Response to the Primates meeting

THE PRIMATES’ MEETING OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
from Inclusive Church, Changing Attitude England,
and Changing Attitude Nigeria

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Inclusive Church and Changing Attitude give a cautious welcome to the communiqué issued today by the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Dar Es Salaam. We commend the work that the primates have done to further the mission of the church and to strengthen the bonds of the Anglican Communion. In particular we value the progress achieved on the listening process and the Anglican Covenant.The standard of teaching on human sexuality set out in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998 has never been one that Christian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people have accepted. It was drafted and agreed in our absence. The bishops who drafted the original version of the Resolution refused to meet us and hear our testimony. It is not possible for us to be bound by teaching drafted by a largely male, heterosexual body of bishops. The Anglican Communion can never come to an integrated teaching on human sexuality until it has listened with open mind and heart to our experience and Christian testimony. We subscribe to a high Christian sexual and relational ethic. We object outright to the idea that it is possible to divide our innate sexual identity as lesbian and gay people from what the church insists on calling ‘genital activity’. Like heterosexuals we believe the love between two mature adults should be expressed in a faithful, life-long partnership in which sexual expression is integral.

The Primates request that the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church ‘make an unequivocal common covenant with the bishops that they will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention’. The request not to authorise any Rite of Blessing in the Episcopal Church will be an intolerable burden for LGBT Anglicans. The Episcopal Church is not alone in having many faithful lesbian and gay couples who seek God’s blessing on their relationship. We know that in England, the USA and Canada as well as other Provinces, priests will continue to find ways to bless such relationships. If the church can condone the blessing of so many inanimate objects, it is surely right to bless the love of two people of the same gender. We pray for the day when the church can support the authorisation of same-sex blessings.

The Primates also request that the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church ‘confirm that ‘a candidate for Episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent’. There is no prohibition on a single or celibate lesbian or gay priest receiving the necessary consent. Dioceses who wish to nominate a partnered lesbian or gay priest and such priests themselves are being asked to make a great personal sacrifice. In England, priests who are gay will also continue to be nominated and consecrated as bishops, as they will in other Provinces.

The Revd Giles Goddard, chair of Inclusive Church, said:”The arguments over human sexuality have been dominating the life of the Anglican Communion for too long. We need, urgently, now to find a way to move on, so that the Gospel for all people can be freshly proclaimed in a changing world. The Primates meeting has begun to show us a way forward. We trust that the Lambeth Conference will be allowed to be a restatement of the heart of Christ’s message of love for the world.”

The Revd Scott Gunn, TEC representative to Inclusive Church, said:”I am grateful that Bishop Katharine is recognised as the legitimate ecclesiastical authority in the United States. My hope is that the Anglican Communion can return to its focus on mission and evangelism. I hope they will shift the focus of attention away from a legalistic examination of the Episcopal Church towards a Gospel life of hope, reconciliation, justice and love.”

The Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said:“I rejoice that the Primates are committed to the continuing unity of our world-wide Communion of churches. We LGBT Anglicans in Changing Attitude England and Nigeria are also faithfully committed to our church. We know the pilgrimage journey to our promised land of full inclusion is going to be long and hard. There are millions of Anglicans who have yet to learn about the deep faith of LGBT people in the Lord Jesus Christ and of our lives committed to prayer, worship, justice and evangelism. We are present in every Province and country of the Anglican Communion and we want to participate in the listening process in order that our stories of faithful obedience to God can be heard. We have been misrepresented for too long. Now is the time for people across the world to learn about LGBT Anglicans in Africa, Asia and South America.”

“I am saddened that our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church have been asked to carry a burden on behalf of us all. With the Episcopal Church and the Canadian Church, we in England are also seeking honesty in the ordination of priests who are lesbian or gay priests and the consecration of bishops who are gay. We look forward to the day when we can include our lesbian sisters among those who will be consecrated as bishops in England.”

Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, said:”Our presence here in Dar Es Salaam at the Primates meeting demonstrates our loyalty to the Communion. We are committed to participating in the listening process and we want to be heard. We hope the Anglican Communion office and Canon Philip Groves, facilitator to the listening process help us communicate our experience directly to them if the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) refuses to participate.”

“My own Primate received me warmly the first time we met on Wednesday 14 February. I had hoped the next time we met we would have been able to develop our first meeting and have some conversation together but it didn’t happen. I hope we will meet again and he will be able to hear the voice of one of his own gay Nigerian members.”

STATEMENT ON THE PRIMATES’ MEETING OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

Full Inclusion
We celebrate the fact that the majority of Primates have modelled what it means to be an inclusive church this week, welcoming Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from the Episcopal Church of the USA. Bishop Katharine has brought hope to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Anglicans across the world. She is committed to the full inclusion of all people in the Episcopal Church. Her voice will remind other primates that Gospel justice will not have been accomplished until the church is fully open to everyone, including LGBT people. Her presence has changed the Primates’ Meeting from being an exclusively male club. Another step has been taken towards the full inclusion of women in our church. We long for the day when all people are welcomed into the church, without regard to race, sexual orientation, economic means, gender, physical or mental challenge, or any other division.

Listening Process
We approve of the progress made by the Revd Canon Philip Groves as he develops his work on the listening process, inviting every province in the Communion to demonstrate how they are responding to the Lambeth 1.10 commitment to listen. We look forward to the development of his proposals for the Lambeth Conference 2008 and offer our full support to him in his work.

We hope that the Listening Process will be undertaken by every Province with the awareness that to listen properly means being open to the possibility of change by all involved. We trust the Holy Spirit, through this process and through our common Anglican life, to lead us into all truth.

The primates and the bishops who will gather at the Lambeth Conference 2008 have yet to hear directly from LGBT people. This remains a major challenge for the church. The listening process needs to be undertaken in every province and by every primate and bishop. We urge renewed emphasis on the listening process throughout the Communion.

Same-sex blessings
The cost of the decision not to authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in the Episcopal Church is a serious means that LGBT people in America are being asked to carry an intolerable burden. As in England and other parts of the Communion which acknowledge that God blesses covenanted, faithful relationships, we know that priests with the courage of their own spiritual convictions will continue to welcome those who come for blessing.

Covenant
We welcome the framework of the draft covenant for the Anglican Communion. For 500 years Anglicanism has been a creedal, rather than a confessional church. We believe that the ancient creeds of the church are sufficient now, as they have been for over 1,600 years. We remain concerned about the increased tendency in Anglicanism to centralise authority.

In particular we welcome the commitment to ensure that ‘biblical texts are handled faithfully, respectfully, comprehensively and coherently’ [3(3)], to ‘nurture and respond to prophetic and faithful leadership and ministry to assist our Churches as courageous witnesses to the transformative power of the Gospel in the world’ [3(4)] and ‘to seek to transform unjust structures of society’ [4.1].

Theological Diversity
From its inception, the church has been diverse in its theological understanding. We believe that in our many diverse cultures it is to be expected that people will experience God and express their faith in a variety of ways appropriate to their own culture. In our conversations with Tanzanian Anglicans from local congregations, we have heard that while they may not agree with our own view of human sexuality, there is a high level of understanding and acceptance of diversity. They view the threat of schism as posing a great danger to local mission and evangelism, while they continue to hope for a global, diverse Anglican Communion.

As we work to build up the Kingdom of God, we urge sensitivity in our diverse cultures, that not all cultures people are prepared to welcome LGBT at this time.

Working together
Members of Inclusive Church, Integrity USA, and Changing Attitude Nigeria and England have worked together in harmony this week. We have prayed for the Primates. We have given many interviews to the press and media. We have built friendships with other Anglicans across our diversity of opinions. We have talked to many members of the Tanzanian press and helped them some of them begin to understand the experience of LGBT people. We have made contact with LGBT Anglicans from Tanzania and we hope to build on our new friendships. Those Primates who spoke with us encouraged us to work for the unity of the Anglican Communion and for the full inclusion of all, and especially LGBT people.

Prayers
We encourage all people to pray for the primates, bishops, clergy, and people of the Anglican Communion. We especially urge prayer for the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Primate of Nigeria Peter Akinola, and the Primate of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori. Each of these three Primates faces tremendous pressure of leadership, and we pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them.

Conclusion: Hope for living the Gospel
We look forward to a time when our conversations will be dominated by concerns of mission, evangelism, and service rather than by threats of discrimination, persecution, and schism.

We read the Gospels as commending radical inclusion. Jesus again and again shared meals with outcasts, treasured those whom the culture rejected, and taught that religious practice must be loving. St. Paul urged the earliest Christian communities to be people of Gospel love and hope, rather than people enslaved to the Law. We firmly believe that LGBT Christians belong at the centre of our common life in Christ, not at the margins.

We hope that the church will live this vision. In short, we seek a church that embraces all people as God’s precious children. We want an inclusive church.

END

MEDIA CONTACTS:

The Revd Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude England
+44 7770 844302
Email colin@changingattitude.org

Davis Mac-Iyalla
Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria
+234 8025866133
Email davis@nigeria.changingattitude.org

The Revd Scott A Gunn
ECUSA representative to Inclusive Church
+255 762 400949 (in Tanzania until 2 p.m. GMT
Wednesday 21 February) +1 508 720 1500 (in the US any time)
sgunn@swingspan.com

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