Live: Lambeth bishops reflecting on sexual ethics

First draft of the Lambeth reflection on the bishop and human sexuality:

THE CONTEXT OF OUR TALKS

We met in a spirit of generosity and prayerful humility which enabled us to listen patiently to each other. Apologies have been expressed in the Indaba groups by some of the Episcopal church who had no idea that their action in the consecration of the present Bishop of New Hampshire had caused such a negative impact in many parts of the Communion. Although there has been a great appreciation of one to one conversation, there is the need to develop further the trust in the relationships that have started here.


While there is a desire to end the spiral of chaos around this issue, there appears to be no desire to be so decisive at this stage that anyone would want to walk away. There was a plea to have an “enabling” environment to discuss issues without creating a win-lose situation.

It is important to be careful not to make judgments because on both sides people have come to their decision by careful study of the Bible. Those who take different positions regarding this issue have exercised passionate compassionate pastoral care to homosexual/lesbian people.

We need to repent of positions that have been taken that have further damaged the dignity of homosexual/lesbian people.

THE ISSUE

The whole issue of homosexual/lesbian relations is highly sensitive because:

there is a long tradition of Christian moral teaching which is now being questioned

there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting legal provisions, ranging from gay marriage to punitive action against homosexuals

In some parts H/L relations are taboo; in others it has become a justice issue.

We wish this wasn’t the big issue because there are bigger ones, but we can’t now avoid it.

We are not agreed as to whether this is a first or second order issue.

Even before the Consecration of a partnered gay bishop the issue of homosexual/lesbian relations was a contentious issue in the Anglican Communion shown by the fact of the long debate at Lambeth 1998.

The ordination of a partnered gay Bishop has put this onto a higher plane and focused the issue furthr.

there is an inevitable anxiety that this will not turn out to be a single act but something that is likely to happen again.

Given all this, an unilateral action by any province without consulting the Communion was bound to have profoundly disruptive effect on the Church.

For some the way the Communion has handled polygamy has complicated the issue.

IMPACT

It creates problem for the Church because:

It questions the authority, the interpretation of the Bible and the basic teaching of marriage and questions the traditional teaching on morality of the Church. The question for many is “Whether the Bible transforms the culture or the culture transforms the Bible.”

This is an issue which divides people within provinces and not only between provinces.

In some cultures the action of the North American churches has commended the Gospel in some quarters. In some places the church is ridiculed as the “gay church”, so membership is lost.

Partnership in mission is lost and damaged.

It is felt in some provinces as a betrayal of the teaching of missionaries who brought the faith and it is experienced as a new form of colonization.

Confidence in the validity of the Anglican Communion is severely damaged.

It is dishonoring to former Lambeth Conference decisions.

It diverts us from our primary focus.

It is seen as leading to “sexual license.”

It affects ecumenical and interfaith relationships.

Bishops cannot be a symbol of unity when their consecration itself divided 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.

OPTIONS

Understandably there are competing visions of how the communion should responsibly handle this difference:

Gamaliel’s advice can be followed here: “If it is from God it will last,” so wait.

Decisive action (if your eye causes offense, pluck it out.)

Let God be God and allow Him to transform the attitude and behavior of people.

Further careful study of the Scriptures and theology to be pursued.

Some people are looking for a clear direction from the Communion, in the form of a pastoral letter or direction.

More “listening” than hearing is needed where the purpose is not to “I win, you lose,” but “nobody wins, nobody loses.”

Ongoing dialog itself is a “Christian witness”. The Communion needs a “catholic patience.”

Reaffirm the 1.10 resolution and accept that it was a mistake to ignore it.

Give pastoral care, but do not canonize, regularize, legalize or endorse homosexual/lesbian relationships.

Cross provincial and diocesan borders must stop to create the space for creative responses.

Keep walking, keep talking.

Comment: I was expecting a wide variety of opinion, but there’s not variety enough. Was there not a bishop at the entire conference who said that consecrating Gene was a good idea, that he’s been a good bishop, that he has energized a marginalized population and kept people in the church? GLBT people are discussed exclusively as a problem and a challenge, never as a gift. Where are the voices of the bishops who voted to consecrate Gene?

That said, I like this bit: While there is a desire to end the spiral of chaos around this issue, there appears to be no desire to be so decisive at this stage that anyone would want to walk away. There was a plea to have an “enabling” environment to discuss issues without creating a win-lose situation.

It is important to be careful not to make judgments because on both sides people have come to their decision by careful study of the Bible. Those who take different positions regarding this issue have exercised passionate compassionate pastoral care to homosexual/lesbian people.

Category : The Lead

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6 Comments
  1. William Gilders

    Am I the only one who took the repeated use of “homosexual/lesbian” as a clue that this document isn’t based on a real understanding of the issue? The distinction between “homosexual” and “lesbian” (as if lesbians aren’t “homosexual”!) is typical of ignorant anti-gay rhetoric, and it’s surprising coming in a document that is supposed to reflect the thinking of our bishops. Could someone PLEASE explain to the bishops that “homosexual” (admitedly an odd Greek-Latin hybrid term) means “same-sex,” and is the general term for men and women?

    And … again … this document, whatever its genuine strengths, is more of the talking ABOUT rather than talking WITH.

  2. Carol Cole Flanagan

    Well, it is a start and could have been worse. I am praying for some awareness on the part of participants that LGBT people are not a problem to be solved, but equal members of the Body of Christ equipped with gifts for ministry. It also seems worth noting that the relationship between church and culture is a mutually prophetic one, and not inherently adversarial. Prayer continues.

  3. Christopher Evans

    I have to say that it is clear that understanding wrought by interaction with those who are actually “homosexual/lesbian” would show up the problem first with the term “homosexual”. That term has a specific, and none to kind, clinical history.

    I have to also say that I’m sick of “pastoral care” as it does not help in the ways that are needed to stabilize our lives. I still think the Canadian bishops pastoral resolutions superior and liveable to what I have seen of “pastoral care” generally in TEC.

    This also gets at a root problem, our tendency to bibliolatry:

    “Whether the Bible transforms the culture or the culture transforms the Bible.”

    The Bible is not self-referential but points to Jesus Christ, the Living One, who not only transforms culture but is also always in tension with it, including “church culture” this side of the New Creation.

  4. Donald Schell

    Christopher,

    Thank you for this:

    ‘The Bible is not self-referential but points to Jesus Christ, the Living One, who not only transforms culture but is also always in tension with it, including “church culture” this side of the New Creation.’

    What the bibliolaters seem to miss is that Jesus himself models a critical engagement with the scriptures he received (consistent with critical engagement/arguments that are evident within the canon of Hebrew scripture as he heard it).

    Maybe the biggest and most obvious argument within the scriptures he received is mirrored in, ‘Go and learn the meaning of the saying, what I have desired is mercy and not sacrifice,’ the prophetic critique of the sacrificial system.

    Jesus’ more focused arguments take the form, ‘It is written…but I say to you.’

    Jesus didn’t bow to the Book. Instead, like the writing prophets, he argued with it. And that argument is a truer expression of love for what the book really is.

    Loving the book means reading it openly enough to hear that it’s an ongoing, rabbinic-style argument, or more like arguing a case in common law or constitutional law than applying a bureaucratic code of rules.

  5. tgflux

    [Off-topic: can anyone tell why, when TypePad asks me “Keep me signed in for two weeks” and I check Yes, it only keeps me signed in for about 48 hours? >:-/]

    Was there not a bishop at the entire conference who said that consecrating Gene was a good idea, that he’s been a good bishop, that he has energized a marginalized population and kept people in the church? GLBT people are discussed exclusively as a problem and a challenge, never as a gift. Where are the voices of the bishops who voted to consecrate Gene?

    Pointed questions, Jim. Excellent! [But so sad it took a non-purple-shirt Episcopalian to ask them. :-( ]

    From the “Reflection”:

    Give pastoral care, but do not canonize, regularize, legalize or endorse homosexual/lesbian relationships.

    “Pastoral care” spelled C-L-O-S-E-T no doubt? >:-(

    Lord have mercy!

    JC Fisher

  6. I’m afraid they aren’t in charge of “regularizing” me…thanks be to God.

    As usual, I don’t “endorse” nor “legalize” most of them to be qualified to discern, right from wrong or up from down when it comes to including ALL Episcopalians/Anglicans at the Body of Christ…but what-the-heck, I’m not going anywhere and neither are any of the other millions of LGBT Christians who have ALWAYS been present in families, at work, at all levels of society and sitting silently next to you at CHURCH while you REFLECT about us!

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