07 March 2007

IC statement on General Synod

OK, so from the American side of the Atlantic, England's General Synod looks opaque and vaguely confusing to most of us. I suppose our General Convention looks chaotic and vaguely confusing to many viewers on the European side of the Atlantic. Anyway, I didn't write about General Synod much on this blog, though important things happened, because I figured that hard code church junkies would be reading Thinking Anglicans or one of the other fine sites who cover such things.

However, for the sake of being thorough -- and to embody our transatlantic connection -- I am happy to post (several days late) this statement from Inclusive Church UK. In the future, we'll be more lickety-split with this sort of thing; we're still figuring out exactly what it means to be Inclusive Church in the US.

Without further delay, I bring you the statement:

A good day for the Church of England. A bad time for the Church of Nigeria

Members of the General Synod are to be congratulated on the tone and quality of the debates on Wednesday 28th February. In the first substantial debates on issues around human sexuality since the infamous "Higton debate" in 1987, contributions from all positions were characterised by honesty, charity and generosity.

InclusiveChurch hopes that the debates reflect a new understanding and respect for differing theological positions about lesbian and gay people within and outside the Church. We hope too that this new understanding will bring about a greater sense of cohesion between different parts of the Church so that we can now better preach and show the gospel of Christ’s love to those we serve.

John Ward, a member of General Synod and chair of the General Synod Human Sexuality Group, said 'There are no winners or losers. I am delighted that we can now be in dialogue without fear and that lesbian and gay Christians are full members of the Church. I believe that through prayer and communication something changed yesterday in Synod'.

As a Church we are once again called to "to engage in an open, full and Godly dialogue about human sexuality…and acknowledge the importance of lesbian and gay members of the Church of England participating in the listening process as full members of the Church." We hope that process of dialogue will include prayer, together, by people with differing understandings of the issues. Those of us who support a more inclusive position do this with deep respect and love for the word of God in the Bible. That love must be at the heart of the listening process so that all sides can engage with trust and confidence.

The motion on Civil Partnerships was amended to "note the intention of the House [of Bishops] to keep their Pastoral Statement under review". Clearly the present arrangements are not working. We hope that a review of the Pastoral Statement will begin soon. We hope too that it will take into account the urgent pastoral need for an authorised rite for asking God’s blessing on same-sex relationships, and will consider the implications of clergy who have entered into Civil Partnerships being proposed as Bishops.

We view with concern the demands placed on the Episcopal Church by the Primates, especially as we are very aware that there are lesbian or gay clergy at all levels of the hierarchy of the Church of England, some of whom have entered into Civil Partnerships.

In the context of Synod’s debates we deeply regret the continuing support of the Church of Nigeria for legislation to criminalise lesbian and gay people. This appears to be a breach of Lambeth 1.10 which restates the need to resist homophobia in all its forms. We encourage all who have contact with the Church of Nigeria to make their concerns clear. The Anglican Communion does deep damage to its mission if it is seen to be supporting legislation which is in clear breach of the United Nations Convention on Human Rights. A letter on this from 250 American faith leaders can be found at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/02/27/nigeri15425.htm.

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