More than 100 Anglicans from theologically conservative provinces of the Anglican Communion that lie primarily in the southern hemisphere, met recently in Bangkok and released a statement that hints at some level of relaxation of the tension in the Anglican Communion.
Followers of Communion politics will note that the statement contains no mention of The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada or the Church of England's politics and practices regarding the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The statement comes on the heels of a relatively mild statement from the "Global South Primates", a smaller group that often meets in conjunction with larger Global South gatherings, but in the past has taken a harder rhetorical line against more gay-friendly churches.
While the communique does identify the members of this particular fellowship as "unequivocally committed to the apostolic-historic faith" (hence the usual absence of the leaders of numerous southern Anglican provinces who define that term differently than the organizers of this meeting) that phrase is perhaps the only example of the kabuki boilerplate that previously studded the statements of all parties in the Anglican struggles over sexuality.
It may be premature to read deep meaning into these statements, but the absence, even for a season, of harsh anti-gay rhetoric is reason to be grateful. There is also much in the statement to admire, and much from which western Christians unfamiliar with the cultural, political and religious challenges faced by our sisters and brothers in the developing world can learn.
Here are a few passages that made a particular impression on us. Tell us your opinion of the statement in the comments.
"Our commitment is to a strong society marked by the rise of a civil society, political stability, sustainable economy, reduction of poverty, and the eradication of all forms of violence, endemic diseases and corruption."
"In relating to other faiths, we need to engage in meaningful and constructive inter-faith dialogue. While we acknowledge that this could be difficult in some societies, we seek to encourage, help and support churches, both in better understanding our own faith and in facing more radical and political forms of other religions."
"The nature of the global Anglican Church affords us an opportunity to serve, work and learn together. This is a gift from God to the world, of a church which is globally connected and yet rooted into the local community. Our unity is both a witness and a conduit by which this work and witness flow."