Declaring homosexual relations “incompatible with Scripture,” Anglican bishops from around the world opposed the ordination of sexually active homosexuals and the blessing of homosexual unions. Instead they affirmed traditional church teaching that sex is permissible only within marriage.
The 750 Anglican bishops, meeting at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, adopted the resolution on August 5, by a vote of 526-70, with 45 bishops abstaining.
Liberal bishops, predominantly from Europe and the United States were trounced by the more conservative and evangelical bishops from the Third World.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, said, “I see no room in Holy Scripture for any sexual activity outside of matrimony.”
Under current Anglican teaching, homosexuals are welcome in the church and in the priesthood as long as they remain celibate.
The resolution declared that the conference “cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions or ordaining of those involved in same-sex unions.”
At the same time it also said Anglicans should “recognize 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 their relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experiences of homosexual people. We wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing, faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the body of Christ.
“While rejecting homosexual practise as incompatible with the Scripture, (we) call on all our people to administer pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn an irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex.”
There are 80 million Anglicans worldwide but the communion is growing fastest in Africa. In an interview printed in The Church of England Newspaper July 10, the revisionist bishop of Newark, N.J., John Spong, was quoted as saying African Christians “have moved out of animism into a very superstitious kind of Christianity. They’ve yet to face the intellectual revolution of Copernicus and Einstein that we’ve had to face in the developing world.”
His remarks were considered by many to be patronizing and insulting. “As far as the faith is concerned, the Church in Africa is strong,” said Rwandan Bishop Prudence Ngarambe. “It has produced martyrs. It has withstood external forces like communism …. We are prepared to challenge the unorthodox teaching that Spong and his colleagues are propagating.”
For Ugandan Bishop Wilson Mutebi, the issue of homosexuality was especially sensitive. Twenty-two Christian converts were martyred in the 19th century after they refused to be sodomized by the local ruler. Mutebi said, “The issue of homosexuality is leading the Anglican church astray.”
Many Third World bishops felt the agenda of the conference had been hijacked by the homosexual issue which side-lined what they considered the more pressing debate on poverty and international debt.
Immediately following the conference, 93 bishops, mostly from Europe and North America, issued a statement distancing themselves from the resolution affirming the traditional Anglican position on homosexuality. Canada’s Anglican primate Archbishop Michael Peers and Toronto’s Bishop Terence Finlay were among those who apologized to homosexuals for not allowing them more time to speak at the conference, and promised to continue studying the issues that had been raised.