(Left) Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, and Archbishop of York John Sentamu at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Two international church leaders yesterday urged delegates of General Synod to adopt a positive approach to human sexuality, a contentious issue that will be dealt with during the ongoing meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada’s highest governing body here at the Marlborough Hotel.
In his remarks, John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and primate of England, urged delegates to exercise “gracious magnanimity” when dealing with the divisive issue of whether the church should bless homosexual unions.
For his part, Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion urged Canadian Anglicans to “take time to stand back from the Anglican Communion,” where the focus has been on schism over the issue of human sexuality, and look instead at its value.
“We do need to take time, stand back and celebrate our membership of that part of the body of Christ which we call the Anglican Communion; to rejoice in the wonderful family of which we are all part and to celebrate the wonderful ministry that is being done in many parts of the world,” said Canon Kearon.
Archbishop Sentamu urged delegates to re-examine “if we aren’t being challenged in our application of canon (church) law and gracious magnanimity in relation to the question of human sexuality.”
God, said Archbishop Sentamu, is “the supreme example of the one who is graciously magnanimous and who deals with others with gracious magnanimity.” He offered the example of the adulterous woman who was brought before Jesus. “He could have applied the letter of the law according to which she should have been stoned to death; but he went beyond justice,” he said. “As far as justice goes, there isn’t one of us who deserves anything other than the condemnation of God, but God goes far beyond justice.”
For a church to be “graciously magnanimous,” he added, it must have “a responsibility to both affirm moral standards and to ensure that its rules don’t seem rigorous to the point of inhumanity.”
Reflecting on his own ministry, Archbishop Sentamu said, “I have learned to care, hear and listen to those who describe themselves as gay or lesbian. They, like me, are called to redeemed humanity in Christ; and what upsets me is the way in which some of my brothers and sisters in Christ refer to members of Christ’s body (gay and lesbian Christians) as if they aren’t part of that body.” He added: “I strongly believe that holy communication is part of Holy Communion.”
Canon Kearon, who has visited the Canadian church before, said he was particularly interested in General Synod’s discussion on the Windsor Report. That report, produced in 2004 by an international Anglican commission, outlined ways of healing rifts within the Anglican Communion over human sexuality. Among its recommendations were moratoria on public rites of same-sex blessings and the election of homosexuals to the episcopate; it also recommended the adoption of a common “Anglican Covenant.”
Earlier last spring, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) endorsed a response to the Windsor Report prepared by a group composed of clergy, laity and staff, which stated that Canadian Anglicans will make decisions at its General Synod on the blessing of same-sex unions “mindful of the common life of the Communion and in response to the leading of the Spirit, as we see it in our own context.”
Canon Kearon said one of the effects of the Windsor Report has been “to push us all to ask the questions, ‘what does being a member of the Anglican Communion mean to each one of us? Why do we think it should be valuable?” For some, he said, membership in the Anglican Communion has become a frustrating encumbrance, but for others, “especially those of you who have experienced other parts of the communion, it’s a wonderful gift of fellowship.”
The Anglican Communion, he stressed, “is neither a world church nor an international federation. It is a communion of Christian people and the root of our communion is our communion through the Body of Christ.”
He said that Anglicans should not be asking, “what do we have to do to stay in the Anglican Communion? Or what is it that the Communion is demanding of us now?” Rather, they should be asking, “how do I act responsibly to my fellow Christians in the body of Christ? And even more deeply, what does responsibility to my fellow Christians in the Body of Christ mean in our current context?”