Sunday 9 March 2008


Friends of mine had been to St Deiniols, that is Gladstone's Library at Harwarden, North Wales, to hear John Spong. So it was interesting to note the Integrity Conference Rebuilding Communion - Who Pays the Price? (Thursday 28th February – Saturday 1st March) was taking place there for which there is a video of conference summaries. It is thus a place for some discussions at the progressive or challenging end of Christianity. St Deiniols Library itself is publishing a book with the title of Rebuilding Communion.

Simon Sarmiento kicked off proceedings with a run down of events between the Lambeth Conferences with the negative 1998 vote but a small amount of progress of gay equality in Anglicanism and much more in civil society. He thinks the Anglican Covenant may be sunk.

Richard Kirker, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement presented the 2nd paper that there has been progress but the anti-stance of the Church of England has inhibited itself. The threat of schism is not as great as has been made out.

On the same day the Rev. Dr. Andrew Village again pointed to progress in civil society. The Church still had a reversal of attitudes from society, with 10% homo-positive. Interestingly liberals are not as not as homo-positive as one might expect. Anglo-Catholic or Broad Catholic were a little more homo-positive than others but improving. Evangelicals were the most homo-negative. Evangelicals are not becoming more homo-positive. It is theology that matters most, not age ranges, though the younger and female are more homo-positive.

Savi Hensman, Vice-Chair of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, gave her perspective as a native of Sri Lanka. Whereas parts of India tolerate same-sex relationships Asian attitudes are hardening. Anglican leaders in Singapore campaigned against decriminalising homosexuality whereas the Muslim leaders did not. Japan is much more open to diversity and Bishop of Columbo wrote very passionately for inclusion.

The Rev. Michael Hopkins, past-president of Integrity USA, was a bit shattered after resolution 1.10 was passed at Lambeth 1998. He stayed in the Church and predicted that in The Episcopal Church (TEC) ordinations of gay and lesbian priests and same-sex blessings would continue. LGBT clergy have had to prove themselves in dying parishes to reverse them. TEC is not going to turn the clock back.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, said that in the south of Nigeria, where he grew up, homosexuality was tolerated and was also part of his tribal culture before the missionaries came. He spoke of ubuntu (an openness to others, and involves a self-assurance from belonging to a greater whole so that when others do well the individual is enhanced, and when others are oppressed the individual is diminished).

Donn Michell, a member of Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in New York City, stated that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is perfectly aligned with biblical teaching and gospel values. The Churches and leaders in their behaviours have sometimes violated human rights. TEC's Resolution B033, passed by General Convention, instructs bishops and standing committees to disregard TEC's own canons.

The Rev. Donald Reeves presented the 8th paper, From Fear To Handshake, which he based on his experiences at mediation in Bosnia. The process moves from invitation to identifying who wants to talk; to doing this in pairs, then small groups, and then larger groups. People who try to sabotage the process are dealt with. First principles become pragmatic issues and personal stories play a part. Propagandists have to hear themselves. The media has to be used for advantage. Donald Reeves received no response from Lambeth Palace regarding his offer for a mediation process after discussing this with Rowan Williams.

How far all this has progressed the cause of inclusion is unclear. Perhaps we will not know until GAFCON tries to set an agenda and after Lambeth 2008 but events like this show that the issue is not going to go away.

Rebuilding Communion will take from the conference and thus make these issues available in this book form.

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