Ten bishops chosen to reflect on sex 

by Madeleine Davies and Tim Wyatt

CHURCH TIMES – Posted: 15 Sep 2016 @ 14:30

Click to enlarge

Bishop Graham James and the ABC in Norwich 2014

 

THE next stage of the Church of England’s debate on same-sex relations will be in the hands of a “Bishops’ reflection group on sexuality”, it was announced on Thursday.

A statement issued at the end of the meeting of the College of Bishops said that the Archbishops had “invited some bishops to take forward work on sexuality to assist the episcopal discernment process”.

The group of ten bishops will be chaired by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, and includes three women: the Bishop of Stockport, the Rt Revd Libby Lane; the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally; and the Church’s newest bishop, the Bishop of Dorking, the Rt Revd Jo Wells, who took up her position this week.

The group also contains a traditionalist, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall, and a conservative Evangelical, the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas.

The terms of reference of the group were published on Friday. They include assisting the C of E’s bishops in their reflection on sexuality following the Shared Conversations, which began in 2014 and concluded at the General Synod in July (News, 11 March, 12 July).

The brief statement about the group’s tasks includes coming up with questions for the House of Bishops on sexuality, especially same-sex relationships — and to formulate possible answers to these questions.

When the House next convenes in November to consider issues around sexuality, they will use material created by the reflection group.

Finally, the terms of reference state that the group must also “consider any matter which the Archbishops request that the group should have on its agenda”.

As for timing, the earlier statement said that the “new process of episcopal discernment” will continue during the House’s next meetings in November and December, and then the subject will return to the College of Bishops in January.

The ten bishops will be supported by a number of high-profile officials from the Church, including William Nye, the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council and General Synod; Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chief of staff; and the Revd Dr Malcolm Brown, the director of mission and public affairs at Church House.

 

The full membership of the reflection group is:

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James (Chair)

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent (Vice-Chair)

The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Revd Jonathan Goodall

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson

The Bishop of Stockport, the Rt Revd Libby Lane

The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley

The Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas

The Bishop of Dorking the Rt Revd Jo Wells

 

Full statement:

“As is the usual pattern of meetings of the College every third year the College of Bishops are joined for part of their meeting by bishops from the Scottish Episcopal Church, Church of Ireland and Church in Wales. Representatives from each of the sister churches made presentations to the college and engaged fully in discussions during the first days of the meeting.

A wide-ranging agenda included presentations and discussions on safeguarding, the Renewal and Reform programme, the post-Brexit political landscape, clergywomen in leadership, clergy well-being and issues of sexuality.

“Discussions on issues of sexuality took place as part of a new process of episcopal discernment which will continue during the meetings of the House of Bishops in November and December of this year and in January next year at the next meeting of the College of Bishops. These discussions were undertaken by the College of Bishops alone.

Whilst the process of episcopal discernment is in the public domain the Bishops agreed that the contents of their discussion should not be shared in public during the process so as to enable those discussions to be conducted freely and in a spirit of full collegiality. Consequently the contents of the conversations will remain private and participants have agreed not to comment on the contents of the discussions beyond their own views.

Following the conclusion of the Shared Conversations process the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited some bishops to take forward work on sexuality to assist the episcopal discernment process. The Bishops’ Reflection Group on Sexuality will be chaired by Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich. The full membership of the group and its terms of reference will be published in due course.”

 

Terms of Reference

  • To assist the Bishops of the Church of England in their reflection on issues relating to human sexuality, in the light of theological, biblical, ecumenical, Anglican Communion, pastoral, missiological, historical and societal considerations bearing on these issues, and following experiences of the shared conversations held around the Church between 2014 and 2016.
  • To assist the House of Bishops in identifying questions in relation to human sexuality, with particular reference to same-sex relationships. It will also develop possible answers to those questions for the House to consider, as a contribution to the leadership which the House provides to the Church on such issues.
  • To provide material to assist the House of Bishops in its reflections in November 2016, and subsequently as requested, and to assist the House in its development of any statements on these matters which it may provide to the wider Church.
  • To consider any matter which the Archbishops request that the group should have on its agenda.
  • ___________________________________________________________

It’s easy to see that there is no such thing as ‘proportional representation’ in the Church of Englands’s ‘think-tanks’ – at least, not as far as the furthering of conversations about the inclusion of LGBTI people goes. Interestingly, while there were women clergy co-opted into meetings of the House of Bishops prior to the recent Women Bishops legislation, there has been no such inclusion of gay bishops into this group appointed to sort out the ‘problem’ of Gays in the Church.

Despite the much-trumpeted ‘Conversation on Human Sexuality’ – which included voices from the actual minority of Church people involved as the subject of discussion on the grounds of whether, or not, they are welcome in the Church – the expected follow-up conversation in the House of Bishops will be hindered by the fact that the number(10) of bishops who have been chosen by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to form an advisory group to the H.o.B. does not include (at least knowingly) one single Gay Bishop.

Surely, as the Archbishops already are aware of one Out-Gay Bishop (+ Bishop Nicholas of Grantham, whose sexual orientation and live-in partnership was actually known to them before his recent episcopal ordination), it would have afforded more of a balance to the further ‘conversation’ to at least have included this one bishop within its circle?

However, it would seem that outward appearance (like that of exclusive heterosexuality of serving clergy in the Church) is more important than the reality of the fact that there are serving gay clergy and bishops in the Church of England who, for employment reasons alone, are loth to make public their sexual orientation. If only the archbishops – having already announced that it is not wrong to be intrinsically gay – there might be more clergy and even bishops who would ‘come out of the closet’ and help resolve the current dilemma.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

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Archbishop of Wales speaks on Homosexuality

Archbishop Barry Morgan addressed the Governing Body of the Church in Wales today.

Press Release from the Church in Wales:

Studying the Bible in its full context can lead to a very different view of same-sex relationships than that traditionally held by the Church, the Archbishop of Wales said today (SEPT 14).

In his final address to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, responded to claims that he and his fellow bishops had been “swayed by the liberal culture of our age” and “ignored Holy Scripture” in issuing prayers earlier this year that could be said with same-sex couples following their civil partnership or marriage.

He showed how the Bible had more than one view on homosexuality, as well as other important issues, as the authors of its books developed and changed their opinions. To understand God’s will, he suggested, meant seeing the different views in the context of the Bible as a whole, and, in particular, the ministry of Jesus.

Dr Morgan, who will retire in January, said, “It absolutely will not do to quote texts from parts of the Bible in a simplistic way without reference to their contexts. One has to treat the Bible as a whole and discern, often through stories, the direction in which it is leading. Holy Scripture, in other words, contains not just ethical injunctions but stories, and stories convey truth about peoples’ understanding of God. After all, Jesus spent most of His life telling stories to get people to understand the nature and character of God.”

He compared biblical interpretations of same-sex relationships with those of slavery – a practice once defended by the Church. As opinions on that changed, he suggested, so may the Church’s view on same-sex relationships.

“In spite of all the passages in favour of slavery, when you examine the Scriptures as a whole and the ministry of Jesus in particular, you realise it is about freedom from all that diminishes and dehumanises people. No Christian I hope would today argue that slavery is good, but for nineteen centuries the Church accepted it and defended it. God through His Holy Spirit has led us into the truth of seeing things in a totally different way today and we are rightly horrified when we read about people who have been kept as slaves by others.

“What all this amounts to is that one cannot argue that there is one accepted traditional way of interpreting Scripture that is true and orthodox and all else is modern revisionism, culturally conditioned. Scripture itself is diverse and theological views held in some biblical books are reshaped in the light of experience by other writers….

“So taking the Bible as a whole and taking what it says very seriously may lead us into a very different view of same-sex relationships than the one traditionally upheld by the Church…..

“Given that each of the passages purported to be about homosexuality can be interpreted in more than one way, we come to the fundamental question as to whether taking the Bible as a whole, we can come to the same conclusions about committed, faithful, loving, same-sex relationships as we did about slavery.

“We are not thereby abandoning the Bible but trying to interpret it in a way that is consistent with the main thrust of the ministry of Jesus, who went out of His way to minister to those who were excluded, marginalised, and abandoned by His society because they were regarded as impure and unholy by the religious leaders of His day, either because of their gender, age, morality or sexuality. Taking Holy Scripture seriously means paying attention to Jesus’ ministry of inclusivity.”

The Archbishop concluded his address by quoting from a book edited by Andrew Davison, called Amazing Love:

“We are most truly ourselves when we live for others and we discovered that most people flourish best when this living for others finds its focus in a commitment to one other person: when a couple make a lifelong commitment within which sex properly belongs.”

He said, “Those of us who were or are married have found that to be the case. Why would we want to deny such a possibility for those who are attracted to their own gender?”

The full text of the address is available here.

______________________________________________________________

Thanks to Simon Sarmiento, of ‘Thinking Anglicans’, for this report of a Statement made to the governing Body of the Church in Wales, which includes this thoughtful paragraph about the proper use of the Bible:

“Dr Morgan, who will retire in January, said, “It absolutely will not do to quote texts from parts of the Bible in a simplistic way without reference to their contexts. One has to treat the Bible as a whole and discern, often through stories, the direction in which it is leading. Holy Scripture, in other words, contains not just ethical injunctions but stories, and stories convey truth about peoples’ understanding of God. After all, Jesus spent most of His life telling stories to get people to understand the nature and character of God.”

Sadly, much of the controversy around the Anglican world is based on a basic but common misunderstanding of the tenor of Christian Scripture, which reveals Christ as the ‘Word-made-flesh’, who, in himself, fulfilled all the requirements of the past religious tradition of Israel, and in the process inaugurated a New Commandment theology, bringing with it a new perspective on God’s eirenic dealings with humankind – based on Love of God (derived from God’s love for us) and love of oneself and one’s neighbour with like felicity.

Jesu’s greatest struggles were with the ‘Sola Scriptura’ people of his own day, whose ideas were confined to the Jewish traditions in which they had been taught by the Scribes and Pharisees. For this liberality, Jesus was crucified.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It will not do to quote texts from parts of the Bible in a simplistic way without reference to their contexts. One has to treat the Bible as a whole and discern, often through stories, the direction in which it is leading. Holy Scripture, in other words, contains not just ethical injunctions but stories, and stories convey truth about peoples’ understanding of God. After all, Jesus spent most of His life telling stories to get people to understand the nature and character of God.”

The rest of his retiring address needs to be read in this context; that the Bible can be wrongly used to shore up ancient prejudices – often originating in the cultural milieu of the time in which the separate and individual books that comprise the Scriptures were written.

Of course, to the fundamentalist, conservative ‘Sola Scriptura’ advocates in today’s Church, this might seem like apostasy. But to Biblical Scholars and to those who experience the ‘Great love of God as revealed in the Son’,  through the ‘Word-made-flesh’ in Jesus Christ of the Gospels; such a discipline merely repeats the shibboleths of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus, himself, had to battle with, in order to bring the Good News to all people, including the Gentiles.on Wednesday, 14 September 2016. It could be said that Jesus was put to death because of their intransigence on this important issue.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Dear… the next LGBT St Anselmer

While my Year in God’s Time is over, a new cohort of the Community of St Anselm will this week be moving in to Lambeth Palace, being measured up for their albs, and wondering what on earth th…

Source: Dear… the next LGBT St Anselmer

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Good News – from Manchester

Welcoming Signs

by the Rt Revd David Walker, Bishop of Manchester

peter-steiner-man-standing-at-the-gates-of-heaven-where-a-sign-reads-heaven-a-gated-c-new-yorker-cartoon

A few weeks ago, in the middle of an afternoon social event for retired clergy and their companions, I noticed a small number of people had wandered out of the house and were standing just outside the front door.  The weather being unusually damp for Manchester(!) the house was fairly packed, but the reason for their exodus was not overcrowding.  This particular group of guests came into that most modern category of social pariahs; they were the smokers.  They had understood, without a word being spoken, that their welcome did not include the ability to light up in my hall, dining room or study.

The notion of “welcome” is rightly finding its way to the centre of current discussions of Anglican theology.  It’s a good, strong and soundly biblical concept.  It takes us well away from the politically fashionable but profoundly unwelcoming notion of “tolerance” – a word that it’s worth remembering the bible uses only occasionally, and then in a deeply negative context.

The verb “welcome” sets up a distinction between its subject, “the welcomer”, and its object, “the one being welcomed”.  In the ubiquitous road signs, “Anytown welcomes careful drivers”, for example, there is a clear sense that the one issuing the welcome is both a separate entity from the one being welcomed and may also determine the limits and boundaries to that welcome.  Yet for Christians, what must come first and be paramount is God’s welcome, made flesh in Christ.  The nails that once held Jesus on the cross now fix God’s “welcome” sign to the doors of heaven, from where none can displace it.  It’s a welcome with no condition attached other than that we accept it and allow both it and him to transform our lives.

The Church, as God’s church, should seek to place no greater limitation on its welcome than Christ himself does.  When we welcome, that welcome is not simply ours but is our attempt to convey God’s own welcome to others.  Moreover, in our initiation liturgy, something beautiful happens.   We say to the newly baptised, “We welcome you into the fellowship of faith; we are children of the same heavenly Father; we welcome you.” From the moment of baptism the ones being welcomed have changed into those who are no longer guests but fully part of the “Body of Christ”.  They are now numbered among all who proclaim and incarnate God’s welcome, not simply the recipients of it.  We cannot claim the right to say to those welcomed in baptism, “This is our house; you are welcome, but only on our terms”, any more than they can demand to impose the same requirement on us.

Yet as we move from the Church as a metaphysical entity to more local expressions, from denominations to house groups, that welcome will necessarily be constrained in various ways.  The particular boundaries to welcome of the Church of England are set out succinctly in the Oaths and Declarations made by clergy prior to taking up any new ministry.  They put forward the delicate balance between our inheritance of faith and the requirement to proclaim it “afresh” in the new and previously unimagined circumstances of each and every generation.  We who must personally make the oaths and subscribe the statements are not required to interpret them in any more specific way.  Much is properly left to our own consciences and integrity, as we are challenged to live out and issue our welcome within our local circumstances.

More locally, we have, in the Diocese of Manchester, churches that offer a particular welcome to those who need or want to worship in languages other than English.  We have churches that hold activities that especially welcome those with dementia.  And of course we have the full range of Anglican churchmanship across the piece.  What our welcome can’t do is offer everything, to everyone, everywhere, all the time.  Some very specific welcomes, for example to those whose names appear on the Sex Offenders Register, may need to be particularly tailored to the most appropriate environments.

These constraints however are entirely missional.  More specifically they are about how we configure ourselves for mission in our own immediate situation, recognising that the missional contexts of others will differ from and, by God’s grace, complement ours.  To this end we might seek to embrace the notion of “mutual flourishing” that respects the welcome that others are able to give to those we do not ourselves reach.

“Welcome” then, is an extremely valuable concept, well worth further exploration.  The key is to remember that it belongs first to God and then to the whole of the baptised.  We may need to tailor it to our specific missional context, but in doing so we do well to keep in mind and in prayer those who are living out God’s welcome in other places, yet are joined in Christ with us.

Cartoon by Peter Steiner – Man Standing At the Gates of Heaven

_________________________________________________________________

For me, the pivotal description of God’s welcome to ALL is contained in this little gem from Bishop David Walker’s  (+Manchester’s) article here:

“….for Christians, what must come first and be paramount is God’s welcome, made flesh in Christ.  The nails that once held Jesus on the cross now fix God’s “welcome” sign to the doors of heaven, from where none can displace it.  It’s a welcome with no condition attached other than that we accept it and allow both it and him to transform our lives.”

In yesterday’s Sermons at SMAA, Christchurch, we had two exemplary instances of this sort of welcome; based on the theme of the Sunday which concerned the Lost Coin; the Lost Sheep and, by inference, the Prodigal Son. The seeker in these parables of Jesus was obviously God; who searched diligently for that which was ‘Lost’, on each occasion, not giving up on the object of the search until it was found.

God’s  unrelenting, unconditional love is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel, seeking the lost, the lonely and those on the margins of society and the Church needs, sometimes, to be reminded of that sacred mission.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Australian Anglicans will accept Marriage Equality Plebiscite

Anglican church says it will accept results of marriage equality plebiscite

Head of the church likens situation to acceptance of state recognition of de facto relationships, but insists its Christian doctrine will not change

Marriage equality rally
Supporters at a marriage equality rally in Sydney last month. The head of the Anglican church in Australia says it will accept the results of a plebiscite. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

In a letter to the nation’s Anglican bishops, the Melbourne archbishop Philip Freier also threw his weight behind a plebiscite, saying the government had a mandate for the policy and it would make the social reform easier to accept.

On Friday, Freier wrote that he personally “welcomes the plebiscite, though with strong reservations that we must guard the tenor of the debate, and keep it positive”.

He noted uncertainty over whether a plebiscite would be held because of parliamentary opposition, but said the government had campaigned on it and after being re-elected had “the reasonable expectation of honouring this commitment”.

The plebiscite faces an uncertain future – the Greens and Nick Xenophon Team are pledging to block it and Labor is highly likely to do the same.

If it is held, Christians should “vote according to their conscience and their view of what is best for society”, Freier said.

“It is proper to expect that the parliament should honour the results of the plebiscite.

“Should the vote be in favour of same-sex marriage as suggested by the opinion polls, the church must accept that this is now part of the landscape.”

The most recent opinion poll, by Essential, found 62% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage.

“We can still stand for and offer holy matrimony between a man and a woman as a sacred ordinance given by God, while accepting that the state has endorsed a wider view of marriage,” Freier said, likening it to acceptance of state recognition of de facto relationships.

He said Christian doctrine “remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman” and it was “unlikely” the Anglican church would revise its doctrine.

“But that said, the church also understands the desire of two people to express their commitment of love and self-sacrifice to each other and that Christians have not always shown the respect or perspective they should.”

Freier said the church should be “more pastorally sensitive” about the feelings of LGBTI people but it was “not only Christians who have sometimes failed” to refrain from “harsh or vilifying” language.

In a statement, the spokesman for LGBTI rights group Just Equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, said: “Just because archbishop Freier wants a plebiscite to be respectful doesn’t mean it will be.

“We are already seeing hateful flyers and pamphlets being distributed and this will increase a hundred-fold during a plebiscite.

“I would expect the church to accept a positive plebiscite result but I would also expect it to accept a majority vote in parliament,” Hinton-Teoh said.

He dismissed Freier’s claim that the government had a mandate for a plebiscite, citing the lack of details about it before the election.

The Australian Marriage Equality faith outreach coordinator, Francis Voon, said it welcomed the statement.

“We strongly agree with the archbishop that the introduction of civil marriage equality in Australia will have no negative impact on religious marriage,” he said.

Voon said the letter also endorsed the view that religious people “can support marriage equality in good conscience”.

“Like the archbishop we share his belief in the value of life-long committed relationships and the simple desire of two people wanting to build a secure future,” he said.

“Regardless of the pathway to achieving marriage equality, we join with the archbishop and call for a positive and respectful national discussion on the issue.”

The Australian Christian Lobby managing director, Lyle Shelton, told Guardian Australia it was a “statement of the obvious” that the church would have to abide by a legal change to the marriage law.

He refuted the suggestion that the letter undermined the ACL’s argument that same-sex marriage would impinge on religious freedom or undermine traditional marriage.

“Freedoms have been taken away in countries like the US, Canada, Ireland and the UK where dozens of people have been fined or taken to court because of their beliefs about marriage,” he said.

Asked about the civility of a plebiscite debate, Shelton said: “I agree. Everyone should be respectful.”

_________________________________________________________________

In the furore currently being whipped up across the Tasman in Australia, about the possibility of a Plebiscite on Equal Marriage Provisions by the Australian Parliament, the Anglican Archbishop of Australia, Melbourne archbishop Philip Freier, has called for a respectful and open discussion of the subject – while yet stating that the Church’s position on Marriage as between two people of the opposite sex will not change.

What would be different is that the Church would respect whatever the Government decides to do in this important matter of social justice; giving due respect to the law of the land. 

While advocates of a change in the law may fear a negative feedback from those opposed to Equal Marriage in Australia, presuming that they may try to stir up further bitter opposition in hateful campaigns against E.M.  – and there may be a real danger of this happening –  the decision whether, or not, to hold a Plebiscite (a country-wide opinion poll) is in the hands of the Parliamentary parties and, if this goes ahead, the Church, says Doctor Freier, will have no option but to go along with the decision. 

It seems that Mr. Fraser’s Liberal Party will not allow for a straight debate in the Australian Parliament that would most likely vote for the new legislation to allow Equal Marriage but, whatever the outcome, the Anglican Church will accept the consequences without necessarily altering its existing constitution on Marriage.

This seems to be the only way in which the Anglican Church in Australia can live with the reality of an emerging  demand for Equal Marriage

Father Ron SDmith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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LGBTI Mission: Statement about the Bishop of Grantham

The LGBTI Mission welcomes the openness that Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain has shown in revealing personal information about himself, while we deplore the media threat which has led to the need for…

Source: LGBTI Mission: Statement about the Bishop of Grantham

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‘Conversations’ – Task Group Meets

Anglican Communion Task Group holds first meeting to “maintain conversation”

Posted on: September 8, 2016 3:52 PM

Members of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s task group gather at the Anglican Communion Office in London for their first meeting.
Photo Credit: ACNS

[ACNS, by Adrian Butcher] The Task Group set up after the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting in January to “maintain conversation” has met for the first time and stressed its determination to work together. But it acknowledged the process would take time and could not be rushed.

The Primates asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint the group to restore relationships, rebuild mutual trust, heal the legacy of hurt and explore deep differences. Archbishop Welby presented the group’s mandate to ACC16 in Lusaka in April where it was received and affirmed. This week seven members of the group have been meeting in London. An eighth joined in via video conferencing.

“What we are trying to do here is mirror what we desire for the whole Communion,” said the Coadjutor Bishop of Huron in Canada, the Rt Revd Linda Nicholls. “We are trying to practise in our engagement with each other here what we long for in the wider Communion.”

Archbishop Ian Ernest, from the Province of the Indian Ocean, said exchanges within the group had been frank and open.

“What has come out very clearly is the level of transparency that we have in the group. We have been able to be open and speak openly about our differences,” he said. “We also recognise the richness of the Communion. And we all love our Communion – that is what binds us together.”

The Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, Bishop Sarker, echoed the same theme. “Our cultures and backgrounds are very different, and we express our spirituality differently but we are moving forwards together,” he said.

Reflecting on the diversity, Canon Rosemary Mbogo, the Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Kenya, said there was no grouping within the Communion whose views would not be listened to.

“That is really needed if we are talking about healing and walking and working together in a unified Communion,” she said. Canon Rosemary added that she had been pleased at the progress made.

“It’s gone well. We have covered a lot of ground on understanding each other and the people we represent. We have been coming to know each other by spending time together. There is definitely hope – I am convinced of that.”

Archbishop Ian agreed: “It has gone beyond my expectations,” he said.

Anglican Communion secretary general, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said he was grateful to the participants for the sacrifices they had made to attend the meeting. He welcomed the progress made in the talks.

“I am really encouraged by the depth of trust that is beginning to be seen and also the hope expressed by the participants,” he said.

The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, acknowledged that finding solutions would take time.

“Quick fixes aren’t long-term solutions,” he said. “Long-term solutions require long-term work. We are talking about relationships. You don’t build or renew or heal relationships overnight. So, we are going to take whatever time it takes – but we are going to do it.

“I was coming to London anticipating and hoping we would find ways to genuinely go deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe the closer we draw to God in Christ, the closer we are going to draw to each other.”

Asked if he felt there had been progress, Bishop Curry said, “Well, we are here and we are doing it!”

He recalled a slave spiritual song from the US. “We’ll just keep inching along, like an inchworm. The wisdom [of the song] is that the worm keeps moving forwards, slowly and steadily. Don’t expect things to happen overnight. . . We are committed to the Anglican Church. We believe in the importance of the Communion for the sake of the gospel and the world.”

The group stressed the importance of prayer in the work they were doing.

“We have committed to pray for each other,” said Archbishop Philip Freier from Australia. “There may be a sense that this is just a ‘talk-fest’. But this [prayer] is a profound action consistent with the theme.”

Canon Rosemary Mbogo agreed prayer was the foundation of the group’s work and it was vital to know the will of God for its direction.

Bishop Curry added, “Our time here has been immersed in prayer. That is always going to be a formula for a better outcome.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury formally welcomed the group and prayed for them before talks began on Tuesday. He also attended the first session during which he stressed there was no pre-set agenda and that the group was to appoint its own chair.

Dr Idowu-Fearon, hosted the group and acted as secretary. The group agreed the post of chair would rotate around the membership. The ninth member of the group, Archbishop Ng Moon Hing from the Province of South East Asia was unable to attend. The Moderator of the Church of South India, Bishop Govada Dyvasirvadam, will not be taking part because of allegations he is facing in India.

The group is scheduled to meet annually with additional meetings electronically. The date of the next meeting is yet to be confirmed.

_________________________________________________________________

Here we have news of the very first post- ‘Conversations on Human Sexuality’ Commission meeting to be held, involving Anglicans from different parts of the Anglican Communion.

One of the (perhaps surprising in the circumstances) most encouraging statements about progress at the meeting was given by Archbishop Ian Ernest, from the Province of the Indian Ocean, a member of the ‘Global South’ Provinces, who have collectively elected to ‘go-slow on any policies of the full inclusion of LGBTI people into the Church:

“What has come out very clearly is the level of transparency that we have in the group. We have been able to be open and speak openly about our differences,” he said. “We also recognise the richness of the Communion. And we all love our Communion – that is what binds us together.”

Other members of the Commission seem much more hopeful of the process that will, hopefully for many of us, open up the way for a more eirenic and understanding view of homosexuality and its place in the normal life of a small percentage of human beings – not only in the ‘world outside of the Church’ but also within its borders.

 

The greatest sign of HOPE, is the mention of LOVE – for the Communion and one another.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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