Hong Kong primate laments ‘lack of action’ on sexuality

Published August 2, 2008

Archbishop Paul Kwong, primate of Hong Kong and bishop of the diocese of Hong Kong, addresses a Lambeth press conference.

Canterbury, England
The Archbishop of Hong Kong, Paul Kwong, on Saturday said he found it “a little disappointing” that the Lambeth Conference is ending tomorrow with “no concrete action” to resolve the issues around sexuality that have triggered deep divisions within the Anglican Communion.

Alluding to The Episcopal Church in the U.S., which has ordained an openly gay bishop, and the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, which has permitted same-sex blessings, Archbishop Kwong urged those involved in the conflict to make a “sacrifice” similar to that made by the Church of South China in 1948. The Lambeth Conference of 1948 had ruled that the diocese of South China’s proposal to ordain a deaconess to the priesthood for an experimental period of 20 years would be “against the tradition and order and would gravely affect the internal and external relations of the Anglican Communion.” In 1944, Florence Li Tim Oi had been ordained the first female priest in the Communion by the bishop of Hong Kong; in 1946, to defuse the controversy surrounding her ordination, she surrendered her priest’s licence, but not her Holy Orders.

“We were criticized for that…That was considered a radical move… For the sake of the communion we revoked the ordination of Florence Li Tim Oi,” he said.

“We respect what people are doing, that what they’ve done is correct in their context. We’re not asking them to defend that what they’re doing is right, but what sacrifice can you make for the interest of the Communion, of the church?” he asked.

In a press conference, Archbishop Kwong proposed that a team or a person “with diplomatic skills” be appointed to engage in some kind of arbitration or peace process between the conflicting parties.

“I value the listening process. Let every single voice be heard. But we need action, something concrete,” said Archbishop Kwong.

The once-a-decade conference of the world’s bishops ends its 20-day meeting Sunday when it is expected to issue a set of “Reflections” which distils the bishops’ discussions of various actions in their groups called indaba, a Zulu concept where people gather for “purposeful conversation.”

Archbishop’s Kwong’s statement is indicative of the differences in opinion among bishops about what the conference can and should do – with one camp insisting that a resolution-type document be issued and others insisting that the conference is just that, a conference, not a governing body.

The bishop of the episcopal diocese of Louisiana, Charles Jenkins, meanwhile, said that some of his fellow American bishops were in favour of the Windsor Continuation Group’s (WCG) recommendation for a moratorium on the ordination of gay priests and bishops.

Archbishop Philip Aspinall, primate of the Anglican Church of Australia and official conference spokesperson, said an idea that his group has floated to help resolve the impasse is to have some kind of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (which was established in post-apartheid South Africa, and since adopted by the Canadian government to deal with the Indian Residential Schools experience.)

(The headline of this story has been changed.)


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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