth Geldhill, "Bishops Gene and Martyn 'not invited' to Lambeth," Times
Online, 2007-MAY-22, at:
- "Gay and Dissident Bishops Excluded from '08 meeting," BlogRunner, at:
Copyright © 2006 to 2008 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2006-MAR-11
Latest update: 2008-JUL-18
Author: B.A. Robinson