Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has attended a meeting of the Clergy Consultation - a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex clergy and their partners.
Dr Williams yesterday (29 November 2007) presided and preached at a service of Holy Communion and later addressed the members present, responding to questions.
The Rev Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude, has been a member of the Consultation since 1979 and was Convenor from 1994 to 1997, and was present at the meeting. The Consultation meets under Chatham House rules, which specify that comments made must remain non-attributable.
Coward commented: “The Archbishop of Canterbury met with over 80 members of the Consultation yesterday. He preached on the lectionary readings for the day, A Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church. He then spoke to the members present about the constraints which are affecting the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. He responded to questions and listened to our response."
The Changing Attitude director continued: “The Archbishop addressed us in his sermon and his remarks which followed as mature, adult Christians. As Director of Changing Attitude, I felt that the tensions we experience in our work was acknowledged by Dr Williams. We experience ourselves as being at the centre of an intense dispute about the presence of LGBT Christians in our Communion."
He went on: “Changing Attitude represents people in diverse parts of our Communion and at every level of the church, from grass roots lay members of a congregation to those in the episcopate. We endeavour to engage with those who disagree radically with us. I received encouragement from the Archbishop to continue in this endeavour. Changing Attitude believes that the Anglican Communion can maintain its traditional character of generous inclusion as we engage across apparently intractable difference. We can do this when we acknowledge the integrity of those with whom we disagree and relate to them as adult members of our Church."
Mr Coward said: “Some reactions to yesterday’s meeting fail to acknowledge the reality that at every Eucharist, Christians may well be receiving communion in the company of faithfully partnered lesbian and gay Anglicans. The priest presiding at the Eucharist may well be a partnered lesbian or gay man. We were not and are not invisible to our chief pastor, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“The eighty who were present yesterday represent the tiny tip of a huge iceberg. There are over 1,000 LGBT priests in the Church of England. If every LGBT clergy person were to be inhibited from their ministry tomorrow, the Church of England would be thrown into crisis. The majority of bishops will be able to identify the parishes and areas of sector ministry which would be vacated were all their lesbian and gay clergy to be prevented from preaching or taking services this coming Sunday.
“LGBT clergy are spread across every Province of the Anglican Communion. We are not only to be met in western liberal Provinces. As Changing Attitude Nigeria has demonstrated, there are tens of thousands of LGBT people in Provinces of the global south. Indeed, the majority of LGBT Anglicans are to be found in the global south. The personal testimony of Changing Attitude Nigeria members also reveals that there are numerous gay male clergy in the Church of Nigeria, and this will be true of every Province."
He concluded: “We are mostly invisible. Primates, bishops, priests and lay people will be unaware that their parish priest, preacher or chaplain is a gay man or a lesbian. We remain invisible because of the intense prejudice expressed by many Christians towards us and because of the hostile environment in many societies. The Consultation provides a safe place in which clergy and partners can meet in confidence and talk openly about our lives and vocations. To meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday was both a privilege and an appropriate opportunity to engage in listening to one another in the presence of God in the context of worship and prayer.”