Anglican bishops' tough stance disappoints gay lobby

 

Under the benign chairmanship of the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eames, the Lambeth Conference, the gathering of all the bishops of the Anglican Communion that meets every 10 years, has disappointed the gay lobby by adopting a very toughly-worded motion on homosexuality.

The resolution, with various amendments to strengthen its stand, was accepted yesterday with an overwhelming majority of 526 votes to 70, with 45 abstentions. The resolution upheld the scriptural teaching of faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and expressed its belief that abstinence was right for those not called to marriage.

The resolution explicitly rejected homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture, and stated that it could not advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of those in such unions. At the same time it recognised that there were persons whose experience was that they d themselves had a homosexual orientation.

"Many of these are members of the church and are seeking the pastoral care and moral direction of the church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships", it went on. "We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual people. We wish to assure them that they are loved by God, and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ".

The conference also called on all Anglicans to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and to condemn irrational fears of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.

Among those who warned that too tough a stand might prove divisive was the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Right Rev John Neill. "Any outright condemnation of homosexuality or of sexual activity outside marriage would divide us," he said.

Similarly any acceptance of it would go beyond what could be said at present in the light of scripture and tradition, and would "likewise divide us to a very serious extent". Stressing that they must be a church that listened, Bishop Neill said that their task of discovering what scripture was saying about sexuality in the light of the culture of the day was not all that simple.

"We must recognise that there is much that is negative in our traditional 19th-century morality, mainly with regard to sexuality, and is really neither in accord with scripture nor with the tradition of the church", he added.

From the US, Bishop Catherine Roskam, Suffragan Bishop of New York, warned the conference: "Pass this, and you will have a divided church". While she accepted that for bishops elsewhere to accept homosexuality would be evangelical suicide, as the bishops of west Africa had warned, in her region to condemn it would be evangelical suicide.

Bishop Eustace Kamanyire of Ruwenzori, Uganda, attacked the bishops, clergy and leading laity who in his view were undermining the church's work by accepting homosexuality. "This false teaching emanating from part of the Anglican Communion, when exported to Africa and other parts of the world, is causing serious damage and scandal to Christ and his church", he said.

Bishop Alexander Malik of Lahore, Pakistan, asked ironically whether, if the bishops were prepared to bless same sex unions, they would not bless people's relationships with their pets.

Outside the conference hall, Bishop Emmanuel Chukawama from Nigeria harangued the Rev Richard Kirker of the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement before the debate, accusing him of defiling the church.

At the very end of what he described as "quite a difficult and painful debate" the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, said the bishops needed to pledge themselves to carry on listening to one another. Stating his own position, he said: "I stand wholeheartedly with traditional Anglican orthodoxy. I see no room in holy scripture or tradition for any sexual activity outside matrimony of husband and wife."

Later, Archbishop Eames said: "This is the first time the Anglican Church has debated this issue. I think we have proved that whenever we are faced with seriously divisive issue we have been able to reason a way forward to some guideline."