Responses to Primates' Meeting

Tue, 2016-01-19 15:28 -- bob.callaghan

Responses to the Anglican Primates’ Meeting

anglican communion flagAhead of the Anglican Primates in January, Inclusive Church was supportive of the letter that was sent to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Dianna Gwilliams, Chair of Inclusive Church and Dean of Guildford was one of the signatories. The letter asked the Archbishops to take a message to the Primates Meeting “that the time has now come for acknowledgement that the Church has failed in its duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world.”
The letter can still be signed on-line – go here if you would like to do this. There is an option to sign anonymously if that is helpful.

Following the meeting the trustees of Inclusive Church have issued 2 statements. One from Dianna Gwilliams, chair of Inclusive Church and one as a joint statement from Inclusive Church, Modern Church and Progressive Christianity Network.

Reflection from the Chair of Inclusive Church

What are we to say to these things?  If God is for us, then who can be against us?

These aren’t the only words which have come to mind in the days since the conclusion of the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury.  Personally I am terribly disappointed that what was trailed as a possibility, that the Anglican Communion might begin the work of walking closely together in a new way, with greater respect and fewer demands for single-sided surrender, ended up being a false dawn.  Instead, we have a province facing the ‘consequence’ of second-class citizenship for at least three years. 

The developments in the Episcopal Church which have had this consequence are not going to be reversed.  The decisions were taken faithfully, following much prayer and discussion and out of an understanding of the mission of that church in its context. The consequences which they have been asked to bear will deprive the whole Communion of what the Spirit continues to say to that part of the church, and the Communion will be the poorer because of this.  In removing the voice of The Episcopal Church and in the veiled threat to remove the voices of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Scottish Episcopal Church is it hoped that the voices of LGTBI Christians and of those who speak with and for them will be silenced? 

In all the gloom there is some light in the statement from the Primates. “The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people. 

The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God's love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.”

Whilst I welcome this statement of profound sorrow, I would ask that consideration is now given to sorrow for the actions which have given and continue to give the impression that God’s love for every human being is not the same, and also recognition that it is not simply issues of sexuality about which the actions of the church cause great pain.  Trans people and intersex are also those to whom great pain is caused and this has not been acknowledged at all.

Regardless of the consequences for the Episcopal Church the voices of LGBTI people and those who speak with and for them will not be silenced. We will continue to speak out and speak up.  This is why I signed the Open Letter to the Archbishops in advance of the meeting of the Primates.  I, and more than 100 others, asked the Archbishops of the Church of England to communicate to the Communion something of the pain which the church continues to cause to LGBTI Christians by our failure to love and by our failure to confront and condemn ill-informed and destructive beliefs about LGBTI people.  The meeting took place in confidence so we can’t know whether the content of our letter was shared.  Some sorrow for the past was expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his press conference after the conclusion of the conference but very little of what we expressed found its way into the communique issued on behalf of all the Primates. The contents of our letter to the Archbishops is still relevant and still needs addressing.  More than 4000 people have now signed the letter and if you’ve not yet added your name to the letter and would like to do so, you can use this link.

So what are the next steps? Inclusive Church calls for tangible signs of the sorrow expressed by the Primates for the way the communion has acted towards people on the basis of their sexuality; for an acknowledgment of those actions of the church which give the impression that human beings are not the same; and for an unequivocal statement of repudiation of all and every inference which lead to destructive beliefs about LGBTI people.  We call for proactivity on the part of the Bishops of our Church in reaffirming that God’s love, call and gifting is the same for all people.

If God is for us, then who can be against us?  This is, for me, a statement of hope.  When there seems to be so much against those of us who are passionate for the inclusive love of God to be shown to all people, so much against people who God loves, we have to work hard to remember that God is for us.  Not for us in a restricted way, but for us in an extravagant, outrageous way.  God is for us in the way that Jesus lived and died, and for us in the resurrection, when death, hate and darkness were destroyed.  We live in that resurrection hope, the fierce refusal to believe anything less than the reality that God is for us.  Each and every one of us.

Please continue in that hope that things really will change.  Please continue to work for the inclusion of all people and please continue your faithful Christian discipleship, loving and knowing yourself loved.  The love we demonstrate together will speak louder than those voices who are trying to drown us out and that love will win, because if God is for us, who can be against us?

Dianna Gwilliams. Chair of Inclusive Church

Joint statement from Inclusive Church, Modern Church and Progressive Christianity Network

In the statement following their meeting, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have expressed their profound sorrow for the deep hurt caused within the Church towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation and they affirm that God’s love for every human being is the same regardless of their sexuality.

As organisations we are committed to working with people and parishes all over the country to affirm and support the faith, life and ministry of LGBTI people. We now call for tangible signs of the sorrow expressed by the Primates for the way the communion has acted towards people on the basis of their sexuality; for an acknowledgement of those actions which give the impression that human beings are not the same; and for an unequivocal statement of repudiation of all and every inference which lead to destructive beliefs about LGBTI people.

In the light of the sorrow expressed by the Primates, we will redouble our efforts to reach out to and lift up all who are marginalised in the life of the Church because of the institutionalised homophobia which has stood between so many and the Good News of God’s love for all people. We call for such proactivity on the part of the Bishops of the Church of England in reaffirming that God’s love, call and gifting is the same for all people.

Simon Sarmiento, Secretary of Inclusive Church
Guy Elsmore, General Secretary Modern Church
Adrian Alker, Chair Progressive Christianity Network

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