Update with reactions
The penultimate draft of the Reflections paper from the Lambeth Conference is now available on the conference web site. Section K on the Windsor Process is likely to have the immediate impact in setting an agenda for our Church. The Windsor section and the Sexuality sections of the report are published below. To see the Covenant section, read below.
The document is descriptive of conversations, and is not an official statement of the Communion's position. However, it makes clear that there is strong support within the Communion for a moratoria on the blessings of same-sex relationships and the ordination of gay or lesbian priests to the episcopacy. That sentiment, coupled with strong support for an Anglican Covenant, indicate that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada will face some sort of yet-to-be-defined consequences should they take additional steps toward the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the life of the Church.
Several Episcopal bishops who have read the draft said they are not entirely happy with it.
"There are several things in there that will be hard to swallow," said Bishop Stacy Sauls of Lexington. "The references to Gene (Robinson), the moratoria and the pastoral forum."
Bishop James Mathes of San Diego said the proposal for a pastoral forum would confuse rather than clarify disputes within provinces and dioceses.
Bishop Hector Monterroso of the Diocese of Costa Rica, Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America, said the reflections have missed "a good opportunity for gay people to feel better in God's mission in the church."
Monterroso disputed a paragraph (104) in the document that says that in some places in the United States, Canada and England the inclusion of gays and lesbians had been good for the church. "Not only there, but in Latin America," he said.
"In our province we need to focus on other kinds of important issues like evangelism, work with poor people and the immigrants," he added "That kind of thing here is not the emphasis.
Like Monterroso, Bishop Bruce Caldwell of Wyoming took comfort in the "unofficial" status of the reflections.
"It is just a record of conversations," Caldwell said. "If it were a definitive document, we would have done it in a different way."
Section K: The Windsor Process
131. The moratoria cover three separate but related issues: Episcopal ordinations of partnered homosexual people, the blessing of same-sex unions; cross-border incursions by bishops. There is widespread support for the moratoria. This could be the “generous act of love” the communion is looking for. The moratoria could be taken as part of a sign of the bishops’ affection, trust and goodwill towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and one another. The moratoria will be difficult to enforce, so there are some fears as to whether it will hold. But there is a desire to make it do so. There are questions to be explored in relation to how long the moratoria are intended to serve. Perhaps the moratoria could be seen as a “season of gracious restraint”. In relation to moratorium 2 there is a desire to clarify precisely what is proscribed. Most believe it relates to public authorised rites, rather than pastoral support. It is critical that all three moratoria are seen as inseparable and must be applied equally.
The pastoral forum
132. There is a strong support for a pastoral forum and a desire to see it in place speedily. There is an agreement that it should be pastoral and not legal and should be able to respond quickly. It was also clearly stated that this process should always be moving towards reconciliation with the parent Province. Some wondered whether it should have members from outside the Communion. It would need to be clear that the forum could operate in a Province only with its consent and in particular with the consent of the Primate of the Province. There was some support for an alternative suggestion to appoint in any dispute a Pastoral Visitor, working with a professional arbitrator and to create in the Communion a “pool” of such visitors.
The lengthy sections on human sexuality will also be of interest. If you want to feel a tiny bit better about the Anglican Communion, have a look at paragraph 104.
Section H: Human Sexuality
90. This section should have been titled “The Bishop and Homosexuality” because it was quickly apparent the whole spectrum of human sexuality, including issues of marriage and family, was not going to be discussed. The self select sessions identified with human sexuality included sessions on Human Sexuality and the Witness of Scripture, Listening and Mission, The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality, Listening in Practice, Sexuality and Spirituality, Questions of Science, Culture and Christ, Culture and Homosexualities, Listening to the Experience of Homosexual People.
91. The third meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1976 spoke about the Communion in this way: “As in the first century, we can expect the Holy Spirit to press us to listen to each other, to state new insights frankly, and to accept implications of the Gospel new to us, whether painful or exhilarating. (ACC-3 p.55)” Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, while reiterating clearly the traditional stance of the Church, also called for sensitive listening. The Bible study and indaba groups gave us the opportunity to meet in a spirit of generosity and prayerful humility which helped us to listen patiently to each other and to speak honestly.
92. Christians are called to exercise judgement and discernment in their vocation and discipleship, but to embrace that discipleship with humility and with generosity. The Lord himself warned us to avoid judgementalism. It is important therefore to be careful not to make dismissive judgements, because people have come to their decision after prayer and careful study of the Bible. Nor is there a monopoly on Christian charity: those who take different positions regarding this issue have often been the bearers of compassionate pastoral care to homosexual persons, though we must confess some failure in this regard. We come from different backgrounds, contexts and experiences. As Bishops we need to repent of the ways in which our hardness of heart toward each other may have contributed to the brokenness of our Communion at this present time. We need to repent of statements and actions that have further damaged the dignity of homosexual persons. People who have held traditional views on this matter have sometimes felt that they have been dismissed with ridicule or contempt.
93. There were repeated statements of the desire to remain in communion while attempting to maintain a generous space for ongoing discussions. Although there has been a great appreciation of one to one conversations, there is the need to develop further trust in the relationships that have started here. In this regard, in some groups, in addition to previous expressions of regret by both the House of Bishops and the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, some individual bishops of The Episcopal Church have expressed apologies in their groups, noting that they had not previously grasped the depth of the negative impact that their action in the consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire had caused in many parts of the Communion.
94. There were several references to the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, although it was clear that only one section was being referenced and not the whole report on Human Sexuality from the 1998 Lambeth Conference or the whole resolution.
95. There is confusion about what “the issue” really means. There are three aspects that would help to clarify discussions:
* How the church evangelizes, disciples and provides pastoral care for homosexual people;
* How and on what basis the church admits people to Sacred Orders;
* How the church deals with the first two locally and globally.
96. The whole issue of homosexual relations is highly sensitive because there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting civil provisions, ranging from legal provision for same-sex marriage to criminal action against homosexuals. In some parts of the Communion, homosexual relations are a taboo while in others they have become a human rights issue.
97. Some people said that their understanding of the long tradition of Christian moral teaching is now being questioned and this creates confusion when a clear presentation of how people have come to their new understanding of scripture and theology is not available to them. For some, such new teaching cannot be acceptable as they consider all homosexual activity as irredeemably sinful.
98. In the framework of The Bishop in Mission, it is agreed that the ordination of a partnered homosexual Bishop has compromised mission in many parts of the Communion and has had a profoundly disruptive effect on the Communion by detracting from other aspects of mission. There is anxiety that this will not turn out to be a single act but something that is likely to happen again and further compromise mission.
99. For some, the way the Communion has been perceived to handle polygamy has complicated the issue. Polygamy has been part of the history and of the present of some provinces of the Communion. It is unacceptable in other parts of the Communion. The perception has been that the Communion did not tell those Provinces that they must withdraw from the Communion. The Communion made a space for them to deal with this issue at their local level. This they are doing, setting clear standards while providing pastoral attention. The question from some is, why can we not make the same space in regard to homosexuality? In the case of polygamy, there is a universal standard – it is understood to be a sin, but local pastoral provision is made: polygamists are not admitted to positions of leadership, nor after acceptance of the Gospel can a convert take another wife, nor, in some areas, are they admitted to Holy Communion.
100. There have been many aspects of the history of this current situation that has brought us to this point in time. To some, the possible acceptance of homosexual people as good Christian people is new, and their acceptance as possible leaders in the church is unacceptable. To others, thirty years of Scripture study, of theological discussion, of listening and discussion to come to the present understanding, seems a long time. In the time frame of Christianity, or even of the Anglican tradition, it has not been enough time to allow for the Bishops of the Communion to come to a new consensus within Provinces or worldwide – either to agree, or to live together in disagreement.
101. The issue of homosexuality has challenged us and our Churches on what it might mean to be a Communion. We are still learning how to be the Communion that God has called and gifted us to be.
102. For many Anglicans, the ordination of an openly homosexual bishop, is seen as questioning the authority of Scripture and the church’s traditional reading on these matters. It calls into question traditional moral teaching concerning the nature of marriage. The question for many is "Whether the Bible transforms the culture or the culture is allowed to transform the Bible".
103. The ordination of an openly partnered homosexual bishop and the open blessing of same sex relationships has had many negative results including:
* Partnership in mission is lost and damaged.
* In some provinces, there is an experience of betrayal of the teaching of the missionaries who brought the faith, and it is experienced as a new form of colonisation
* Confidence in the validity of the Anglican Communion, the bonds of affection and our mutual interdependence is severely damaged
* It is dishonouring to former Lambeth Conference decisions.
* It diverts us from our primary focus
* It is seen as leading to “sexual license”
* It damages ecumenical and interfaith relationships.
* Bishops cannot be a symbol of unity when their consecration itself divides the church. The unique focus for catholicity in the Communion is lost.
* In some regions the issue has become a test of orthodoxy and a basis for hostile actions
* In some places the church is ridiculed as the "gay church", so membership is lost.
104. There have also been positive effects in parts of Canada, the US and England when homosexual people are accepted as God’s children, are treated with dignity and choose to give their lives to Christ and to live in the community of faith as disciples of Jesus Christ with fidelity and commitment.
The Way Ahead
105. There are competing visions of how the Communion should responsibly handle our current situation:
* Decisive action (If your eye cause offence, pluck it out24).
* Some people are looking for a clear direction from the Communion, and from this conference in the form of a Pastoral letter or direction.
* Let God be God and allow God to transform our attitudes and behaviour while we look for further insights.
* Gamaliel's advice can be followed here, "If it is from God it will last"25, so wait.
* More "listening” is needed where the purpose is not "I win, you lose", but "Nobody wins, nobody loses" and we grow together in Christ.
* Ongoing dialogue itself is a "Christian witness". The Communion needs a 'catholic patience'.
* Further careful study of the Scriptures, theology, doctrine and other disciplines must be pursued together through a formal Commission at Communion-wide level. This would equip the bishops in their teaching office.
* Consider the study of Theological Anthropology as a new lens through which to continue our study.
* Give pastoral care but do not canonize, regularize, legalize or endorse homosexual relationships.
* Cross provincial and diocesan intervention must stop to create the time and space for the Spirit of God to “lead us into all truth”.
* Legal action in the courts should be avoided if at all possible.
* Reaffirm the moral authority of the whole of the Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1:10, and the Report commended in it, and continue its implementation, but not the style of debate that led to it. Acknowledge that some good work has been done on the resolution such as the development of listening processes, and the intentional development of closer relations among bishops and dioceses.
* Declare a “Decade of Sharing and Generosity” and keep walking, keep talking, keep listening together.
Section J: The Anglican Covenant
121. There were many positive responses to the idea of a Covenant. We recognise that any possible Covenant would be grounded in God’s covenant with us. It would carry horizontal and vertical realities, reflecting the sign of the cross.
It is the image of Christ’s deep and faithful covenant made in Baptism and revealed in the Eucharist and is thereby Christ-centred.
122. The covenant could provide historical continuity with the past, creativity in the present and lead us into the future. It could provide a structure within which we can explore relationship, delighting in unity and diversity, rather than imposing uniformity and conformity. It should help affirm our common life and care, rather than restrict life in the churches. A covenant may help heal present wounds and prevent new ones.
123. Relationship must be pre-eminent within the covenant, creating mutuality, care and responsibility, thereby offering a binding voluntary agreement. We recognise that a covenant would be costly and self-limiting, yet would strengthen the bonds of love among us. As such, it would give us a sacrificial way to move forward, for the sake of the other, which would be life-giving.
124. A Covenant could draw more Dioceses back into the conversation of the Communion. Any possible Covenant could help small communities demonstrate the power of a world wide body, which could help in dealing with government. A Covenant could be a structure to make incursions unnecessary, but without a Covenant, those who have not been at this conference may not return.
125. There was an overall willingness to enter a Covenant, particularly to help us in the present crisis, conscious that it is critical for some to have something positive to report on their return home. There was a general satisfaction with the first half of the main text, but there were real concerns with section 3 and even greater concern about the appendix. In particular:
• The biblical and theological basis of Covenant need to be clarified and developed in a more profound way.
• The proposed Covenant is formulaic rather than relational, and could thereby prove punitive, restrictive and limiting rather than facilitating unity.
• The Instruments of Communion could become micro-managers.
• There is a fear that this Covenant process could prove expensive to implement and concern around as to who would pay for it.
• There is a fear that the Province rather than the Diocese might become the local Church.
• Our modality is historically the “bishop-in-synod” rather than “episcopally led and synodically governed”.
• The broad sweep of the text reads as a very western document.
• The position of the United Churches are not addressed.
• What happens if the Church of England is the offending Church?
• The appendix is particularly seen as over-detailed and an instrument of punitive measures.
• There is a danger that we are simply papering-over the problems, whereas healing needs to take place first.
• The Instruments of Communion need time to evolve before we can be sure what form a Covenant should take.
126. The Covenant could be a more generous document, couched as invitation. It should be an instrument of listening before anything else. We need to steward ourselves to give attention to the “bonds” as well as the “affection.” We need to ask what we can do for the Communion; not vice versa.
127. Better than a covenant would be a theology of abiding, where we can affirm one another in Christ.
128. There is a tension between wanting to take time over the process and the need for urgency, in repairing the tears in the Communion’s fabric. “Are we being a little quick in trying to heal ourselves?” However, some bishops have stated the need to return home with an agreement of some kind.
129. Practical suggestions:
• A Province might be asked to withdraw after a breach of the Covenant to repair trust.
• As an immediate response, we should establish a Pastoral Forum, which could be in operation much quicker than a Covenant and could operate instead of revisions in the appendix.
• The document needs to have a less Church of England basis, particularly in regard to the formularies.
• Can we learn about handling conflict from around the world, eg. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the culture of responsibility and restraint in South East Asia, unity and diversity in the “Three Tikanga” way of working in Aoteroa, New Zealand and Polynesia and Japanese preference for a less statemented way to resolve conflicts.
• Should we explore a missional Covenant?
• Rather than a Covenant, should we explore an Anglican Rule of Life?”
• Do we need a shorter Lambeth every five years? Page 34
• Would the Covenant be better called a.) “entente”, b.) “memorandum of understanding”, or c.) “communion agreement”?
• There is a need for a better French version of the St. Andrew’s draft.
130. There is a welcome from many to the idea of a Covenant. We recognise the urgent need to find a workable way forward, particularly for those of us who live and minister in minority or hostile situations. However there is a strong sense that the appendix could be too legalistic and too difficult to implement. Overall, there was a concern that what is proposed might prove too punitive. From the experience of this Lambeth Conference and the building and deepening of relationship there is a willingness to continue exploring a Covenant together.