It is difficult to keep track of developments and announcements being made by conservatives in the Anglican Communion at the moment. They come with such frequency that it is almost impossible to isolate one development and comment on the implications of what is proposed. Ultimately however, there is only one possible outcome – the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in every Province.
One of the most recent developments is the offer of an ecclesiastical home in the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of America to conservative dioceses wanting to secede from the Episcopal Church in the United States. The offer has been made to enable the dioceses to be able to stay within the Communion until the situation is in some way or another resolved. This assumes that a diocese is able to secede from The Episcopal Church rather than bishops and individual congregations leaving the church and, as individuals, becoming part of a different Province.
Conservative groups within the Anglican Communion focus on the election and consecration of the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire. This was the moment, they claim, when in their words the Communion was torn and The Episcopal Church began to walk apart.
There are Provinces and pressure groups within the Communion who will not allow themselves to be in communion with a bishop who is a partnered gay man, not with any partnered gay bishop, nor with a Province that has a partnered gay bishop in its House of Bishops.
Some of these Provinces (though it is really the Primates who make these decisions) will not allow a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered person to be baptised or confirmed or become a member of the Church. Nor will these Provinces or Primates allow a partnered lesbian or gay person to be ordained.
These conservative Primates have a problem. Lesbian, gay, bisexual (and in different cultural contexts, transgendered) people are present in every Province of the Anglican Communion. In every Province there are baptised and confirmed LGBT people. In every Province there are priests who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. They are invisible. Our invisibility allows bishops and Primates to imagine that they have never ordained someone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual.
On 7 November 41 Members of General Synod from 24 dioceses wrote a letter of support to Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh and his fellow Bishops in the Common Cause Council of Bishops. Ten representatives from conservative organisations also signed the letter. At least one of the 52 who signed is a partnered gay man. His profile is low enough to allow the pretence that conservatives are able to exclude such a person from their midst. As conservatives realignment themselves, in England and elsewhere, they do so under the illusion that there are no partnered LGBT people in ministry in their churches or organisations.
The Anglican Communion is not engaged in a final solution – the removal of LGBT people from the Church. It is impossible. Conservatives seem to believe they can form a church in which LGBT will not be ordained as priest or bishop. Some may think it is possible to prevent a lesbian, gay or bisexual person from being baptised, confirmed or elected to a church council. Preventing these things is impossible.
There is only one possible outcome for the current crisis in the Anglican Communion – the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the church, in lay ministry, as priests and as bishops, in every Province. This is the only possible outcome because we are already fully present, if invisible, across the Anglican Communion. This is the objective towards which Changing Attitude is working.
The conservative position is maintained because they live with a number of unexamined assumptions. Dioceses and parishes think they can realign themselves with other dioceses or Provinces and protect themselves from involvement with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. They cannot. Eventually, every Province, led by the Spirit of God, will change attitude and accept and welcome the ministry of LGBT people.