LGCM looks back on 40 years

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies – ‘CHURCH TIMES’ – Posted: 05 Feb 2016 @ 12:03

DIARMAID MACCULLOCH

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‘Enraged’: Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch

“THOSE involved in organising local Groups will often stop to wonder what the Group is achieving, and whether the world would be poorer if it ceased to exist.” So reads the introduction to the Nottingham Gay Christian Movement Group newsletter, published in 1982.

Decades letter, the document, with its promise of a warm welcome “for those who bring a heavy set of problems”, forms part of a retrospective to celebrate 40 years of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) and highlighting its achievements, and contributions to the world.

Scanned documents from the early years, including copies of the monthly bulletin — hand-typed, duplicated, and posted by volunteers — are on display alongside banners telling the stories of key figures in the movement.

These stories can be heard at length on a new website, www.christianvoicescomingout.org.uk, that will serve as an aural history, preserving accounts for future generations.

“We have a very short collective memory,” the chief executive of LGCM, Tracey Byrne, said on Monday. “It’s human nature. There are people who made banners and went to parades where they were shouted and spat at and they are still around. . . It [the project] was about wanting to help people know that these people have a fantastic story to tell.”

The Gay Christian Movement was founded in 1976. Its first general secretary was the Revd Jim Cotter (Obituary, 25 April, 2014). In his account, he explains: “I think human beings, including myself, hurt and were hurt more than they would like to admit, but at the same time stumbling towards something, we weren’t quite sure what we were stumbling towards. I don’t think anybody would have even dreamt of thinking of a phrase like Gay Marriage at that time.”

By 1979, the group’s bulletin included five pages of the names, addresses, and occupations of people who were gay and Christian or supportive of its statement of conviction, and 39 local groups, “tremendously important in reducing isolation”. LGCM was also able to put couples in touch with ministers willing to conduct services of blessing, and provided certificates to mark the occasion.

The exhibition includes contributions from the Revd Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, who explains being “enraged” by the decision not to ordain him priest; and Linda Hurcombe, who describes the “fantastic days” of founding the Movement for the Ordination of Women. It also includes a section on the impact of HIV/AIDS, including the “impressive” response of the Salvation Army, and that of Jean White, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in London, who stepped in when undertakers refused to carry the bodies of those who had died.

Ms Byrne said that she had been deeply moved by listening to people’s stories: “It stirs you up to say ‘For the sake of these and those who have gone before, we have to continue to work for transformation and change.’” While some stories had been “immensely joyful”, it had been a “tough journey. It has motivated me to want to continue.”

Christian Voices Coming Out: 40 years of prophecy, protest and pride” is on display in the Atrium Gallery, Old Building, LSE, Houghton Street, London WC2, until 4 March.

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“The Gay Christian Movement was founded in 1976. Its first general secretary was the Revd Jim Cotter (Obituary, 25 April, 2014). In his account, he explains: “I think human beings, including myself, were hurt more than they would like to admit, but at the same time stumbling towards something, we weren’t quite sure what we were stumbling towards. I don’t think anybody would have even dreamt of thinking of a phrase like Gay Marriage at that time.” – Jim Cotter

I remember, when I was Vicar of the Parish of Orewa, in the Anglican Diocese of Auckland, in the late 1980s, with the permission of the Vestry, inviting The Rev. Jim Cotter to speak at a seminar on Human Sexuality that drew people from various North Shore (Auckland) parishes. Jim was on a tour of the Auckland Diocese, and welcomed the opportunity to be hosted by Anglican parishes to offer his view on how the Church needed to step up to the mark in opening up to people whose innate sexuality was different from the binary – male or female. These, Jim claimed, were children of God, equal in the sight of God to the predominantly heterosexual membership of the Church and society at large. If the Church were not to be by-passed by a society that now accepted such people, then it might lose  the respect and allegiance of  – not only Gay people themselves (many of whom were already part of parish life in our churches), but also of their families and all who supported the call for freedom from homophobia that had prompted harsh reactions from some of the more conservative provinces of our world-wide Anglican Community.

It is now forty years since the Gay Christian Movement was founded by people like Fr. Jim Cotter in the Church of England. He is now at peace in Paradise, but his legacy lives on, and this celebration of forty years of earnest endeavour by many more than the membership of that original group – far beyond the borders of the Church of England – has brought from the current Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, a profound apology for the Church’s attitude towards the LGBTI community in past times. This apology was delivered during the recent Meeting of Anglican Primates specifically called together by the ABC to try to resolve deep-seated difference within provinces of the communion on the particular issue.

What is needed now is not only words but action – on attitudes towards gender and sexuality issues that will need to be accommodated, if the Anglican Communion is to retain its apostolic l character as a part of the Body of Christ, in different contexts but in the bonds of fellowship centred round the Person of Jesus, as revealed in the New Testament Scriptures; whose defining charism was that of Love overcoming the sterility of Law: “A New Commandment I give to you – not as the world gives – that you should love one another as I have loved you”.

 

God is Love in perfection – overcoming our human tendency to judge others – proven by his Word that: “While you were yet sinners…….  “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” but God has determined to continue to love us – come what may! This is the Gospel of Christ!”

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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Ecumenical outreach by Pope Francis

POPE ANNOUNCES “FIRST IN HISTORY” MEETING WITH RUSSIAN PATRIARCH KIRILL

05 February 2016 | by Christopher Lamb – ‘THE TABLET’

Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will meet in Cuba next week

Pope announces "first in history" meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow will meet in Cuba on 12 February.

The historic encounter will take place over two hours at Havana airport on Francis’ way to Mexico and include the signing of a joint declaration.

It will be seen as an important step in trying to heal the 1,000-year-old rift between Eastern and Western Christianity which split during the great schism of 1054.

A meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch has been on the cards for some time although it has always been envisaged that such an encounter needed to take place on neutral territory.

Patriarch Kirill is visiting Cuba at the invitation of President Raul Castro at the same time that the Pope is in Mexico (12-18 February).

A statement from the Holy See said: “This meeting of the Primates of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, after a long preparation, will be the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches. The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate hope that it will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will.”

Fr Federico Lombardi, the director of the Holy See Press Office, said that Pope Francis would be accompanied by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the meeting will take place with the use of Spanish and Russian interpreters.

While the “de facto” leader of the the Eastern Orthodox Church is the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Russians hold a key influence in Orthodoxy.

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This Pope will not let the grass grown under his feet – for want of ecumencial outreach to other Churches of both East and West – during his pontificate.

This meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow marks a new attempt to help reconcile the Churches of East and West, which have been separated for the last 1,000 years. That the meeting should have been arranged to take place while the Russian Patriarch is in Cuba and Pope Francis is on his way to Mexico might seem to be a strange coincidence. Nevertheless, the fact that both Church leaders have agreed to this meeting on ‘neutral ground’ seems auspicious, giving hope for further communication between leaders of the two largest Churches in Christendom.

However, this is not the only evidence of the Pope’s willingness to engage in ecumencial activity. While on a visit to Sweden later in the year, Pope Franhcis will join with leaders of the Swedish Lutheran Church to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation:

“Intense media interest surrounds Pope Francis’ forthcoming visit to Sweden later this year with the Church expressing the hope that it will lead to greater ecumenical cooperation and to Christians becoming “more visible” in a strongly secularised country”. – (‘TABLET’ article)

While we in the world-wide Anglican Communion seem unable to maintain our Unity in Diversity – over matters of internal disagreement – here we have the Roman Pontiff making positive attempts to reconcile the previously estranged Church bodies that have separated out on much greater and more contentious issues than we struggle with. One wonders why, when the Bishop of Rome seeks reconciliation, we Anglicans find difficulty in living together because of  differences of opinion on gender and sexuality.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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New Mission targets C of E homophobia

New Anglican pressure group will campaign for ‘full participation’ of gay people in Church

Reuters
A new Anglican pressure group has been formed to campaign for LGBTI inclusion in the Church.

A new pressure group has been formed within the Church of England to argue for the “full participation” of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the life of the Church.

The aims of LGBTI Mission, whose supporters include heterosexual as well as LGBTI people, include ensuring that all LGBTI people should be “welcomed and affirmed by the Church of England”, that “life-long, faithful, stable same-sex relationships, and the relationships of those who undergo gender transition, should be celebrated by the Church of England” and that the ministries of LGBTI people should be “recognised and authorised”.

Among the group’s objectives are “ensuring that LGBTI people are never denied access to baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion and funerals, as well as allowing those in same-sex marriages to become clergy”.

Among LGBTI Mission’s supporters are Bishop Alan Wilson, Rev Canon Steven Saxby and Vicky Beeching. Its chair, Simon Sarmiento, said: “We believe that now is the time for the Church of England to practise what it preaches and show love towards its LGBTI neighbours. Often an assumption is made that there is a disconnect between LGBTI people and people of faith, when in fact we know that many LGBTI people are religious, and many faith groups support LGBTI equality.

“We’ve seen the Church make huge strides towards equality in recent years, most notably through the 2014 legislation enabling women to become bishops, and it’s now essential that LGBTI equality is similarly cemented in our institution. We know that this is what most people in the Church of England want.

“We believe that each of the asks we’ve outlined is achievable and, frankly, essential. We hope that others who feel passionate about equality will help and join our campaign. People are people and should be treated equally and fairly; this is a fundamental part of what the Church teaches us and it’s time we took tangible steps to ensure full acceptance and affirmation of LGBTI people.”

The question of how the Church of England and the Anglican Communion treated people in same-sex relationships underlay a fraught Primates meeting last month. While the leaders of the world’s Anglican Churches disciplined the US Episcopal Church, which sanctions them, the Archbishop of Canterbury formally apologised for the way the Church had treated the gay community. Senior clergy and other LGBTI campaigners, including Vicky Beeching, then urged him to ensure his words were followed by actions.

barriers to gay clergy

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies – ‘CHURCH TIMES’ – Posted: 04 Feb 2016 @ 08:28

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Married: Among those backing LGBTI Mission is Jeremy Timm (left), a Reader whose Permission to Officate was withdrawn after he married his parter, Mike Brown, last year

SAME-SEX marriage in churches, and full access to all three Holy Orders for those in such marriages, are among the goals of a new mission calling for “the full acceptance and affirmation of LGBTI people” in the Church of England.

The LGBTI Mission, launched on Thursday, has put together a programme of goals that it would like to achieve “over the next five years and beyond”. It includes demands for action from the hierarchy, alongside plans to press ahead independently, including the publication of liturgy to celebrate same-sex marriage.

A booklet outlining the programme, published yesterday, lists examples of “discrimination” and “injustice” faced by LGBTI people, and warns of a culture of “collusion and silence” in the Church. Some young LGBTI people do not feel “safe and welcomed”, it says.

One of its goals is legislation in the General Synod to reverse the current block on same-sex marriage in church.

The LGBTI Mission programme has three strands: Living, Loving, and Serving. The third focuses on bars to ordination, appointment, and preferment. The group plans to campaign to end “all diocesan policies that discriminate against LGBTI ordinands”, including the bar to consideration for ordination for gay or lesbian people in same-sex marriages.

It has anecdotal evidence that some diocesan bishops refuse to allow any LGBTI person to appear before a Bishops’ Advisory Panel, and is planning to collect information on this to discuss with the dioceses concerned. It is calling on the House of Bishops to remove assent toIssues in Human Sexuality — which states that homosexual priests must be celibate — as a pre-condition to selection for training.

Also sought is a statement from the House of Bishops that “marital status is not a bar to appointments”; and approval, by the General Synod, of a policy that “all appointments should be made without discrimination as to marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, except to accommodate the local theological convictions of parishes and clergy”.

It will also “raise concerns in Westminster” about current exemptions to equality legislation.

Tracey Byrne, the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, which is part of the mission, said this week that people were reporting to her that “things have got worse, not better” in recent years.

“The fog of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is definitely clearing, and things are worse in many ways,” she said on Monday. “Perhaps that makes it easier, because we are clearer now about where we stand. We are clear about what the Church can legally do. . . Outside the Church, [people] are horrified when I say that the Church can do this.”

The first strand of the programme —“Living” — includes a focus on the experience of young LGBTI people, many of whom “do not receive the signals that they are safe and welcomed in their Christian faith community”. In 2014, the Archbishop of Canterbury launched an anti-homophobic bullying guide for C of E schools and promised “zero tolerance” (News, 9 May, 2014).

The second strand of the programme — “Loving” — sets out plans to produce and publish liturgies and seek commendation for them from the House of Bishops. This will include texts for use in church after civil partnerships and same-sex marriages. It is calling for clergy and parishes to be able to celebrate same-sex marriages “in line with their own theological perspective”, and plans to ensure that suitable recommendations are made to General Synod.

The latest poll on attitudes to same-sex marriage was commissioned by Jayne Ozanne, a General Synod member. Of the 6276 British adults who responded, 1523 live in England and have a C of E, Anglican, or Episcopalian affiliation. Of these, 45 per cent approved of same-sex marriage, compared with 38 per cent when the same question was posed in 2013.

The Vicar of St John’s, Waterloo, Canon Giles Goddard, a member of the Synod, and part of the Mission, said on Tuesday that it would be “hard to read the mood of Synod” until after the Shared Conversations.

One of the first acts of the Mission will be to produce a “clear statement on the full spectrum of human sexuality and gender variance, and the precious gift of sex and marriage in Christian understanding”. Developed by a theological resource group, largely comprising academics at Cambridge University, it will be distributed before the members of the General Synod embark on Shared Conversations, in July. The Mission says that, while the Church accepts a range of views on other issues, including women’s ordination, “there is no space for differences when it comes to human sexuality and gender identity. The official and only acceptable view is that marriage is only possible between a man and a woman.”

On Wednesday, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: “It is not only expected but welcome that various groups and individuals across the Church will present their views, and inevitably this will represent the diversity of opinion held. Given what many have experienced and learnt through the Shared Conversations, it is hoped that these are expressed and responded to with clarity and respect, holding our differences and disagreement within the love and grace of Christ.”

LGBTI Mission hopes to see more bishops speak openly about their own views. Currently, only two bishops have spoken out in support of gay marriage: the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, and the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson.

Last week, Dr Wilson, part of LGBTI Mission, said that, while he refused to judge any of his colleagues, he expected this to change.

“Just clamming up and saying nothing is ceasing to be an option,” he said. “A situation where everyone knows the real score but a small number of people at the top is pretending something else is really damaging to the Church.”

Given that “hundreds and thousands” of people in the UK might be in gay marriages within the next decade, he said that the need for liturgies that priests could use was “urgent”.

“Right now we are very good at telling people what not to do,” he said. “You must not call it a blessing but can call it a service of thanksgiving, dedication and commitment. We are not very good at telling people what they can do.” He expressed concern about what would fill this “vacuum”.

LGBTI Mission’s programme had “no intention to put the squeeze on people not ready to expand their sense of what marriage is,” he said. “What we do want is for there to be the same respect all round for the consciences of everybody, and right now there isn’t.”

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These 2 articles published in the U.K. this week give evidence of a new GBTQI group that is determined to get its voice heard more clearly amongst the rank and file membership of the Church of England. Chaired by ‘Thinking Anglicans’ facilitator, Simon Sarmiento, this is an important message being put out to the Church in the U.K. :

“Among LGBTI Mission’s supporters are Bishop Alan Wilson, Rev Canon Steven Saxby and Vicky Beeching. Its chair, Simon Sarmiento, said: “We believe that now is the time for the Church of England to practise what it preaches and show love towards its LGBTI neighbours. Often an assumption is made that there is a disconnect between LGBTI people and people of faith, when in fact we know that many LGBTI people are religious, and many faith groups support LGBTI equality.

Having expressed his personal apology for the way in which Churches of the Anglican Communion have treated their LGBTQI members, the Archbishop of Canterbury has opened the door to a new initiative of dialogue in the Church of England on this issue. What has become increasingly obvious is that many people in the pews of Anglican Churches are in favour of Same-Sex Marriage – a situation that has now been legalised by the U.K. Government and which needs a positive response from the State Church, if the Church is to retain the respect of the community is seeks to serve. With the ‘Conversations’ under way in the dioceses of the Church of England, there is seen to be a need to help the Church in its discernment of what has becomne a wide-spread issue of human justice.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Biblical Rival to ACNA in North America?

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Toward the Renewal of Biblical Anglicanism in North America: An Independent Renewal Movement

By Robin G. Jordan

A second important way of promoting the renewal of biblical Anglicanism in North America is to form an independent renewal movement—a movement that is not attached to one particular jurisdiction but operates independently. This will enable the movement to work as leaven in a number of jurisdictions. It will also reduce if not eliminate the barriers that the movement faces arising from its association in people’s minds with that jurisdiction.

The present North American branch of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans functions as an auxiliary to the Anglican Church in North America. It is subservient to the ACNA and is not free to pursue its own agenda. Its relationship with the ACNA has effectively emasculated it as an agent of renewal.

All of the other branches of the GFCA are, to my knowledge, independent organizations.

Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 12:51 PM

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Thanks to the web-site of ‘Anglican Curmudgeon’ in the United States for his surprising link to this article, that announces an eruption of dissention in the biblical- evangelical-conservative world of quasi-Anglican schismatic activity in North America: Here is an impending sign of further splitting between ACNA and GAFCA:

“The present North American branch of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans functions as an auxiliary to the Anglican Church in North America. It is subservient to the ACNA and is not free to pursue its own agenda. Its relationship with the ACNA has effectively emasculated it as an agent of renewal.”

This must be quite an embarrassment for schismatic ex-Anglicans in North America – especially when a fairly recent meeting, in Sydney, of GAFCON affiliates in GAFCA (Confessing Anglicans) seemed to be cozying up to the newly-appointed GAFCON/ACNA Leader in North America, Archbishop Foley Beach.

Fresh from his foray into the hierarchical world of the Anglican Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury, England; Mr Beach must be at least marginally unhappy about this expression on dissatisfaction with the status quo in ACNA’s control of GAFCA’s mission outreach in North America. The trouble of course is that schism only begets further schism, and ACNA will need all the support it can get from the GAFCON Primates to keep this genie in the bottle.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Lutheran Bishop Receives the Eucharist in St. Peter’s, Rome

Lutheran bishop receives communion at St Peter’s Basilica

Lutherans communion resized

The National Catholic Register reportedsources stating that Bishop Samuel Salmi of Oulu in Finland and other Finnish Lutherans indicated to the Catholic priests at the Mass that they wanted a blessing.

They reportedly tried to show they were ineligible to receive by putting their right hands on their left shoulders.

But the priests, who were reportedly aware that the people coming forward were Lutherans, offered them communion anyway.

The bishop said Pope Francis was not at the Mass.

But Bishop Salmi added that the Pope has repeatedly indicated he would like to develop unity between different denominations.

Bishop Salmi told a news agency that Pope Francis has theological enemies in the Vatican and so may be limited in how freely he can speak.

After news reports came out about Lutherans receiving Catholic communion, the Finnish Catholic Church called the incident a mistake and an obstacle to unity.

In November, Pope Francis urged a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic to “talk to the Lord” about receiving Catholic communion.

She should then “go forward” the Pope said, but he cautioned that he “wouldn’t ever dare to allow this, because it is not my competence”.

The Pope’s words were interpreted by Rome’s Lutheran community to mean that Lutherans could receive Catholic communionin accordance with their conscience.

But just before Christmas, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said this was not correct.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller told the National Catholic Register that “misunderstandings come up again and again because of a failure to take account of the fact that, unfortunately, there is actually a different understanding of the Church between Catholics and Protestants”.

These differences, he said, “are not only theological-conceptual, but of a confessional nature”.

He added that the Church continues in its ecumenical goal to reach “visible and institutional unity”, with the Pope as head of the Church.

In October, Pope Francis is to participate in a joint ecumenical commemoration in Sweden marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

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Although Pope Francis was not present at this departure from Catholic Tradition (allowing non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist in a Roman Catholic ceremony); there can be little doubt – being aware of this Pope’s eirenic attitude towards non-Catholics – that he would have offered the Eucharist to a visiting party of Lutherans together with their Bishop at a Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

This relaxation of Vatican protocol seems most encouraging – especially in the light of the fact that His Holiness will be present at an important Lutheran gathering in Sweden to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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Communion Light – or Heavy?

A tale of two Primates

Let me start by being up front:

I strongly believe,as a liberal or progressive or, if you really insist revisionist, on matters relating to human sexuality that last week was a bad week for the Anglican Communion.

I would have preferred a looser fitting communion to have emerged from the conference, an idea floated by ++Justin. But this didn’t happen. Has the opportunity to re-shape the communion gone forever? I think it probably has.

My own view is that by 2020 it is possible, highly possible, that the Anglican Communion, will have disintegrated, with critics blaming either Archbishop Justin or those liberal Episcopalian types such as Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

The critics will be wrong, however, for the future of the Anglican Communion will be determined by the arch conservatives. 

++Justin and +Curry, in my view, both emerged from last week have chalked up a few notches on the leadership score board.

Archbishop Justin deserved credit not because he secured some form of significant victory, because he didn’t. At best he has taken the communion, perhaps, against the odds, into ‘time added on for injuries.’

He deserves huge credit for ensuring that the discussions about human sexuality (why do we use  this phrase when we really mean homosexuality) were not limited to the scope of marriage. Above all Justin was courageous enough  to court ridicule and risk total, and personal, failure.

Justin was right to remind his colleagues, and the world, that the church has both caused pain and withheld love from same sex brothers and sisters. And, he was right in ensuring his critique was global:

I want to take this opportunity personally to say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and in the present, that the church has caused and for the love that we at times completely failed to show, and still do so, in many parts of the world, including this country.’

For ++Justin the church is not an innocent bystander and by implication neither are his arch-episcopal colleagues. Yes primates it is official: you, as bishops, have been and continue to be agents of pain and injustice. Not my words, but Justin’s.

More on the epoch changing implications of this later.

Bishop Michael Curry was grace personified. He accepted his ‘yellow card’ with such dignity it beggars belief. In reacting to his estrangement he thanked all who had prayed for both him and the Episcopalian church. He reminded each and every one of us of our mission to bring salvation into the here and now through the eradication of all forms of injustice and, he proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord. Finally he dared to say that the T.E.C. may well have a vocation to challenge and lead the Anglican Communion in issues relating to human sexuality and, he spoke without bitterness or rancor.

So what will determine whether the Anglican Communion has a future? I think it all comes down to the quote below  taken directly from the ‘Communique’ issued by the Primates. I suggest that on this one quote hangs the future of the Anglican Communion.

‘The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.’

Sadly, some conservative primates were, with indecent haste and little forethought, keen to stress that the precise nature of condemnation and the exercise of pastoral care should be decided upon locally. If ‘we’ really are a communion, or even a domination, this idea should be given the heave-ho. Why?

Because, the whole point of being in a communion is collective responsibility and mutual accountability. That was the rationale for excluding  the T.E.C. from active involvement in shaping the life of the communion over the next three years. 

The conservative primates simply can’t have it both ways. You are either ‘resolved to work together’ (their words) or, to work in isolation. In a communion you can’t determine your own terms and conditions. The conservative success last week was in establishing this in relation to doctrine. The liberal success was in enshrining this principle in relation to justice; specifically justice for the global LGBTI community. And it is only because both the conservative and the liberal teams (a nicer word than opponents)  were able to make partial gains that we are now in time added on for injuries.

And so, each and every primate and province faces a self-imposed, and collective, challenge namely to demonstrate to their brothers and sisters in Christ that their commitment to end violence and prejudice is concrete and real and that they don’t simply fall into the trap of saying ‘I wish you well,’ without actually doing anything to radically reduce homophobia.

The (predominately conservative) Primates have actually pledged to change the face of human history. Maybe they really mean it; maybe they need to be more careful when signing on the dotted line, but lets give them the benefit of the doubt and ask the question that arises from their amazingly bold, and collective, statement: are the primates really up for it?

If they are the Anglican Communion may have a new and better future. If their words are shallow, if they refuse to accept the principles of mutual accountability, ‘peer group review’ and the judgment of their ‘colleagues’ (even their ‘liberal’ colleagues)  despite the noblesse of the language used in the ‘Communique’ then the communion is already in a state of palliative care and deserves to be put out of its misery.

Conservative Primates over to you. You have set yourselves a hard task. It is unlikely that you are going to change your core doctrine, yet you have pledged to change human history. And, you have pledged to do it, not in isolation but together as members of a communion. You have said that you will love liberal colleague and your homosexual neighbour as yourself.

What does this mean, what does it look like, what are the specific actions that will make this a lived reality? What is grace demanding of you given the commitments you have made?  

These are your questions.

________________________________________________________________I find Andrew Lightbown’s article, referenced by Simon Sarmiento on ‘Thinking Anglicans‘, to be another very deep and thoughtful reflection – from the point of view of an admittedly gay person – on the outcome from the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury. 

Andrew’s mention of the expression of penitence for the Communion Churches’ treatment of homosexuals, by the Archbishop of Canterbury on behalf of the assembled Primates, needs to be validated by some sort of action that is consistent with that apology, or its is simply ‘a gong booming or a symbol clashing’, which Scripture tells us is useless as a tool for the implementation of Gospel justice.

Of course, the Archbishop of Uganda – bless him – was not able to live with the implications of that apology and left the Meeting before the formal communique – containing this apology – was promulgated. The reason being that his own Province of the Anglican Communion has expressed its desire that TEC be expelled from the Communion – precisely because of its innovative acceptance of homosexuals within the life and ministry of its provincial Church.

Almost as if to dodge the real issue, however, the reason for the discipline inflicted on TEC has been stated as its re-definition of the Institution of Marriage (to include Same-Sex-Unions).  Now everyone is aware that this was hardly the underlying presenting problem. Same-Sex raltionships of any sort are, and have been, a problem for Uganda and each of the GAFCON Provinces, whose institutional homophobia has been attributed to certain passages of the Bible that have been cited as authoritative – even today – as determining gender and sexuality issues in the 21st century.

Former dealings with issues of human justice – such as slavery and the equal treatment of women in the Church – have also been attributed to the authority of the Bible. However, such issues, quite rightly, have now been addressed, progressively, in the context of an enlightened view of society. The Church, which has been erected on biblical ideals of justice underpinning the treatment of society’s most vulnerable, needs to keep up with current understandiongs of what justice means for every sector of society, and that includes those who are unjustly marginalised for something they have no control over – their sexual orientation.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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