president of Integrity Vancouver
Organizers of an international conference scheduled for later this month hope not only to put homosexuality issues on the radar of the world’s Anglican bishops but to affect the agenda of their next international meeting in 2008 and sway church leaders who remain undecided about the role of gays and lesbians in the church.
Keynote speakers at the conference, to be held Oct. 24-26 in Manchester, England, include Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia and Bishop Gene Robinson of the diocese of New Hampshire, whose election as the church’s first openly gay bishop was confirmed at last summer’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States.
Quoting from his conference brochure, Richard Kirker, president of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), said in an interview that the Halfway to Lambeth conference “will be a unique occasion to provide an opportunity for bishops, and others in the Anglican Communion, to ‘listen to the experience of homosexual people’ (part of Resolution 1.10 Lambeth Conference, 1998) and to make preparations to ensure that the experience of lesbian and gay Anglicans is fully and accurately reflected at the next Lambeth Conference.”
The Lambeth Conference, held every 10 years, brings together all the bishops of the Anglican Communion. It will meet next in Cape Town in 2008. At its 1998 meeting, the bishops passed a resolution stating that homosexuals “are full members of the Body of Christ,” but rejecting “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.”
Lambeth resolutions are not binding on member churches; they are advisory rather than legislative.
The LGCM makes no bones about the fact that they hope to have an impact on the Lambeth agenda. “Well, yes,” said Mr. Kirker. “Otherwise, what’s the point? We’re not gathering to pat ourselves on the back and speak to the converted.”
Mr. Kirker said the conference aims to engage those bishops and church leaders who have not already made up their minds about homosexuality in the church.
“ We have made it as friendly and unthreatening as possible by inviting a mixture of gay and straight people and by making it clear that it is in the spirit of the Lambeth resolution (to listen to gay and lesbian people)” said Mr. Kirker.
He declined to identify the bishops who have registered or agreed to attend. “I don’t want to put additional burdens or pressure on them and have their constituents start to lobby them.”
Listed as a conference consultant, the bishop of Malaita, Terry Brown, said that although he is unable to attend due to other commitments, he has discussed the conference – “theme, strategy, resource persons, etc.,” – with Mr. Kirker several times, both on visits to England and by e-mail. Bishop Brown is a former mission worker with Anglican Church of Canada.
Other Canadians listed as conference consultants include Bishop Barry Hollowell of the diocese of Calgary, who will attend, Bishop Duncan Wallace of the diocese of Qu’Appelle and Archbishop Percy O’Driscoll, the retired bishop of the diocese of Huron and one-time metropolitan of Ontario.
Although he is listed as a conference consultant, Bishop Wallace said he was simply asked if he would “let my name stand” as a bishop endorsing the conference and he did so. He is unable to attend due to other commitments.
Also planning to attend are members of the Vancouver chapter of Integrity, a ministry for gay and lesbian Anglicans. Steve Schuh, the chapter’s president wrote in an e-mail, “Given our experience of the Holy Spirit in this diocese, we can’t help but stand with Bishop Michael as witnesses to the unfolding of God’s new creation among us!
“ I think our story will be especially encouraging to Christians in parts of the world where the church itself continues to devalue, exclude, and often demonize God’s gay and lesbian children.”
The diocese of New Westminster, which encompasses the greater Vancouver area, last year became the first Anglican diocese to endorse the blessing of same-sex unions.