The Archbishop of Canterbury’s reflections on the Episcopal Church’s 2009 General Convention are going to satisfy very few, if any, people. Perhaps that’s the intention.
Conservatives posting on Stand Firm think this is just a form of words to ‘suggest’ TEC is little bit ‘hasty but not wrong while the rest of the communion is just slow and dumb. Conservatives think +Rowan Williams and +Katherine Jefferts Shori are allies. The Archbishop is judged to be not orthodox but 100% liberal to his core and in grave theological and moral error throughout, determined to keep TEC in the family, no matter what, and willing to redefine the Anglican Communion in order to do so.
On Thinking Anglicans Fr Mark, a partnered gay priest, comments that he was:
“brought up in a Church of England which has all my life surrounded me with partnered gay priests and laypeople. I find this really horribly and personally offensive in its degree of failure to recognise the lived reality of members of the Church of England. According to this statement, no-one living in a same-sex relationship can ‘have a representative function’ in the Church. That means farewell to partnered gay singers, organists, teachers in church schools, as well as clergy in civil partnerships.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury says: “ … no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ.” We in CA agree with that. The “particularly bitter and unpleasant atmosphere of the debate over sexuality, in which unexamined prejudice is still so much in evidence and accusations of bad faith and bigotry are so readily thrown around” which the Archbishop describes is bitter and prejudiced exactly because of the church’s traditional teaching about homosexuality.
He then recommends a course of action which does just that – reinforces prejudice and questions human dignity and our place in the Body of Christ. The Archbishop writes that it is hard to see how a partnered lesbian or gay person “can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate” requires because “a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle.”
That puts the Archbishop of Canterbury at odds not just with the supporters of Changing Attitude but with the majority of the bishops, priests and lay people of the Church of England. Members of our congregations no longer believe that the church can draw lines where it used to. The CofE I know has always ordained partnered lesbian and gay people. Bishops have turned a blind eye to the partners of lesbian and gay clergy. With the advent of Civil Partnerships the majority and priests and laity can see no reason why the church should not bless those unions and that is true even of FoCA and HTB churches. Couples are welcome by most congregations who see no reason why faithfully partnered people should not be ordained and minister to them.
If the process of accepting the Anglican Covenant, and the Covenant itself, is intended to impose the teaching of Lambeth 1.10 for the indefinite future then Changing Attitude is totally opposed to the Covenant. We will work with our partners in the church to ensure that the Church of England never adopts a Covenant designed to inhibit our full place in the church of God.
With our brothers and sisters in the USA and Canada, we refuse to accept the imposition of a moratorium on our place in the church. We are here now, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, single and partnered, lay and ordained. Our sexual identity is not malleable but as with every person, we hope to mature with age.
We are not leaving the church, not denying our orders, not abandoning the love and intimacy of our partners to whom we remain more faithful than the church is faithful to us.
One trustee of Changing Attitude identified three things in the Reflections that make life impossible for LGBT Anglicans:
1. Does the Archbishop really and truly expect LGBT Anglicans living in 21st century western countries to wait a matter of decades until churches entrenched in deeply homophobic African cultures have come to terms with same-sex relationships before we are allowed to form relationships?
2. Does the Archbishop really expect those of us living in long-term relationships, whether the church recognises them or not, to break up with our partners and live solitary lives, even though there is nothing in our conscience or our own theology which would suggest it was a bad thing? Or is he happy for us to lead those ‘lifestyles’, as he puts it, as long as we keep them separate from our church and our God?
3. In paragraph 14 the Archbishop talks about a local church becoming ‘isolated and imprisoned in its own cultural environment’. At the moment the Church of England is isolated and imprisoned from her own cultural environment. We are being expected to cling onto outdated and desperately damaging prejudices from our past, which impair and undermine our mission to our own society. What use is a church which is ‘in communion’ with churches overseas, but is a laughing stock and a peddler of bigotry within its own constituency?