The response of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church ‘to questions and concerns raised by our Anglican Communion partners’ gives encouragement to members of Changing Attitude and our brothers and sisters in Integrity, representing LGBT people in many parts of our Communion.
The Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said:
“With our partners in Integrity, Changing Attitude is working towards the ending of all discrimination and prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people. This includes the official recognition of liturgies for the blessing of Civil Partnerships in church and an end to discrimination against the selection and training of LGBT people at every level of lay and ordained ministry. In England this will mean an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy still applied to clergy by many bishops, an end to LGBT Christians living dishonestly and in fear of being open, and an end to clergy and bishops living in the closet.
“There is good news in the House of Bishops’ response as well as some disappointment for LGBT Anglicans. The House has reconfirmed the call on bishops to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and have pledged as a body not to authorize public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. The bishops have fulfilled the request made by the Primates in Dar es Salaam. If conservatives continue to press for the exclusion of the Episcopal Church, transgress Provincial boundaries and decide not to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2008, they will take responsibility for provoking a tear in the Anglican Communion and will have withdrawn from the our fellowship.
“Nine years ago when resolution 1.10 was passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, a process was set in motion which will eventually transform the place of LGBT people in every Province of the Anglican Communion. The conservative minority have continually stated that such a thing as homosexuality was not known in Africa and other parts of the Communion and acceptance of homosexual relationships was contrary to the word of God and the tradition of the Church.
“Events in Nigeria and other Provinces have shown those of a conservative mindset that homosexual people are present in Anglican congregations in Africa, active in the life and ministry of our church. Their integrity and the stories they are beginning to tell to the Communion will help our church revise its understanding of homosexuality and lead to a reinterpretation of scripture and tradition.
“The bishops gathered at Canterbury in 1998, the Primates at Lambeth Palace in 2003, Dromantine in 2005 and Dar es Salaam in 2007 have repeatedly confirmed a commitment to a process of listening to the experience of LGBT people. The Episcopal Church has been criticised for short-circuiting the process and acting unilaterally rather than acknowledging mutual interdependence within the Communion. The process of listening to LGBT people is now an integral part of the work to which our Communion is committed. Changing Attitude acknowledges the contribution made by the Anglican Communion office in laying the foundation for this work, often against the determined resistance of certain Primates and Provinces.
“The bishops and Primates have acknowledged the need for ongoing study on questions of human sexuality. In making a commitment to listen and study they have set the Anglican Communion on a road towards the full inclusion of LGBT people. The end of the road will not be reached until every Province has listened and studied. The journey towards full inclusion will be long and tortuous, especially in countries with regimes where the penal code is harsh and social attitudes deeply hostile.
“Millions of LGBT people across the world live in fear for their lives and personal safety. This must be changed and transformed. With our brothers and sisters in Integrity, Changing Attitude will work towards an inclusive church in which the dignity of all people is respected, regardless of gender, sexual identity, ethnicity, caste, age, disability or economic status. We are preparing to witness together at the Lambeth Conference next year, bringing LGBT people from several Provinces to contribute our personal testimonies.”