Live: talking sex successfully

By Jim Naughton

Left wing inclusion mongers should feel pretty good about this afternoon’s press conference on human sexuality at the Lambeth Conference. The bishops are sharing their views respectfully, speaking from their hearts, disagreeing vigorously, but forging real relationships despite their differences. If that sounds like the lead the Conference Design Team would have written if I’d sat them down at my keyboard, that’s because the design team seems to be succeeding.

Episcopalians who believe that agreeing to disagree about human sexuality is the only way to save the Anglican Communion, have to be encouraged when the bishops gathered here seem, at least for the moment, to be doing just that.

“Growth in understanding is occurring,” said Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia.

In their morning Bible study and indaba groups, the bishops discussed how homosexual activity was perceived in their dioceses, and what effect the controversy within the communion over this issue had had on their ability to move forward in mission.

The key figure in the afternoon press conference was Archbishop Ian Ernest of the Indian Ocean. He is Peter Akinola’s successor as chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa. In his last session as president of CAPA, Akinola attempted to organize a continent-wide boycott of the conference, and failed.

Today, his successor, who also served on the Lambeth Design team and chaired some of its meetings, told reporters that he found the conversation on human sexuality “exciting and challenging.” He spoke of expressing his convictions “clearly, but with generosity.”

He described speaking passionately about his convictions and then hearing a bishop from the Episcopal Church speak passionately about his convictions. “Then we held hands together.”

“Today in the process that has been given to us, we were able to look at one another,” he said. “We were able to shed tears with one another.”

Ernest said the honesty fostered in the indaba groups had allowed bishops to “widen” their discussion of sexual ethics. “We have also talked of the problem of polygamy,” and “intense sexual activity” among teenagers, he said.

Ernest and Aspinall disputed the assertion that due to the boycott by Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, the voice of conservative Anglicans was not being heard in the conference.

“We are going to be a bridge (to them,)” Ernest said. Asked if the conference was sidestepping the issues, he said “We are not stepping aside we are working with it.”

Reflecting on the procedure employed during the conference, Aspinall explained that Archbishop Rowan Williams saw little purpose in revisiting Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference. He said that while the views embodied in that resolution remained the views of the “vast majority” of the communion, the process by which the resolution was arrived at “didn’t help the church move forward.”

“You won’t be surprised to hear that we haven’t suddenly reached consensus on the issue of homosexuality,” Aspinall said. “The problems are not all resolved.”

However, he added, that the mood in 2008 is dramatically different (than in 1998). “Bishops from opposite ends of the spectrum actively embraced each other and thanked each other for helping each other” understand how the issue of sexuality plays out in their provinces, he said.

Colin Johnson, Bishop of Toronto said that the conversation had led some bishops to “nuance their positions.”

It is “unrealistic to expect a full resolution” of the issue of the morality of gay relationships that is under discussion throughout the world, he said. “What consensus that has been created has gathered around the environment, ecology and the MDGs.”

Some bishops have complained that “the media concentration on sexuality” has made if difficult to make it clear how much progress has been made on other issues, Johnson added.

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Category : The Lead

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  1. Nicholas Knisely

    Thanks for this report Jim. Perhaps there’s still some miles left in this old Communion of ours.

  2. Inclusion mongers? hmmm – not sure I understand that word.

  3. William Gilders

    As a “left wing inclusion monger” (geeze!) I am compelled to point out that in this conversation about sexuality (with its focus on homosexuality), the exclusion of the one “active homosexual” bishop in the communion means that once again the bishops are talking ABOUT rather than WITH their LGBT brothers and sisters. It’s nice that they’re being nice … but it would be nicer if this conversation actually including Bishop Robinson.

    William Gilders

  4. paigeb

    Left wing inclusion mongers

    I *really* want a t-shirt that says that….

    Paige Baker

  5. Donald Schell

    ‘fish mongers,’ iron mongers,”inclusion mongers,’ maybe, in the most pragmatic Anglican way, Jim’s just suggesting we’ve got some useful to offer in the village market of ideas.


  6. Bill Hall

    What is it with this need for structure and discipline if it runs counter to the Great Commandment?

    BTW, I want one of those t-shirts, too..

    Bill Hall

  7. For Riazat Butt:

    I would like a T-shirt that says: “I went to Lambeth and all I got was this

    lousy schism”

    Or is that just a British humour thing?

  8. would someone like to design the left wing inclusion monger shirt? should it have the episcopal shield, or do we need our own logo? with a good logo we could branch into things like golf towels, which is where the real money is.

  9. I’m not the one to design it, but I think it needs something like the Anglican Compass Rose. With any luck, we’d be able to include incusion mongers in other parts of the Communion.

  10. Marshall Scott

    By the way, I noted particularly this from Archbishop Aspinall: “He said that while the views embodied in that resolution remained the views of the “vast majority” of the communion, the process by which the resolution was arrived at “didn’t help the church move forward.” ” That puts a different interpretation on 1998 1.10 as “the mind of the Communion.”

  11. revsusan

    It WAS a very good day for Left Wing Inclusion Mongers … speaking as one …. thanks for the report! (And yes, I’d like a t-shirt)

  12. How about a blog emblem along with the tee-shirts?

    June Butler

  13. tgflux

    While only Jim can clarify, I’m thinking his (ironic) neologism “Left wing inclusion mongers” perhaps owes something to Barack Obama, mocking himself as a “Hope Monger”?


    “We were able to shed tears with one another.”

    I’m rather hoping TEC’s tearful bishop was saying something like “I won’t sell out my gay members: they’re my family!”


    …which brings me to another question: we all know the only forthrightly gay bishop, +Gene Robinson, has been excluded (+Terry Brown of Malaita being only a bit “dodgy” ;-/).

    But what OF “gay family members”? Do we know of any Anglican bishop, ANYWHERE, who’s spoken of having a gay child, parent, brother, sister, niece, nephew, grandchild? [It’s indisputable that there are such, but I simply can’t recall any bishop having spoken of same. Positively OR negatively.]

    If anyone knows the answer, I’d be appreciative (inc. in an Episcopal Cafe entry!)

    JC Fisher

  14. patsykay

    To JC Fisher: It may come as a huge surprise to some, but Bp Robert Duncan spoke about his lesbian sister on the NPR program Fresh Air, December 9, 2004. The segment is titled, “A Bishop and a Break-Away Group”. It is very sad, because in this program, he admits that he did not discuss her sexual identity with his sister, and relates that she was a lovely but troubled girl who struggled with alcoholism. Since he claims that homosexuality is an “affectional disorder”, it is not surprising that such a discussion did not occur, but it is still sad.

    Patricia Eagon

  15. Christopher Evans

    By the way, I noted particularly this from Archbishop Aspinall: “He said that while the views embodied in that resolution remained the views of the “vast majority” of the communion, the process by which the resolution was arrived at “didn’t help the church move forward.” That puts a different interpretation on 1998 1.10 as “the mind of the Communion.”

    This is key. To begin to examine the history of 1998 is to recognize where we went from continuing conversation to a final answer that hurt lgbt folks and suggested the conversation was closed. I hope, in spite of my deep misgivings, that 2008 would shift Lambeth and Communion operations back to conversation, which is at heart an important part of our method, rather than move forward with juridical and legislative approaches.

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