In Lambeth, Anglican Communion drops vote on same-sex marriage
CANTERBURY, England (RNS) – The prejudice gay people feel about same-sex marriage is the new racism, according to the leader of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, in an interview with Religion News Service on Tuesday (August 2), said that in the United States, “the issue of homosexuals and their rights amounts to a struggle in our time. for the one on the run. He went on to say that all Christians in the United States must stand in solidarity with gay people over same-sex marriage.
Curry was speaking following a key debate at the Lambeth Conference on the issue of same-sex marriage. The conference, which is meeting for the first time in 14 years, was meant to be an attempt to bring the Anglican Communion together – to pray, listen and discuss issues that affect the church and the world, such as discipleship, climate change and poverty. More than 650 bishops have registered to attend, including more than 100 from the Episcopal Church. They represent some 85 million Anglicans worldwide.
However, documents produced ahead of the conference, which runs until Monday, had sparked outrage among those in the liberal wing of the church. These documents included a reference to the entire Anglican Communion being totally opposed to same-sex marriage. The protests forced the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to change the statement to acknowledge that some provinces support same-sex marriage.
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In response to the amendment, bishops in the Global South announced that they would deny Holy Communion to bishops with gay partners and those who support same-sex marriage.
The point-and-counterpoint protests over the past week have underscored the growing divisions between Western bishops who support same-sex marriage and those in the South who oppose it — and the increasingly tenuous cooperation that Welby, as Archbishop of Canterbury, forged.
Welby wrote to conference attendees ahead of Tuesday’s discussion, describing same-sex marriage as “that issue we’re so divided on.” And in Tuesday’s debate – which was held behind closed doors with media banned – he acknowledged the difficulties faced by both sides and the intractability of an issue on which everyone considers a change of heart. as unthinkable, according to a transcript released by the press office. . Welby acknowledged that for many in attendance to change their position would make them a victim of derision, contempt and attack in their country.
Welby asserted that the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10, which rejects homosexuality as inconsistent with Scripture, was not overruled. Even so, he said he would not punish provinces that support same-sex marriage or seek to discipline or expel them from the Communion.
There was no vote on the human dignity document, but Welby’s speech received a standing ovation from the Communion and was hailed as bringing out some of the toxicity of the issue. According to Curry: “There has been some movement on the will of the bishops to respect our differences but at the same time to hold fast to our respective convictions. I think it’s a healthy thing because for people to be able to relate to deep differences is a kind of diversity. And we think diversity is a good thing.
Welby said in his address that those who have challenged the traditional teaching “did not arrive lightly at their ideas that the traditional teaching must change. They do not neglect the Scriptures. They don’t reject Christ. But they arrived at a different view of sexuality after long prayer, careful study and reflection on understanding human nature.
It was an approach that Curry welcomed while pointing out that in the United States, clergy like him had changed their minds about same-sex unions through pastoral encounters with couples who wanted God’s blessing on their relationship and their family.
After the closed-door discussion on the Human Dignity newspaper, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town told reporters there had been “vigorous discussions and long and sustained prayer.”
“We could sit in one room and listen to a diversity of viewpoints and reflect together” – a far cry from the situation before the Lambeth Conference when the bishops first received their draft conference documents, called Calls from Lambeth. These documents included the following statement: “It is in the spirit of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same-sex marriage is not permitted.”
The amended statement now notes that while many provinces prohibit same-sex marriages, other provinces “have blessed and welcomed same-sex union/marriage after extensive theological reflection and reception process.” .
This week’s Lambeth Conference, however, has a very different vibe to the last Lambeth Conference 14 years ago.
Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York and the second most senior member of Church of England clergy after the Archbishop of Canterbury, recalled the tensions of the last Lambeth Conference on same-sex marriage. “This time people are not threatening to leave. They are threatening to stay,” he told RNS on Wednesday.
For some proponents of same-sex unions, the lack of a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage was a blow. But Mary Glasspool, assistant bishop in New York and the first married lesbian bishop in the Anglican Communion, acknowledged that there has been some progress. “The call for human dignity was as good as it gets at this point. We felt like we were treated like human beings, rather than a problem.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury had a high-flying act to perform and he pulled it off. He did not fall. I felt he was at his best to keep the Communion together, to listen,” she told RNS on Wednesday.
Of the 42 Anglican provinces, those that have accepted same-sex marriage include the Episcopal Church in the United States; the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil; the Anglican Church of Canada; the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; the Scottish Episcopal Church; and the Church of Wales.
On Wednesday, the 650 bishops attending the Lambeth Conference left their base in Canterbury to travel to London for a day with the Archbishop of the London house of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, to discuss climate change. Welby said that “over the past few years there has been no doubt about the climate emergency for all of us”. And he warned that climate change would lead to food and water shortages, leading to wars over supplies and causing what he called “a wild downward spiral” that would affect people in the poorest parts of the world the most. the planet.
Lambeth Call’s article on the environment highlighted that churches in the Anglican Communion are involved in all aspects of the environmental emergency: “We are the people facing devastation in disaster-stricken communities. We are all polluters, especially in rich countries. We are people living in poverty and on the margins. We wield power and influence.
The Bishops heard from Kenyan environmental activist Elizabeth Wathuti, who said Africans were on the frontlines of the climate emergency and were “drowning in empty promises.” She insisted that religious leaders could influence politicians to do more.
The Lambeth Call urged Anglican provinces to stand up for the poorest communities suffering from the adverse effects of climate change.
Welby said the Church of England aims to divest from companies that are not pushing for carbon dioxide emissions to fall to net zero. He has also been highly critical of oil companies such as Shell, which have posted record profits at a time when people around the world are facing historic energy price hikes.
“Their windfall is causing indescribable hardship for people in the poorest countries and hardship for the poor here (in the UK) to have heat or food,” he said.
The Bishops also attended the planting of a tree in the Lambeth Palace garden to mark the launch of the Communion Forest initiative, with trees planted across Communion provinces.