Reclaim ‘orthodoxy,’ conference urged

Published December 1, 2003

Manchester , England
The word orthodoxy has been hijacked by many conservatives in the church and needs to be taken back, says a Canadian bishop who has become the lightning rod for much of the anger and division in the Anglican Communion.

The “intellectual theft” of the word orthodoxy is one of the “tragic developments in the church today,” said Bishop Michael Ingham, a keynote speaker at the Halfway to Lambeth conference, held in late October by the United Kingdom-based Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement. “Where is the courage of the church?” he asked.

Bishop Ingham, of New Westminster , was one of four keynoters at the one and a half-day conference at the University of Manchester. Others included Christopher Senteza, vice-president of Integrity Uganda, Rev. Mario Ribas, a gay priest from the church in Brazil, and Rowan Smith, dean of Cape Town, South Africa. 

Mr. Ribas spoke about a church “in the closet,” which he said meant much the same as it did for gay people. “It is a church that is afraid to exercise its prophetic role,” he said, adding that the church is missing out on its vocation “to be a counter culture movement.” As an example, he cited the actitivy in the Anglican Communion on all sides over the issue of homosexuality.

“If huge mobilizations, like these, were done to tackle issues of human justice, poverty or against wars and denials of human rights in many countries, surely the world would become a better place to live,” said Mr. Ribas.

In his address, Mr. Smith, who announced his homosexuality from the pulpit five years ago, said he was in college when he became aware of his sexual orientation. “At the time, it seemed like a double whammy – being black and gay,” he said, pausing for comic effect. “Thank God I wasn’t a woman.”

Mr. Senteza said gays and lesbians are in a catch-22 situation in Uganda . Many remain in the closet for fear of persecution; that, he said, allows the church to argue that there are no homosexuals in the country and “keep up their homophobic stance.”

(Integrity USA issued an e-mail alert in mid-November that Mr. Senteza was in hiding. After his comments from the Manchester conference were reported, Ugandan police visited his home while Mr. Senteza was out; his home was ransacked and police have questioned a founder of Integrity Uganda about Mr. Senteza’s whereabouts.)

Many conference participants said the live video link address by Canon Gene Robinson – later dubbed ‘Gene-on-the-Screen’ by Bishop Ingham – was a highlight. The bishop-elect of the diocese of New Hampshire was scheduled as a keynote speaker but addressed the gathering by video instead due to logistics involved in his consecration, planned for a week later.

Canon Robinson said he has encountered both supporters and detractors since his election was confirmed by the national church last August. “One man said to me ‘You were chosen to be the father of our community. How can you split it apart?” said Bishop-elect Robinson. “I said this issue (sexuality) should not be held above all that holds us together.”


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