Inclusive Anglicans give guarded OK to Anglican Primates compromise

By staff writers
February 21, 2007

For the past 48 hours the websites, newsgroups and email lists of Anglicans across the world have been abuzz with analysis, argument and counter-argument concerning the outcome of the Anglican Primates (heads of provinces) meeting in Tanzania, which ended earlier this week.

Some are interpreting it as a victory for the conservatives, because the US Episcopal Church (TEC) is being required to give definitive assurances that it will not consecrate bishops in same-sex partnerships or give official blessing to lesbian and gay relationships while the issue remains contested within the church.

It is also being asked to recognise a system of oversight which attenuates the Presiding Bishop's position, is chaired by a Canterbury nominee and has appointees from elsewhere in the 78-milion strong global Communion.

Others argue that the joint system of pastoral provision for TEC anti-gay dissidents is a blow against secessionists and those seeking to interfere with the US church from the outside. They also point to the breadth of the draft 'covenant' for global Anglicanism, which has been commended for a lengthy process of consideration. And they point out that those wanting to exclude Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori altogether not only failed, but have had to accept her as a representative of the Americas on the Primates' standing committee.

Some on the so-called liberal wing of the church are nevertheless angry about what they see as a major compromise underming the dignity of lesbian and gay Christians, and the UK's daily Guardian newspaper attacked the outcome as spineless and unprincipled today - a point echoed from the opposite direction by hardline conservatives. Centrist evangelicals seem the most satisfied overall.

Meanwhile other progressives are seeking to give the Dar es Salaam deal a guarded welcome. Both the Inclusive Church ( network of broad Anglicans, and Changing Attitude England, an association of theose pushing for full acceptance of LGBT people within the the life and ministry of the church, have declared that they "commend the work the primates have done to further the mission of the church and to strengthen the bonds of the Anglican Communion. In particular we value the progress achieved on the listening process and the Anglican Covenant."

Changing Attitude added: "The Anglican Communion can never come to an integrated teaching on human sexuality until it has listened with open mind and heart to our experience and Christian testimony. We subscribe to a high Christian sexual and relational ethic. We object outright to the idea that it is possible to divide our innate sexual identity as lesbian and gay people from what the church insists on calling 'genital activity'. Like heterosexuals we believe the love between two mature adults should be expressed in a faithful, life-long partnership in which sexual expression is integral."

The group continued: "The Episcopal Church is not alone in having many faithful lesbian and gay couples who seek God's blessing on their relationship. We know that in England, the USA and Canada as well as other Provinces, priests will continue to find ways to bless such relationships. If the church can condone the blessing of so many inanimate objects, it is surely right to bless the love of two people of the same gender. We pray for the day when the church can support the authorisation of same-sex blessings."

The full statment from Inclusive Church is as follows: "We acknowledge the huge complexity of the issues which the Primates of the [Anglican] Communion brought to Tanzania and the fears and expectations which surrounded the meeting.

"In that context we congratulate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow Primates on their achievement of a united communiqué. We are acutely aware that compromises have been made by all sides. This is a sign of the great generosity of those present at the meeting.

"There is a cost to discipleship and sometimes it is high. The cost demanded of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is immense, and has been for generations. The continuing failure of the Communion to address the pastoral needs and receive the ministerial gifts and insights of the whole community is part of that cost.

"The heart of the Gospel for us is not about sexuality. The continuing arguments are damaging the Church’s mission and undermining the Gospel. Anglicanism has in its DNA the ability to embrace diversity. For example we recognise diversity over the nature of the Sacraments, in worship, and in the interpretation of scripture.

"Why then are parts of the church so obsessed by the single issue of homosexuality? It is not a defining issue nor can it be the benchmark of orthodoxy.

"We are pleased that the ‘listening process’ called for by the Windsor Report is receiving serious attention from the Primates, as is the consideration of a common hermeneutical method. But the listening process must not be a sop to lesbian and gay people and their supporters. It cannot be undertaken without those involved being open to the possibility of change. So far there is little evidence of that openness.

As the debate becomes more disconnected from the reality of everyday life of those we serve, it is increasingly clear that TEC (the Epicopal Church in the USA and other nations) is becoming a scapegoat. For example, the demand for TEC to forswear same sex blessings ignores the reality that across the Church of England such blessings are happening right across the country as parish priests respond to the pastoral needs of their community.

"We acknowledge the pain experienced on all sides and we would not wish to see those who disagree with us being driven from the church. If that happened all of us would be the poorer. Therefore we commit ourselves as members of an inclusive church to continue the process of dialogue and relationship to which the Primates have called us.

"Overshadowed by the rest of the report, the Primates recommitted themselves to the Millennium Development Goals. It is clear to us that in a world riven by injustice and poverty we should be uniting in raising our voices to ensure that those goals are met so that the gospel can be proclaimed afresh for a new generation."

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