Lambeth Perspective - Slow Motion on Sexuality

Canterbury: Wednesday, 5 August 1998

This report was filed by Simon Sarmiento, on the scene in Canterbury.

Other Anglicans Online coverage, with links to many other articles, is on the web at


The Lambeth Conference today approved the following resolution on sexuality by a vote of 526 in favor and 70 against, with 45 abstentions (italics indicate amendments, see my notes below):

This Conference:

a) commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;

b) in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence [A28] is right for those who are not called to marriage.

c) recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships, and we commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual people. [A24] We wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;

d) while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, [A36] calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals [A27], violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;

e) cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions, nor the ordination of those involved in such unions;

f) requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;

g) notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23, and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process. [A15]

Now the explanation. First the original three-clause motion was replaced by the six-clause version. This took quite a while since before that decision was taken, the conference heard from the proposers of all the other main alternatives. Those were in due course either withdrawn or voted down by a voice vote. I will provide further details tomorrow.

The Resolutions Committee amended the wording of clause (e) for reasons of English grammar.

Then the italic words in clause (d) were proposed by the Archbishop of Tanzania. During the debate it was stated by the Archbishop of Kenya that this addition was expected by the Africans as "a welcome token" for them to support the main resolution (their much more conservative alternatives having just been rejected). After several speeches against this change, the amendment was accepted by a vote of 389 to 190.

Then the word "homophobia" was replaced in clause (d) by "irrational fear of homosexuals" at the request of a Kenyan bishop, Samson Muraluda of Taita Taveta. And the word chastity in clause (b) was replaced by "abstinence" (Bishop Sentamu of Stepney, in London, England). Both of these were on a voice vote.

The next change was to add the words "and we commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual people" to clause (c). This was proposed by Michael Bourke (Suffragan of Wolverhampton, England) and supported by Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester. It passed on a voice vote.

An attempt to remove clause (f) and place all responsibility at provincial level only was made by Moses Tay, Archbishop of Singapore. He said he was worried that he would receive "unhealthy literature which is quite polluting". Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester opposed him, pointing out that the motion allowed Archbishop Tay to send his material to others, too. It was defeated on a voice vote.

An attempt was made by Peter Chiswell of Armidale, Australia, to change "advise" to "approve" in clause (e). This was defeated on a show of hands.

Clause (g) was proposed by Archbishop Michael Peers of Canada, supported by Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford and carried on a voice vote.

At this point the Archbishop of Canterbury intervened in the debate, and made it clear he felt the motion merely restated the current position which he supported.

The final vote was then taken twice due to a confusion about the existence of an option to abstain, and the result was as mentioned above.

More details tomorrow.

Copyright © 1998 Society of Archbishop Justus.
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