The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality
Assessment of the Lambeth Conference, 2008.
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
"... got quite quickly into very significant and deep conversations. We
certainly didn't all agree with each other about various issues, but we listened
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.
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the Bible more as a historical document; stress biblical themes of justice,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."
It seems that the actions that are dividing the Anglican Communion and driving
it towards schism will continue to intensify:
"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
- Celebration of loving, committed same-sex relationships in church
- Ordination of homosexuals in committed relationships to the priesthood
- 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.
- The official website of the Lambeth Conference is at:
- "Lambeth Conference Wrap Up," Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, 2008-AUG-08,
- "Lambeth Report," Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, 2008-AUG-01, at:
- Davod Stringer, "Same-sex relationships okay: Archbishop of Canterbury
," Associated Press, 2008-AUG-07, at:
Copyright © 2006 to 2008 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2008-AUG-09
Latest update: 2008-AUG-12
Author: B.A. Robinson