Conference takes conservative stance on human sexuality
by James Thrall
In a session the Archbishop of Canterbury called ``difficult and painful,'' the Lambeth Conference approved a statement on sexuality yesterday afternoon that rejects homosexual practice as ``incompatible with Scripture.'' The resolution, submitted by bishops of Section One and amended over the course of nearly three hours of debate, commits the Church to ``listen to the experience of homosexual people'' and calls homosexuals ``full members of the Body of Christ.'' It also condemns ``irrational fear of homosexuals.'' But conservative views prevailed in requiring ``abstinence'' for anyone not married.The resolution also states that the Conference ``cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions, nor the ordination of those involved in such unions.''
The strong feelings on the topic expressed throughout the two-and-ahalf weeks of the Conference leading up to the vote were evident in the bishops' polite but pointed comments during the debate. The final vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the amended resolution, with 526 bishops voting in favour to only 70 voting against. Forty-five bishops abstained. Several speakers objected to adding language that calls homosexual practice incompatible with scripture.
``You can pass this but you will not have a strong statement,'' Bishop Catherine Roskam (New York, US) said. While a previous speaker, Bishop Peter Adebiyi (Owo, Nigeria), had called any condoning of homosexuality ``evangelical suicide,'' Bishop Roskam asserted that ``to condemn it, in the form it has been condemned, is evangelistic suicide in my region.'' At one point in the debate, Archbishop David Crawley, of British Columbia andYukon, said the original resolution had been steadily eroded. ``A document whose face, a little conservative, was a face of love and compassion is gradually, bit by bit, step by step, turning into a judgement and condemnation.''
A number of bishops, however, reiterated their beliefs that scripture forbids homosexuality. In Uganda, said Bishop Winston Mutebi (Mityana, Uganda), ``the Bible and the apostolic tradition are authority for all that we do in our Church.'' He urged lesbians and gay men to repent. The resolution retained language calling on the Church's primates and the Anglican Consultative Council to monitor the study of sexuality by provinces throughout the Communion, and to ``share statements and resources.''
Speaking to the press after the plenary session, Archbishop Robin Eames, of Armagh (Ireland), who chaired the session, said he was not surprised at the outcome. ``Talking and listening to my fellow bishops since I arrived, I felt this was the way things would go,'' he said. ``Looking ahead, what the Lambeth Conference said today is to primates, `Monitor this, watch this.''' In comments to the plenary just before the vote, Dr Carey endorsed the resolution as standing ``wholeheartedly with traditional Anglican orthodoxy,'' but also expressed his belief that the Church's discussion of sexuality will continue.
``I see no room in Holy Scripture or the entire Christian tradition for any sexual activity outside matrimony,'' he said. ``The amended motion, actually, is simply saying what we've all held... Anglican belief and morality stand for.'' But, he said,``We are aware that we have to go on listening. The dialogue continues.''