A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
We have identified five distinct processes to which the Anglican Communion has committed itself in resolutions at three successive Lambeth Conferences and in the Windsor Report.
Encourage dialogue with those who are homosexual and listen to the experience of homosexual persons
Find practical ways in which the ‘listening’ process commended may be taken forward
Undertake deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality
Monitor work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and share statements and resources
Establish processes and structures to facilitate ongoing discussion
The personal experience and the resources of lesbian and gay Anglican Christian groups will need to be made available to the bodies responsible for undertaking this work.
There is a wide variance across the communion of the ability of lesbian and gay Anglicans to participate, from the USA, where LGBT people are visible and generally welcome, through England, where many lesbian and gay Anglicans are reluctant to identify themselves, to Nigeria, where all but a tiny minority of lesbian and gay people are hidden and live in denial of their own sexual identity.
We believe the Communion needs to do two things to enable lesbian and gay Anglicans to contribute to the processes identified above and asked for by Windsor.
Make resources available
Authorise individuals or groups
Make resources available
There are known lesbian and gay Anglican groups in Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland, Uganda and the United States, and individuals are active in Brazil and South Africa.
With the exception of Uganda, there are no groups in countries where dialogue is likely to meet the stiffest resistance.
If the Communion is to honour the commitments made in Windsor, lesbian and gay voices and experience need to be heard across the Communion, and especially in the countries where we are at present least visible.
None of the above groups has the resources to send people to share their stories and experience with bishops and congregations where they are most needed in the Communion.
We propose that the Communion commits resources to enable lesbian and gay people to travel to other parts of the Communion and bring their own stories and experience to inform the process.
Authorise individuals or groups
The attitudes expressed about lesbian and gay people in particular parts of the Communion demonstrate ignorance and prejudice.
Our voices are not going to be welcomed or listened to unless we go with authority to be heard.
Primates, bishops, priests and church congregations need the opportunity to meet lesbian and gay Christians, hear their stories and listen to their wisdom.
Various shades of lesbian and gay Christian experience need to be heard:
Those from cultures where they are able to live openly and are active members of their church, demonstrating that lesbian and gay Christians can live fully authentic Christian lives
Local voices from countries where the culture is hostile to lesbian and gay identity
Those who are lesbian or gay but find their sexual identity to be incompatible with their Christian faith
It is not necessarily easy for lesbian and gay Christians living openly and confidently in a society where the culture is gay-positive to risk sharing their experience in a more hostile culture or with people who question their integrity.
We propose that the Communion authorises a number of lesbian and gay individuals to bring their experience and voices to places where such voices are at present silent and unheard.
The Windsor report is asking for a process of study and education in both directions. We need to listen and learn as well as educate and share our experience.
We need both to engage with the process authorised by the Primates’ and ACC meetings, and also be pro-active in engaging the Church and bishops directly in other parts of the Communion .
The Changing Attitude way has been to share experience and personal stories - “giving our testimony“, in evangelical language.
Appendix: Excerpts from Lambeth resolutions and Windsor report
Lambeth Conference 1978: Resolution 10
….we recognise the need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research. The Church, recognising the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual encourages dialogue with them.
Lambeth Conference 1988: Resolution 64
… recognising the continuing need in the next decade for ”deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality...”
Lambeth Conference 1998: Resolution 1.10
We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons…..
Requests the Primates and the ACC to establish means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
146. We remind all in the Communion that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 calls for an ongoing process of listening and discernment, and that Christians of good will need to be prepared to engage honestly and frankly with each other on issues relating to human sexuality. It is vital that the Communion establish processes and structures to facilitate ongoing discussion. One of the deepest realities that the Communion faces is continuing difference on the presenting issue of ministry by and to persons who openly engage in sexually active homosexual relationships. …it has to be recognised that debate on this issue cannot be closed whilst sincerely but radically different positions continue to be held across the Communion.
135. …. we recommend that the Instruments of Unity, through the Joint Standing Committee, find practical ways in which the ‘listening’ process commended by the Lambeth Conference in 1998 may be taken forward, so that greater common understanding might be obtained on the underlying issue of same gender relationships.
12 January 2005
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