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The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality

Preparations for the 2008 Lambeth
Conference: mid-2006 to 2007-MAY

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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: " my judgment, we cannot properly or usefully reopen the [1998] 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 organised." 2

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:

"...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

An article in the Washington Post, now offline, stated:

"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

According to the Times Online, Rev. Martin Reynolds, Press Officer for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said:
"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." 4

BlogRunner has links to a group of blogs on this topic. 5

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.


  1. "Williams rules out gay sex debate," Associated Press, 2006-MAR-09.
  2. Rowan Williams, "Archbishop Rowan Williams Writes to the Primates of the Anglican Communion," TitusOneNine, 2006-DEC-18, at:
  3. "Lambeth Invitations," Father Jake Stops the World, 2007-MAY-22, at:
  4. Ruth Geldhill, "Bishops Gene and Martyn 'not invited' to Lambeth," Times Online, 2007-MAY-22, at:
  5. "Gay and Dissident Bishops Excluded from '08 meeting," BlogRunner, at:

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Copyright 2006 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2006-MAR-11
Latest update: 2008-JUL-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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