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The oppressive myth of unity in the Anglican Communion

The oppressive myth of unity in the Anglican Communion

Gene Sisneros writing at st matthews-in-the-city in New Zealand reflects on the myth of unity and its oppressive nature in the Anglican Communion:

Many of you will know that last week I hit my limit of the Anglican Church’s hypocrisy toward gay and lesbian people. We are not allowed into even the most preliminary stage of testing our calling to ministry if we will not commit to permanent celibacy. This is the quiet policy of most of our Pakeha bishops in order that we do not offend the ultra-conservative and bigoted in the wider Anglican Communion. This is, they believe, for the sake of unity. So in essence, after five years of waiting to be allowed in, I have turned my back on the process. I could no longer tell myself or the emperor how marvellous he looks in his new clothes. I felt the need to remove myself and my partner away from the humiliation, out of a state of limbo, in order to be able to plan for our future.

…My thoughts this week have been engaged in trying to comprehend this concept of ‘unity’ as our bishops understand it and enforce it. When a priest is elected and ordained bishop, she or he vows to ‘promote unity’ within the church. I’m trying to get my head around how the exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from being part of the full life of the church promotes unity, especially because bishops also vow to “uphold justice”. It seems to me, there is something distorted in this image of unity. For one thing, it reeks of empire.


Unity as understood in the age of empires had nothing to do with people living side-by-side in perfect harmony. If it had, we never would have heard about a man named Jesus. The unity of people isn’t about perfect harmony, it’s about respecting the fact that diversity exists because we live in a diverse world and learning to live together not despite our differences but because we have differences. But how can true unity ever be achieved if our bishops cannot, will not stand up and say “I believe in the equality of all people. I will not consent to people being divided up into categories of good and evil, clean and unclean, pure and impure, worthy and worthless”?

And also from st matthews-in-the-city, a petition:

The Wardens, Vestry and Parishioners of St Matthew-in-the-City ask you to consider:

For many centuries gay and lesbian Christians have served the Anglican Church in positions of leadership. Most though have hidden their sexual orientation. In recent times however as Western society has become more accepting of difference many gay and lesbian Christians no longer wish to hide their orientation or their relationships. There are now a number of countries that provide sacred and legal opportunities for couples to commit themselves to each other for the long-term.

In 2004 the US Episcopal Church ordained as a bishop a priest in a same-sex relationship. Due to conservative opposition the Archbishop of Canterbury asked the American church and rest of the Anglican Communion to not ordain anyone bishop who was in a same-sex relationship until the entire Communion could find agreement.


The primary reason our Archbishop Moxon has given for this discrimination is so not to offend the rest of the Anglican Communion. However it is an offence to the Gospel. It is an offence to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand, be they Anglican or not. It is an offence to our commitment to human rights. It is an offence to sovereignty and independence. NZ gay and lesbian Christians who are called to leadership are being denied the dignity of equals by countries that still criminalize their gay and lesbian neighbours. It is hypocritical for the Church to proclaim a message of love then limit that love to heterosexual relationships.

Therefore, we ask all New Zealanders, Anglicans or not, and the world to express their belief that it is time to end this practice. The imperative for justice here cannot be locked down by the desire for unity everywhere.


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This is brilliant (though, vis-a-vis the petition, +Gene Robinson was actually consecrated bishop in 2003).

JC Fisher

{{{Gene Sisneros}}}. God bring justice and liberation!

Rod Gillis

The motion below was passed by the Diocesan Synod of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (Anglican Church of Canada)on May 27th. National Canon law currently prevents same sex couples from getting married in the church. However NS and PEI now join a number of other Canadian Dioceses that allow various types of blessings. In this case, same sex couples who are legally married in a civil ceremony (legal throughout the country) will be able to receive a blessing in accordance with episcopal guidelines. It’s a small step but a positive one nonetheless.

“That this Synod request the Bishop or bishops to adapt the Pastoral Letter of October 1, 2010 as a Bishop’s or Bishops’ Guideline. If a parish, after prayerful discernment, decides to move beyond the current level of pastoral response, to the blessing of same-sex couples, such a decision reflects the diversity of “local discernment, decision, and action, ” and will be accommodated within the diverse pastoral practices of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island as we respond in our missional context.”


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