“No idea” consecration of gay bishop would cause such a stir

Published August 1, 2008

Canterbury, England
Some bishops of The Episcopal Church in the U.S. have apologized to bishops with more conservative views on homosexuality, saying they had “no idea” that their church’s consecration of a gay bishop in the diocese of New Hampshire “had caused such a negative impact in many parts of the Communion.”

The apologies were extended on Thursday in some groups called indaba (from the Zulu word for ‘purposeful communication’), when bishops discussed the issue of human sexuality, an issue which has caused bitter conflict among Anglicans worldwide.

The draft document on the conference’s reflections also said that “although there has been a great appreciation of one to one conversation, there is the need to develop further trust in the relationships that have started here.”

The draft document, copies of which were released to the media, contains diverse views on sexuality and how best to handle the differences that have driven Anglicans apart.

While bishops have “a desire to end the spiral chaos” around the issue of sexuality, “there appears to be no desire to be so decisive at this stage that anyone would want to walk away,” said the draft document.

“Understandably, there are competing visions of how the Communion should responsibly handle the difference,” the draft document said. They range from “decisive action – ‘if your eye causes offence, you pluck it,'” to more listening, to reaffirming Lambeth Resolution 110 that states that homosexuality is “contrary to Scripture,” to “keep walking, keep talking.”

The document, which reflects discussions held by bishops in 16 indaba groups, also said that bishops felt that it was important “to be careful not to make judgments because on both sides people have come to their decision by careful study of the Bible.” It also noted that those with more conservative views on homosexuality “have exercised compassionate pastoral care to homosexual/lesbian people.”

The document also outlined reasons why the issue of homosexuality was “highly sensitive,” among them:

? there is a long tradition of Christian moral teaching which is now being questioned;
? there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting legal provisions, ranging from marriage to punitive action against homosexuals;
? in some parts, gay and lesbian relations are taboo, (while in others) it has become a justice issue.

Some bishops have also expressed that they wished sexuality wouldn’t be a big issue “because there are bigger ones,” but that they now can’t avoid it. “We are not agreed as to whether this is a first or second order issue,” they said in the document.

The draft document also said that the divisions over sexuality predate the consecration of Bishop Robinson in 2003, but that it had “put this onto a higher plane.” Anxieties were also expressed that his would not be the last consecration of a gay bishop. “Any unilateral action by any province without consulting the Communion was bound to have profoundly disruptive effect on the Communion.”

The draft document said that the way the Communion has handled the issue of polygamy has “complicated” the issue.


  • 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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