26 March 2007

InclusiveChurch responds to ECUSA bishops, releases statement on the state of the church

We acknowledge the frustration which has led the Bishops of the Episcopal Church (TEC) to reject the requests of the Dar Es Salaam Communique for the creation of a parallel church structure.

We welcome their strong affirmations of the equality before God and human rights of all people.

We wish members of TEC to know that we fully support them in their response to the Primates.

To lose the long-cherished principles of provincial autonomy, respect for diversity and active participation of laypeople and clergy would be to lose many of the defining principles of our Anglican inheritance. We have no tradition of centralising authority in the hands of a few senior bishops.

The majority of members of the Church of England find the continued failure of Anglicans to recognise the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people absolutely unacceptable.

It is increasingly clear to us that the process which the Communion has followed over lesbian and gay Christians has been very seriously flawed. Comparisons have been drawn with the ordination of women. In relation to that question a moratorium was imposed in 1948. But the next twenty years led to a conditional acceptance, following a great deal of work by the Communion and a serious and sustained engagement with the question.

But the initial Lambeth resolution in 1978 calling for sustained engagement over issues of human sexuality was honoured only in the breach. Twenty years later at Lambeth 98, the conclusions of the working party charged with coming up with a response to these questions were hijacked by a few conservative bishops with the active support of the then Archbishop of Canterbury. A resolution was produced which rowed back from the 1978 call. In other words, the "conservative" position became a "regressive" position.

In this context, the frustration felt by the Episcopal Church and expressed by its Bishops last week is entirely understandable. To add weight to that frustration, the "listening process" which was called for by Lambeth 98 and again in the Windsor Report has not been carried out with any degree of seriousness by those people who have most to lose by genuine engagement - that is, those parts of TEC loosely grouped under the American Anglican Council, the Province of Nigeria and conservative groups in England. And the cross-border incursions condemned by the Windsor process have, far from coming to a halt, merely increased.

In the meantime, the Church of England has moved on. The debates at General Synod on Wednesday 21st February showed that there is a desire by Synod to take a more mature and supportive approach to Christians who genuinely see the inclusion of lesbian and gay people as a Gospel imperative.

We are now in the ridiculous position where we have gay clergy living in relationship at all levels of the hierarchy - and where the blessing of same-sex relationships is taking place in a significant number of parishes. Parishes trying to live out the radical and inclusive welcome of Jesus Christ are thriving. But because of the untenable policy of the House of Bishops none of this can be acknowledged.

In the meantime, the Archbishop of Nigeria is proceeding at full speed with his support for the homophobic legislation proposed in that country which breaches the UN Declaration on Human Rights, unchecked by his brother Primates.

In this context, we do not see that Lambeth 1.10 can be considered any longer to hold legitimacy or credence. Nor do we see that the Windsor process (which was planned as a process of reconciliation but has been used as a process of exclusion) can continue any further. The road map, effectively, was torn up at Dar Es Salaam. We are now in a new world, in which it is hard to see how a meaningful Covenant can be agreed.

This week it is worth remembering that the entire House of Bishops was originally opposed to the abolition of the slave trade. It took William Wilberforce and his colleagues over twenty years to convince the Church of the rightness of their cause.

InclusiveChurch remains committed to its fundamental aim: to celebrate the diverse gifts of all members of the body of Christ; and in the ordering of our common life to open the ministries of deacon, priest and bishop to those so called to serve by God, regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation. We will continue to work to fulfil that aim across the Anglican Communion. We look forward to ever increasing friendship with inclusive Christians around the world.

Giles Goddard
Chair, InclusiveChurch


Bill Locke said...

Thanks to Inclusive Church(UK) for their support of our HOB. I'm intrigued by the potential for the breaking out from around the Communion of additional support, triggered by the HOB's clear and calm statement of where we stand. May others chime in soon!

Scott Gunn said...

Yes, Bill, there is I think an increasing desire by people across the globe to be part of a Communion that affirms the full inclusion of all people who are called into fellowship with the church -- regardless of sexual orientation, race, class, etc.

I think if ECUSA is marginalized, there are individuals and parishes around the world who will even go so far as seek realignment with us. While it's encouraging to know that much of the world supports the statement of the EUCSA HoB, it will get messy, I fear, in practice. All the more reason why we should stick to our authentic Anglican ethos of comprehension and stay in one communion, even across theological divides.

That said, in terms of understanding the true picture of our Communion, I agree with you. May others chime in soon!