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The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality

Assessment of the Lambeth Conference, 2008.
Subsequent developments

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2008-AUG: Assessment of the Lambeth Conference:

The Anglican Communion survived the latest Lambeth Conference more or less intact, but with deep internal divisions which can only intensify between now and the next conference in 2018. 1

The PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly included an interview of Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA, and the only female primate in the Communion. She said that the bishops:

"... got quite quickly into very significant and deep conversations. We certainly didn't all agree with each other about various issues, but we listened respectfully."

Of the approximately 880 Anglican bishops in the Anglican Communion, at least two were forbidden to come, more than 230 boycotted the meeting, and only about 650 attended. No resolutions were voted upon. Instead, the bishops formed a series of small group discussions about the various issues that divide them -- primarily:

  • Whether gays and lesbians should be accepted as equals in the Communion: Here, each of the 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion is heavily influenced by their local culture. North American, some British and European groups within the Communion have begun to view homosexuality as one of three morally neutral sexual orientations that is normal and natural for a minority of adults. The Global South continue to view homosexual behavior as profoundly immoral and perhaps criminal.
  • How scripture is to be interpreted: The division here is between the same groups of Anglicans. It is a continuation of the fundamentalist/modernist split that has been dividing Christianity for over a century. The two groups view the Bible very differently. Conservatives tend towards a literal interpretation of the text and feel that six "clobber" passages condemn all same-sex behavior. Liberals tend to view the Bible more as a historical document; stress biblical themes of justice, freedom, and love; and interpret the same six passages as unrelated to loving, committed same-sex relationships.

These internal conflicts will undoubtedly take decades to resolve.

Kim Lawton, Managing Editor of the PBS program, said that:

"...the big news from the meeting was that there wasn't any big news. A lot of people feared that there might be some kind of an actual split at this meeting. That didn't happen. About a third of the bishops boycotted. That did have an impact, but there wasn't any big explosion. They're still hanging together, but this sort of uneasy stalemate continues." 2

Earlier, Lawton had said:

"In contrast to previous years, organizers of this meeting decided not to hold any policy votes. Instead, they held a series of discussions, many in small groups and Bible studies, as a way to promote dialogue. Tensions were still high. Nearly all the sessions were private, with heavy security all around the circus tent where the main events occurred."

"In one speech inside the tent that the media was not allowed to record, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams challenged both liberals and conservatives to work harder at finding resolutions. He said, 'At the moment, we seem often threatening death to each other, not offering life'. ..."

"An official crisis working group released a proposal renewing previous calls for a ban on more gay bishops and same-sex blessings. It also called for an end to cross-jurisdictional relationships where conservative US parishes are affiliating with Anglican churches in places like Africa and South America. ..."

"There was also intense debate about changing some of the ways the Communion operates. Some bishops are pushing for a broad statement of agreement that would help define who Anglicans are. ... Many bishops are increasingly frustrated by the seeming stalemate, and not surprisingly, there are differing opinions about whether schism can ultimately be avoided. 3
It seems that the actions that are dividing the Anglican Communion and driving it towards schism will continue to intensify:
  • Celebration of loving, committed same-sex relationships in church rituals.
  • Ordination of homosexuals in committed relationships to the priesthood and episcopate.
  • Individual parishes separating themselves from their national province and seeking oversight from the bishop of a foreign province.

For information on each day of the conference, you can consult "The Anglican Communion Official Website - Lambeth Daily at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ Daily reports are filed in the Archives.

2008-AUG: Old letters from Rowan Williams revealed:

Between the years 2000 and 2001, Rowan Williams answered inquires from Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist and evangelical Christian concerning same-sex marriage. He subsequently became the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion. He allegedly wrote:

"I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness."
Many religious liberals would agree with Williams' statements. However, religious conservatives traditionally interpret Leviticus 20:13 as requiring the execution of ancient Hebrews who engaged in same-sex behavior. It would be impossible for an "active sexual relationship" to exist "between two people of the same sex" if both were dead.


  1. The official website of the Lambeth Conference is at: http://www.lambethconference.org/
  2. "Lambeth Conference Wrap Up," Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, 2008-AUG-08, at: http://www.pbs.org/
  3. "Lambeth Report," Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, 2008-AUG-01, at: http://www.pbs.org/
  4. Davod Stringer, "Same-sex relationships okay: Archbishop of Canterbury ," Associated Press, 2008-AUG-07, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080807.wgay0807/BNStory/International/home

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Home>Conflicts>Homosexuality>Religious groups>Christian groups>Anglican Communion>here

Copyright © 2006 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2008-AUG-09
Latest update: 2008-AUG-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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