Our roots are in Christ
The group of Primates and bishops who are organising the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) to be held in the Holy Land in June 2008 claim the title ‘orthodox’ to themselves. They are holding the event in the Holy Land because it is important for them to reconnect with their roots in the biblical story.
In every generation since the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Christians, increasingly dispersed throughout the world, have connected and reconnected with our roots, women, lesbian and gay people, heterosexuals, bisexuals, transgendered people, people of all racial and ethnic identities, have returned to their roots. Our roots are in God, in the teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We connect and reconnect with the Gospel of Jesus. We, including LGBT Christians, are disciples of Jesus and faithful members of his fully inclusive community, the church.
Changing Attitude is committed to mission and evangelism. We are passionate about the truth and about our faith. We are committed to the 3.75 million LGBT Anglicans we believe to be present across the Provinces of the Communion who have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ preached to them in all its fullness, the news that God loves them as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Christians. We are committed to heterosexual Anglicans in every Province who need to discover that God welcomes their LGBT brothers and sisters, many of whom will be worshipping with them in church. Our vision of the global Anglican future is of a world-wide Communion of churches which are faithful to Christ and fully inclusive of LGBT people.
Changing Attitude seeks, in the words of GAFCON, transformation in our own lives. With our friends in Integrity and Inclusive Church, we seek to have an impact on communities and societies through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are working to confront prejudice and injustice wherever it is manifest in society and the church. In particular, we seek to educate people about prejudice against LGBT people and the unthinking or deliberately cultivated prejudice against LGBT people encountered in some bishops and Christian leaders and teachers.
Numbers are important for the organisers of GAFCON. Those who are only notional members of the CofE are discounted to enable GAFCON’s claim to represent over half of the members of the Communion to be legitimised. Changing Attitude estimates that at least 5% of the population in every country will come to be identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (LGBT). We believe this to be a realistic and conservative estimate. If the number of Anglicans is 75 million, an estimated 2.75 million of them will be LGBT. Of the 30 million Anglicans GAFCON claim to represent, an estimated 1.5 million will be LGBT.
Canon Chris Sugden states: “While [GAFCON] is not a specific challenge to the Lambeth Conference, it will provide opportunities for fellowship and care for those who have decided not to attend Lambeth.” The global south conservatives have had to prepare for the reality that many of their bishops will attend Lambeth against the wishes of their Primates. The GAFCON press release concedes this. It is a significant change of strategy from the original claim that they would boycott Lambeth if The Episcopal Church bishops were invited.
It has been humiliating in particular for the leader of the GAFCON Primates, Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. His own bishops voted by a significant majority to attend the Lambeth Conference when he was proclaiming vigorously that none of them would be present. The conscience of the Nigerian House of Bishops is divided.
GAFCON is an event for the like-minded. A gathering of the like-minded is very specifically not a Christian ideal nor part of the teaching of Jesus Christ.
The Lambeth Conference indeed has a different agenda. It will be a more authentically Christian conference. Lambeth will bring together bishops from every Province and from radically different backgrounds. It will focus primarily on equipping bishops to fulfil their leadership role in God’s mission and will continue to engage with the conflict in the church focussed on homosexuality. The wider Communion has barely begun to engage with the issue of homosexuality as yet. The Listening Process has made progress, but there is a huge amount still to do. Some Provinces have yet to acknowledge that they have lesbian and gay members in their congregations; others are refusing to engage in the listening process committed to in Lambeth 1.10 whilst continuing to selectively cite other parts of the resolution.
English bishops support GAFCON
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester and Bishop Wallace Benn of Lewes are, with Canon Chris Sugden, part of the leadership team of GAFCON. They represent a very small minority of the active members of the Church of England. The bishops are split between their commitment to lead the majority in their dioceses who are committed to Canterbury and the unity of the Anglican Communion and a new commitment to allies in the global south seeking division and power. They falsely claim to represent a majority of Anglicans world-wide and to be orthodox in faith and practice.
The participation of Bishop Wallace Benn puts him in an invidious position. He is a bishop in a diocese with one of the largest numbers of gay priests in England. Many of these priests are also partnered and sexually active.
Is Bishop Benn aware that he ministers among and to large numbers of gay priests and lay people?
If he is not, then he is naïve and his clergy are successfully hiding their sexuality and their relationships from him; his pastoral relationship with his clergy will be deficient in one of the most important areas of pastoral concern – the love people have for one another and the expression of love in intimate relationships. Bishop Benn will not know the truth about his own clergy.
If he is aware of his gay clergy, then he is compromised. He has allied himself with Primates and bishops who are opposed to the ordination and ministry of partnered lesbian and gay clergy. He is committed to Issues in Human Sexuality, Lambeth 1.10 and the House of Bishop’s Guidelines on Civil Partnerships but he fails to act against his own clergy who reject the advice of these documents.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has lesbian and gay clergy in his own diocese of Rochester and will be subject to the same compromise and judgement. If he knows who his lesbian and gay clergy are, he does nothing to discipline them. If he does not know who they are, he fails them pastorally.
Is this all over a gay bishop?
The leaders of GAFCON are trying to make a presentational change to the conservative agenda. This is not about a gay bishop, says the answer to one of their notional questions. Changing Attitude asks whether or not GAFCON is about the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered lay people and priests in the Anglican Communion. We do not believe that LGBT people would be welcome at the GAFCON event. We believe, contrary to their assertion, that they are Anglicans united around their opposition to homosexuality – united by prejudice.
Changing Attitude and others who support an inclusive church believe this to be true because the things which the GAFCON organisers claim distinguish them from others in the Communion are actually things which they have in common with much of the Communion but from which they wish to distance themselves.
We in Changing Attitude are already working for growth, growth of people in their faith in Jesus Christ and in love for one another; growth of congregations in maturity; growth in Christian wisdom and vision, attracting others to follow Christ; growth in the outreach of the church, bringing the love and compassion of God to the world.
We are already passionate about the truth; passionate about the truth of the Christian Gospel, the gospel lived and preached by Jesus Christ, as we worship in the mixed company of Jesus’ disciples in a church which is all embracing in its inclusive acceptance.
We are already looking to the future. We are looking for change in the church, in every Province, a change of attitude towards LGBT people. We are looking to the day when every Province welcomes LGBT as full members of the church, blesses our relationships and authorises our ministry.
A split in the church?
Members of Changing Attitude are committed Anglicans. Our work is supported by senior bishops and lay people, LGBT and heterosexual. We are committed to the unity of the church, to a church which is diverse, to the radical inclusion of all people.
We are witnessing the growth of new bonds across the Communion as LGBT groups and networks form in a growing number of Provinces. New bonds are being formed between churches of the north and the global south. We are people who have something distinctive to say to the world. God is one, and calls his people to be one in faith and love. We are participating in the loosening and strengthening of bonds across the Communion as God calls the weak, the rich, the marginalised, the oppressed, to inherit the Kingdom.
Reverend Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude England
Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England
Tel. Office: 01380 724908
Mobile: 07770 844302
Information last updated on 31