Invitation to the Bishop of Chelmsford to visit Trinidad withdrawn

An invitation to visit Trinidad extended by the Rt Revd Calvin Bess, Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago to John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, has been withdrawn after it was learnt that Bishop Gladwin has expressed solidarity with the pro-gay Anglican churches in Canada and the United States.

According to an article in the May edition of The Anglican Outlook, Bishop Gladwin was due to arrive on May 23 for a visit that was expected to last until June 6. He was scheduled to preach at the Family Day observances on Corpus Christi and participate in other activities in the diocese.

Withdrawal of the invitation has occurred as a result of the story in the Daily Telegraph that a group of eight conservative pristes in Chelmsford had announced that they will refuse to share Holy Communion with him because of his liberal views on homosexuality. John Gladwin responded by saying that it was his right to express his opinion and that he wanted to give space to those who were anxious about such matters.

This report, according to the Outlook article, was the catalyst for Bess – who has the support of the local Cathedral Chapter – to withdraw the invitation, and this was done in a letter dated April 12. In the letter, Bess said he had learnt that Gladwin was signatory to the Bishop of Saliabsury’s letter published in the Times on March 7 which expressed full sacramental fellowship with the churches in Canada and the United States and a desire to remain in full communion with them. The letter continued, “We do not believe that the different responses of our sister churches to lesbian and gay people are of such significance that we should break the bonds of communion. We welcome the positive steps which will now be taken to engage in dialogue with lesbian and gay people.” The letter continued: “We assure lesbian and gay Christians of our commitment to the principle of the Lambeth conference that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the body of Christ. We remain in full sacramental fellowship with all the churches of the Anglican Communion including those of Canada and the United States.”

in his letter the Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago said, “The church in the province of the West Indies has made its position on this issue very clear and has described its relationship with the churches of Canada and the United States as impaired.” Bess said given the commitment expressed by Gladwin to the Canadian and American churches and the stance taken by the diocese of Trinidad and Tobago, he had to withdraw the invitation.

In a telephone interview with the Sunday Express, Bess said he first met Gladwin in January 2004 at his enthronement as Bishop of Chelmsford in Essex. He said it was during this visit that he asked Gladwin if he would attend his diocese’s Family Day. Bess said Gladwin indicated to him that he would be unable to make it in 2004 but would be willing to come this year. Bess said it was “terribly unfortunate” that he had to withdraw the invitation but that he could not contradict himself or the position that was agreed upon by the Anglican Churches of the West Indies.

A policy statement from the bishops and members of the Provincial Standing Committee of the Church in the Province of the West Indies, issued in March, stated: “We continue to note with sadness that the developments that have taken place in the Episcopal Church of the United States of America and the Diocese of the New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada do not accord with the standard of teaching and practice shared by the majority of the Provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion.” The statement added that “these actions by these two sister churches have created a state of impaired communion between themselves and the overwhelming majority of the Provinces within Communion, including the Province of the West Indies”. The statement also requested all “Bishops of this province (West Indies) to take such measures as to ensure that permission to function within this province will be restricted to those persons who accept our standard of teaching and practice”.

Bess said he received a call from Gladwin on Monday who acknowledged receipt of the withdrawn invitation but noted that Gladwin asked for the opportunity to explain the reason for his stance. But even after receiving Gladwin’s explanation, Bess said his decision remained the same. Attempts to reach Gladwin were unsuccessful but the Sunday Express was able to speak to his assistant, Chaplain Chris Newlands, who said that they were still pursuing dialogue with Bess in an attempt to resolve the matter. Newlands, who was scheduled to make the trip to Trinidad along with Gladwin and his wife, said they were still hopeful that they would be able to visit the island.

Meanwhile, Bess said he has not found a replacement guest speaker for the Family Day service and that a local bishop would most likely be given the job.

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