General Synod, York, July 1997


Part 1 of 2

I am most grateful to the Archdeacon for giving Synod this opportunity for debate. I want to concentrate on the question of homosexual practice, fully realising that the Motion goes much wider than this. But it is an important issue, which raises deeper questions about how we do our theology and how we live with differences of opinion. I also often remind myself that it is not merely a 'matter', an 'issue' or a 'problem' that we are discussing but real people, loved by God, made in his image and likeness. I want to contribute briefly to this debate mainly from the perspective of the wider Anglican Communion.

The picture formed by many outside the Church is that the Anglican Communion is hopelessly divided and rent asunder by furious debate about homosexual practice. I urge Synod, indeed, all members of our Church to treat this description with great scepticism.

As part of the preparations two years ago for the Lambeth Conference, nine Regional Conferences of Bishops representing every Province of the Communion were convened to draw up the priority issues for the Lambeth Conference. Four of them did not include sexuality at all. The rest did not give it high priority. Issues such as international debt and relationships with Islam were regarded as far more pressing priorities.

However, there will be study and discussion concerning human sexuality - not just homosexuality - in one of the four Sections of the Lambeth Conference. The Conference will, for example, consider a suggestion, supported by the Primates, in their Jerusalem meeting that an International Commission should be set up to examine the matter, along the lines of the Eames Commission on Ordination of Women to the Episcopate. But this will take its place among debates on many other topics.

We know that in the Anglican Communion there is a strand of opinion challenging the traditional understanding of the Church. We know that the great Desmond Tutu, a personal friend of mine, is an eloquent exponent of that opinion. But it remains a minority view. Let me remind Synod that, under his successor Archbishop Ndungane, the Bishops of the Province of South Africa have agreed a Statement which - though pastorally sensitive - includes this reaffirmation that "sex is for life-long marriage with a person of the opposite sex, for the purpose of companionship, sexual fulfilment and procreation".

When the Primates met in March this year, it is true that a number of differing views about homosexual practice were expressed very vigorously, and it was suggested that a number of Provinces might feel so strongly about the issue that they would find it difficult to remain in communion with Provinces that decided to ordain practising homosexuals or welcome 'same sex' marriages. However, I discovered from careful enquiries of my fellow Primates that homosexual practice was simply not on the agenda of over two-thirds of the Provinces as a live issue; and even in those Provinces which were discussing it, no imminent legal changes were envisaged, whatever more subtle, non-legal changes might be afoot.

I mention this to take some of the heat out of the debate. There are some who want to 'talk up' the matter and make it a symbolic test of faith. Ironically, some of those most opposed to the ordination of practising homosexuals seem to be among those most concerned to talk it up!

Nonetheless, it is an important subject which can and does give rise to much anxiety, pain and division. It will not go away and it is no good pretending that opposition to, and acceptance of, homosexual practice are reconcilable options. We are therefore left with two subjects for continuing dialogue: firstly, what is God's will? And secondly, what do we do as members of the Church when we disagree about what God's will is?

Anglicanism with its rich theology of comprehensiveness should be a wonderful context in which to wrestle with these two questions honestly and openly. Neither question can be settled by campaigning tactics or soundbites. They need prayerful, respectful dialogue.

On the first question, let me make clear my own starting point. I do not find any justification, from the Bible or the entire Christian tradition, for sexual activity outside marriage. Thus, same sex relationships in my view cannot be on a par with marriage and the Church should resist any diminishing of the fundamental 'sacramentum' of marriage. Clergy, especially, must model relationships that commend the faith of Christ. I know that this statement will distress some, and I understand the pastoral difficulties that come from working out the discipline of the Church in the personal life, but I could not commend any significant departure from the principles and conclusions set out in the Issues Statement. Of course, that Statement or its preface is not to be seen as Holy Writ and is there to be debated. In that sense it is not intended to be the last word, as if prayerful discussion should stop! But I do not believe any major change is likely in the foreseeable future and I do not myself share the assumption that it is only a matter of time before the Church will change its mind.

But there are brothers and sisters who wish to challenge that view, and it is right that courteous, thoughtful debate and prayer should continue. It is a disappointment to many of us in the House that Issues in Human Sexuality has not been as widely discussed as we had hoped. This debate presents us with an opportunity to send it to the dioceses and deaneries with a fresh commendation. We should beware of mirroring our society's near-obsession with sexual matters, but the issue does deserve serious, prayerful attention along with other important contemporary questions. Let us show that we can disagree on particular issues and yet work together in the Body of Christ for the sake of all we hold in common, reminding ourselves that Christ's mission to preach the Good News comes before all else.

Finally, let me add a word about the responsibility of Bishops. To us is given responsibility for the Church's faith and moral life. We shall take these seriously - as the Ordinal reminds us to administer the discipline firmly, but with mercy.


Canon James Rosenthal Director of Communications, The Anglican Communion London, England Editor, ANGLICAN WORLD


[A further bit of info from England.]

Friends -

A contact in England sent me this. I pass it on for your info and edification. Earle Fox and Bob Kaiser, especially, pls note.

Dick Kim+


>>>Hello - Tim Bradshaw has asked me to send you a note on the recent General Synod [the English "General Convention"] debate on Homosexuality. Here it is.

1. The final vote simply encourages 'continuing debate'. [Some see this as opening the door to a more liberal view. It is up to us who reject the liberal view to engage in the debate with them, rather than simply repeat the truth again and again as loudly as we can. I'm convinced that the arguments are increasingly going to go our way, if we can persuade the other side to listen; they won't listen if we just shout at them!]

2.Three key speakers from the 'gay lobby' side all spoke graciously and movingly, from their own experience, about discrimination, hostility etc.

One exaggerated the numbers of gays in UK ("3 million" vs actual possible 1 million); their other key points included - 'the church can change its view on this as it changed on slavery'; "their orientation is no fault of their own"; "God made them as they are"; and the cost to gay clergy of concealing their lifestyle.

3. Two aggressively evangelical speakers lost the sympathy of the middle ground by banging the drum of 'unnatural sex', 'the bible doesn't change' etc. What they said was 100% true, but didn't help!

4. The Arch of York stressed the need to promote celibacy and deep same-sex friendships, and to combine clear gospel demands with the clear gospel offer of love.

5. The Arch of Canterbury noted that in NONE of the regions of the Anglican Communion was it seen as a top priority for Lambeth 1998, although it WILL come into their agenda. We must wrestle in discussion rather than campaign. He saw no basis from the Bible for any sexual activity outside marriage, and didn't expect any change in the churches official view on this in UK in the foreseeable future [i.e. no ordination of gays, and no 'gay marriage']. Clergy must model relationships which 'commend the gospel'.

6.This last point links with the argument about the so-called 'two standards, for clergy and lay, which the Bp of Oxford insisted was 'one standard, applied in two ways'; that is, the church allows lay people the liberty of conscientious dissent from the teaching of the church [the implication, not stated, was that clergy must not only not behave in a way which would cause offence, but must not teach it either].

7. Three other important points were made very briefly, due to time shortage. The church MUST speak out against discrimination; to disagree with the gay lobby is NOT [necessarily] to be a homophobe; medical evidence recently circulated may be 'selective' but it may also be true!

I hope this helps. Mark Birchall<<<  

[COMMENT: It is absolutely appalling that almost never in the debates are the easily documented facts mentioned which make the claim of the "naturalness" and "goodness" of homosexuality simply untenable.  Why are people so cowardly -- or irresponsibly ignorant -- concerning the facts?  There is no case whatsoever for homosexual behavior or orientation.  Not Biblically, nor in any of the empirical sciences.  See the my summary of the evidence in the sexuality section of this Website.  And the book by David Virtue and myself: Homosexualty: Good and Right in the Eyes of God?   E. Fox.]


The Archbishop of Canterbury's Sermon
for the Episcopal General Convention

Eucharist Saturday, 19 July 1997

(This is not a transcription. The words are from the original printed press release issued prior to delivery, as audited by Richard Jordan, Coordinator, Interfaith Partnership for the Environment, UN Environment Program, who was in attendance at the service.)

I am so delighted to be with you all at your General Convention. Thank you for your kind invitation. In terms of history, ECUSA has a special place in the Anglican Communion and I am pleased to bring you the greetings of the Church of England. There is so much vital work for the Episcopal Church to do when it gathers, and the 72nd Convention is no different in that respect than any of its predecessors. This time, however, you have not only to think of Ed Browning and his ministry, but also of the election of a new Presiding Bishop. There is so much to be done that you may in a very real sense feel the burden of the responsibility. The enormity of the task reminds me of the Texan farmer who was speaking with an English farmer. The English farmer had no idea how huge a ranch the Texan farmer owned. "When I jump in my car at 6 AM, by noon I am not even half way across the ranch." The English farmer replied: "Yes, I know how you feel, I once had a car like that."

So the Gospel reading for this Eucharist is very relevant to what you do. "Bend your necks to my yoke and learn from me, for my burden is easy and my yoke is light." This passage is about transformation. It is the climax of a long section of Jesus' teaching on mission and leadership that began with the sending out of the twelve. The mission is clear - go out and preach, live for me, serve those who are in need, and don't worry about your own well-being. And the passage is all about a tapestry of contrasts: sheep among wolves; the wisdom of serpents and the innocence of doves. "You will be flogged in holy places," Jesus said, "fathers will betray children, and children will rebel against their parents. But he who endures until the end will be saved."

This is the message that Jesus proclaimed to those who are his disciples. But it is a message that the sophisticated, the learned and the complacent find not just uncomfortable but also incomprehensible. For he is turning the values of the world upside down, and in so doing he offers transformation - not only to those who are cared for or preached to but to those who are true disciples. "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden,and I will give you rest." "The burden you carry is indeed heavy , but I am here to take that burden from you. In its place, take my yoke upon you - learn from me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

My brothers and sisters, is it possible that we can so focus our lives and ministries on Christ that the burdens we carry as a Church can be transformed? My brothers and sisters, I also have a great love for your country, your people, your enormous generosity, and your desire for freedom. I love your Church, which has made me so very welcome whenever I come to your country and your dioceses. It fills me with a profound sense of gratitude. Whatever the challenges, the tensions that arise from time to time, I know that the Episcopal Church will be there in the thick of things facing up to it all. So never think that I am one of those who wants to knock your Church. The Anglican Communion is reliant upon your energy, your vision and your extraordinary generosity. It adds a richness to the life of the Anglican Communion that is unique, and I want you to know how much I appreciate that.

Let me just quote one or two examples. Last year I visited Los Angeles and I was struck by the extraordinary and devoted ministry of a young priest among the most deprived Hispanic community there. I have seen wonderful work in Chicago, both on the West and south Sides, with black communities. I have seen recently the magnificent housing project run by the churches in the South Bronx. You give wonderful support to the ministry of the Secretary-General of the Anglican Consultative Council, and to Bishop James Ottley, our Observer at the United Nations, and through the Presiding Bishop's fund, extraordinary help to projects all over the world. In addition, individual parishes, and I think now of Trinity Church, Wall Street, just celebrating its 300th year of ministry, and the marvelous support that Virginia Theological Seminary has given to the Inter- Anglican Doctrinal Commission, and I can go on and on and on with examples. There is so much more in the life of this Church for which to give thanks, and that spirit of adventure and unrestrained joy that infuses so much of your work and worship is truly life-giving to others.

But some of you will have come here with heavy hearts. The burdens of the challenges that are presenting themselves to you are anything but easy and light. There are those standing in the wings - and some of them in the media - who have got it into their heads that this General Convention is somehow going to sound the death- knell either of the Episcopal Church or of the Anglican Communion or possibly both.

We know that will not be the case, but, with the Gospel ringing in our ears, we need too to recognize the nature of our Communion today. We have become a wonderfully rich and diverse network of Christian communities in every part of the globe and the challenges faced by our Communion in the United States or in the United Kingdom are not likely to die. Our churches are not going to be invaded by security police firing tear gas, and beating up those at prayer, as happened in Nairobi Cathedral just 10 days ago. It is highly unlikely that one of our bishops would lose his dearly-loved wife in a land mine explosion, as happened to one of our bishops in Northern Uganda last month. But then, some of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world do not understand some of the serious challenges that we face in different contexts.

So, you see, we face a potential conflict, a paradox that is in danger of becoming a burden. Anglicanism is flourishing. At its heart is the principle of freedom. We are not a monolithic Church that dictates to its members precisely what must be the package of faith. Nor are we simply a collection of independent Churches. To be Anglican is to be part of a movement, a movement that is confident in its roots in the Gospel and historic Christianity, confident in its determination to be a people on the move, in our desire to remain in relationship with one another - to be in communion - because of our relationship in Christ. In itself this suggests a voluntary curtailment of our freedom. Our freedom is the freedom to love. It is the freedom to serve. It is the freedom from the shackles of the world that allows us to stand out from the crowd and to deny ourselves in our service of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And where is our model for this freedom? It is Christ himself. John Taylor, former Bishop of Winchester in England, wrote these words in his book 'The Christ-like God': "When we pray we are in the presence of a God whose hands are tied by love for us and the world.... To make this recognition concrete, the truest image we can have in mind of the God of whom we pray is that of the crucified Jesus...."

My dear friends of ECUSA, allow me to offer you some thoughts from this Gospel reading as you continue your work.

First, there will be no great work done for God if our Christology is not great. In all the temptations of our world's confusions we are here to 'lift high the cross' as the hymn puts it. A Church that has an exalted view of Christ as Savior, as redeemer, and Lord always will be a Church ever expectant, ever hopeful, ever trustful. And so the Gospel reading calls upon us never to apologize for saying that "no one knows the Son but the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son." You see, this is a ringing call to be confident in our witness and trustful in the Lord of the Church. The Church continues to change always today. Believe it and live it.

Second, there will be no great work done for our Lord if we are not prepared to take his yoke upon us. There is an order to our freedom. Our hand are tied in our love of Christ and of his Body. That yoke may take many different forms. For all of us it means holiness of life and the call to a distinctive life pattern of prayer and devotion. But for some of you it may take the form of suffering physically. For others it may take the form of sacrificial witness and prophetic action. Our freedom is given to us as we take on the yoke of Christ, which is the cross. Have you noticed in your societies, and I notice it in mine, that we live in societies that are fierce to pronounce about 'rights' but seemingly reluctant to talk about responsibilities. And as Episcopalians we have responsibilities too - to walk together, to promote peace and harmony, to maintain unity fiercely as if our own life depended upon it. A communion such as ours is vulnerable to the pressures of disunity. We are not, and never will be, please God, the kind of Church that imposes answers from above in order to defend our unity. Rather, we are a Church, or hope to be a Church, which strides out from behind our defenses in order to meet and greet people on their territory. We are a Church that seeks to serve God by serving, not controlling, people. We are a people who give thanks for the richness of our faith as we seek to articulate it in our own situation, and who are always penitent for our abject failures.

You may know that this past weekend we had our General Synod in England and the press were there in great force expecting our Church to tear itself apart on the issue of human sexuality. They were wrong and it didn't. But one of our national papers had a headline that read 'Vultures gather over the head of George Carey'. Well, surprise, surprise. I felt like writing to the paper that I am sorry to disappoint everybody, but I am still alive and so is our Church. It is not a dead church over which the vultures hover, but a Church passionately committed to God's truth, committed passionately to making disciples and to be a Church of growth and committed above all to our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Third, no great work will be done for our Lord if we are not obedient to God and at unity with one another. The yoke is a burden that we carry for Him and for others. Our Lord says in that passage: "Learn from me..." We must go on learning and listening and praying and struggling. And make no mistake about it, the great heresy of all is the failure to live and work together as Christians when we disagree and we dare not, must not, should not, allow any issue however personally sacred to each of us to become a matter that divides the Church of God.  [[COMMENT: At this point, Carey departs from the Biblical worldview and deserts the Biblical Gospel. Unity is NOT the primary goal, but truth. Only on truth can unity or compassion or love be sustained. E. Fox.]] How at this point, some of you are looking for any coding. You are saying: "Ah, at last, here it comes. He is talking about homosexuality!" "Or is it women priests or bishops?" Well, no. Not necessarily. For example, my Church in England has for many years been driven by a troika of three high spirited horses: evangelicals, liberals, and anglo-catholics. And at times in the past we have been deeply divided and bitterly entrenched. We have lobbed verses of scripture, like hand grenades, into one another's camps, and sometimes some verses of scripture have been lobbed back. Thank God we are learning to live together better these days. And perhaps God is reminding us through the deep secularism of Western Europe that our mission is far more important than the paltry things that divide us. So it is with you and the future of ECUSA that you carry in the womb of this Convention.

It is in this spirit - truly a Christlike spirit - that we endeavor to hold not only to our cherished views and ideas, but to develop stronger bonds of friendship, loyalty and mutual respect.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, your responsibilities here in this Convention are great. You must wrestle with some key issues.

In some you will find agreement, in others disagreement. My plea to you all is to keep your eyes focused on the God whose hands are tied by his love for you and for his world. And that same God is made concrete in the broken figure of his crucified Son. That is the extent of God's love for each one of us. Remember that no matter how much you think you are dealing with issues, you are not: you are always dealing with people, people who wound, people who hurt, people who bleed, people who feel, and people with whom you disagree who are made in the image of our Lord. And perhaps we can hold in our hearts and prayers the title of a well-known book "No Outcasts" by Ed Browning. God does not cast out, God gathers in. [[COMMENT: The Archbishop is tragically and inexcuseably wrong. Jesus will one day say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you." E. Fox.]] As Ed writes in that book, "Tolerance is a gift from God we need to exercise and accept. It means taking risks, facing pain and tension, the contradictions, as we seek to discover and articulate God-given truth to one another and to the world, that Christ will come to us and take our burden, to give us rest. If we seek to avoid, if we shy away from wrestling with the truth, turning in on ourselves and erecting barriers, then it is Truth that dies in the crossfire."

Let me end with part of a poem that actually comes from a French bishop - a dream of how the Church of the future might be:

May she be A Church where it's good to live, where you can breathe, and say what you think.  A Church of freedom

A Church which listens before speaking which welcomes instead of judging, which forgives without wishing to condemn, which announces rather than denounces. A Church of mercy

A Church where the Holy Spirit will be able to feel at home because everything hasn't been foreseen, settled in advance. An open Church

A Church of which people will say not 'see how well-organized they are' but 'see how they love one another'.

Church of Saint Denis Church of suburbs and streets and housing estates, you may still be small but you're making progress. You are still fragile, but you are full of hope. Lift up your head and look: The Lord is with you.

And as that bishop addressed his French diocese, so may I, with the permission of the Presiding Bishop, address you, my Episcopal brothers and sisters of the United States, as I do to my brothers and sisters in England: "You - we - are still fragile, but we are full of hope. Lift up your head and look: the Lord is with you".

[COMMENT: I fear that the Archbishop has betrayed Biblical Christians. He upheld Biblical sexuality at their Synod meeting in England, but not here at General Convention in America. Jesus is being betrayed by our leadership at the highest level.  E. Fox.]

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