Lambeth Perspective: Sexual alternatives

Canterbury: Thursday, 6 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


Lambeth Perspective: Sexual alternatives

I have previously reported the full texts of the two draft resolutions that came from the official sub-section dealing with this topic; and the full text of the resolution as passed, explaining the sources of the amendments. To understand the context, you need to know what the alternative amendments were like. So here they are.

The conference was offered the chance to replace the three-clause starting point with several other possibilities, although given the shenanigans the night before, the six-clause version was clearly the favourite before the start, simply on the basis that it had such strong support from this group which encompassed all points of view and had spent a huge amount of time over the life of the conference working on the issue.

The Bishop of Indianapolis (USA), Catherine Waynick, proposed, but in fact withdrew before a vote could be taken, the following, numbered as A.13:

This Conference:

(a) receives the report of Section 1 Subsection 3 on Human Sexuality;

(b) commends the report for consideration and prayerful study by the Churches of the Communion;

(c) requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the study and work done on human sexuality in the Communion and to share resources and information with member Churches;

(d) 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 and the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality, and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring and sharing process.

The Central and East Africa Region Chairman, from Uganda, proposed the following alternative, numbered as A.31, but identical to V.1 mentioned above:

This Conference

(a) believes in the primacy authority of the Scriptures, according to their own testimony, as supported by our own historic tradition. The Scriptural revelation of Jesus the Christ must continue to illuminate, challenge, and transform cultures, structures, systems and ways of thinking; especially those secular views that predominate our society today;

(b) consequently, reaffirms the traditional teaching upholding faithfulness between a husband and wife in marriage, and celibacy for those who are single;

(c) noting that the Holy Scriptures are clear in teaching that all sexual promiscuity is a sin, is convinced that this includes homosexual practices, between persons of the same sex, as well as heterosexual relationships outside marriage;

(d) believes that in this regard, as in others, all our ordained Ministers must set a wholesome and credible example. Those persons who practice homosexuality and live in promiscuity, as well as those Bishops who knowingly ordain them or encourage these practices, act contrary to the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church. We call upon them to repent;

(e) respects as persons and seeks to strengthen compassion, pastoral care, healing, correction and restoration for all who suffer or err through homosexual or other kinds of sexual brokenness;

(f) reaffirms that it is therefore the responsibility of the Church to lead to repentance all those who deviate from the orthodox teaching of the Scriptures and to assure them of God's forgiveness, hope and dignity.

The Chairman of the Latin America Region, Archbishop Maurice Sinclair, withdrew before a vote could be taken, the following incredibly short alternative, numbered A.33, identical to V.10:

This Conference recognises the importance of strengthening Christian family values and thereby reaffirms traditional Anglican sexual ethics.

The Chair of the West Africa Group, from Nigeria, proposed the following numbered A.34 but identical to V.35 (the V numbers refer to Regional resolutions):

This Conference:

(a) noting that-

(i) The Word of God has established the fact that God created man and woman and blessed their marriage;

(ii) many parts of the Bible condemn homosexuality as a sin;

(iii) homosexuality is one of many sins that Scripture has condemned;

(iv) some African Christians in Uganda were martyred in the 19th century for refusing to have homosexual relations with the king because of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their commitment to stand by the Word of God as expressed in the Bible on the subject;

(b) stands on the Biblical authority and accepts that homosexuality is a sin which could only be adopted by the Church if it wanted to commit evangelical suicide.

Following the debate, an official press conference, chaired by Lesley Perry, the Archbishop of Canterbury's press officer at Lambeth Palace, was asked what practical effect this action of the bishops would have. The answers given seemed to be: not a lot. Robin Eames, Archbishop of Armagh, who had chaired the two and a half hour debate, compared the situation now to the situation ten years ago relating to women bishops and the process that had occurred with the Eames Commission, and he also referred to the Virginia report and its remarks on the theory of reception. He also said that the Primates would be meeting on Sunday, after the end of the Conference itself, and might well address the issue further at that time. It was also noted at this press conference by Duncan Buchanan, Bishop of Johannesburg, that ten years ago the then Bishop of New York had been hounded off the floor of the conference when he tried to raise the issue of homosexuality, whereas today the subject had been a major discussion topic. He also noted that at the start of this conference, his sub-section had refused to listen to the voice of homosexual people whereas today the conference had passed a resolution which required such listening. He considered this to be progress.

The debate was noticeable for the absence of American speakers. The only ECUSA bishops who spoke were the Bishop of Maryland, Robert Ihloff, and Suffragan Bishop of New York, Catherine Roskam, both of whom spoke against the amendment to clause (d) from the Archbishop of Tanzania. Bishop Roskam said that to adopt this amendment would be "evangelical suicide" in New York and San Francisco, leading to a pyrrhic victory and a divided church. Bishop Russell of Grahamstown, South Africa was the only other bishop that spoke against the amendment although twice as many people opposed the amendment as voted against or abstained on the overall motion.

Press coverage here in England this morning is substantial. This was a foregone conclusion an hour before the debate even started when a Nigerian bishop, Emmanuel Chukwuma, Bishop of Enugu, engaged in a shouting match with a British Anglican lesbigay activist in front of the TV cameras. This story, which I witnessed personally, ran on early evening TV news, while the bishops were still in session, and the participants were featured in a studio discussion on the BBC-TV current affairs programme Newsnight. Pictures of the incident appear in all the morning papers, often in full colour and on the front page. This unscripted and wholly unexpected event outside the meeting hall has tripled the amount of media space given to the Lambeth Conference on this topic, far exceeding that given to World Debt and other issues. These headlines from the conference are, of course, something that the Church of England and the other British Anglican provinces will have to live with long after everyone else has gone home.

And this is not the end of it. The Resolutions Committee is still considering whether further action is needed on the two resolutions relating to the Kuala Lumpur Statement, the texts of which I reported in full in a previous despatch. These may yet come to the floor of the conference for a vote. The full text of the KL statement itself was appended to the notice paper for yesterday's session with the following preamble.

What follows is the text of the South to South meeting resolution, unanimously adopted by 80 delegates representing the Anglican Church of the South in Kuala Lumpur under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Nigeria. The churches that delegates represented contain between 80 and 90 percent of the Anglicans in the world. This statement was unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed by the members of the EFAC TRN Consultation as well on Thursday, April 10, 1997.

The unsolved mystery of yesterday is why 100 or so bishops attending the Conference apparently did not vote at all.

Copyright © 1998 Society of Archbishop Justus.
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