19 February 2007

Response to the Primates' Meeting

This statment has been released by InclusiveChurch, Changing Attitude England, and Changing Attitude Nigeria. Signers include the Revd Colin Coward, the Revd Giles Goddard, the Revd Scott Gunn, and Mr Davis Mac-Iyalla. I'm posting just the statement here. You can find the accompanying press release over on the CA site for now, and soon to appear elsewhere.

STATEMENT ON THE PRIMATES MEETING OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

Full Inclusion
We celebrate the fact that the majority of Primates have modelled what it means to be an inclusive church this week, welcoming Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from the Episcopal Church of the USA. Bishop Katharine has brought hope to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Anglicans across the world. She is committed to the full inclusion of all people in the Episcopal Church. Her voice will remind other primates that Gospel justice will not have been accomplished until the church is fully open to everyone, including LGBT people. Her presence has changed the Primates Meeting from being an exclusively male club. Another step has been taken towards the full inclusion of women in our church. We long for the day when all people are welcomed into the church, without regard to race, sexual orientation, economic means, gender, physical or mental challenge, or any other division.

Listening Process
We approve of the progress made by the Revd Canon Philip Groves as he develops his work on the listening process, inviting every province in the Communion to demonstrate how they are responding to the Lambeth 1.10 commitment to listen. We look forward to the development of his proposals for the Lambeth Conference 2008 and offer our full support to him in his work.

We hope that the Listening Process will be undertaken by every Province with the awareness that to listen properly means being open to the possibility of change by all involved. We trust the Holy Spirit, through this process and through our common Anglican life, to lead us into all truth.

The primates and the bishops who will gather at the Lambeth Conference 2008 have yet to hear directly from LGBT people. This remains a major challenge for the church. The listening process needs to be undertaken in every province and by every primate and bishop. We urge renewed emphasis on the listening process throughout the Communion.

Same-sex blessings
The cost of the decision not to authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in the Episcopal Church is a serious means that LGBT people in America are being asked to carry an intolerable burden. As in England and other parts of the Communion which acknowledge that God blesses covenanted, faithful relationships, we know that priests with the courage of their own spiritual convictions will continue to welcome those who come for blessing.

Covenant
We welcome the framework of the draft covenant for the Anglican Communion. For 500 years Anglicanism has been a creedal, rather than a confessional church. We believe that the ancient creeds of the church are sufficient now, as they have been for over 1,600 years. We remain concerned about the increased tendency in Anglicanism to centralise authority.

In particular we welcome the commitment to ensure that 'biblical texts are handled faithfully, respectfully, comprehensively and coherently' [3(3)], to 'nurture and respond to prophetic and faithful leadership and ministry to assist our Churches as courageous witnesses to the transformative power of the Gospel in the world' [3(4)] and 'to seek to transform unjust structures of society' [4.1].

Theological Diversity
From its inception, the church has been diverse in its theological understanding. We believe that in our many diverse cultures it is to be expected that people will experience God and express their faith in a variety of ways appropriate to their own culture. In our conversations with Tanzanian Anglicans from local congregations, we have heard that while they may not agree with our own view of human sexuality, there is a high level of understanding and acceptance of diversity. They view the threat of schism as posing a great danger to local mission and evangelism, while they continue to hope for a global, diverse Anglican Communion.

As we work to build up the Kingdom of God, we urge sensitivity in our diverse cultures, that not all cultures people are prepared to welcome LGBT at this time.

Working together
Members of Inclusive Church, Integrity USA, and Changing Attitude Nigeria and England have worked together in harmony this week. We have prayed for the Primates. We have given many interviews to the press and media. We have built friendships with other Anglicans across our diversity of opinions. We have talked to many members of the Tanzanian press and helped them some of them begin to understand the experience of LGBT people. We have made contact with LGBT Anglicans from Tanzania and we hope to build on our new friendships. Those Primates who spoke with us encouraged us to work for the unity of the Anglican Communion and for the full inclusion of all, and especially LGBT people.

Prayers
We encourage all people to pray for the primates, bishops, clergy, and people of the Anglican Communion. We especially urge prayer for the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the Primate of Nigeria Peter Akinola, and the Primate of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori. Each of these three Primates faces tremendous pressure of leadership, and we pray that the Holy Spirit will guide them.

Conclusion: Hope for living the Gospel
We look forward to a time when our conversations will be dominated by concerns of mission, evangelism, and service rather than by threats of discrimination, persecution, and schism.

We read the Gospels as commending radical inclusion. Jesus again and again shared meals with outcasts, treasured those whom the culture rejected, and taught that religious practice must be loving. St. Paul urged the earliest Christian communities to be people of Gospel love and hope, rather than people enslaved to the Law. We firmly believe that LGBT Christians belong at the centre of our common life in Christ, not at the margins.

We hope that the church will live this vision. In short, we seek a church that embraces all people as Gods precious children. We want an inclusive church.

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