Lambeth Conference
from Canterbury, England

by Earle Fox

Thursday, July 23 1998

Bishops Duncan Buchanan & Richard Holloway



I had on Tuesday gotten a mailing list from the AAC (American Anglican Conference) for all the bishops present, and had our introduction to "Good and Right in the Eyes of God?" (16 pages with the introduction to the book and a summary of the Biblical and empirical evidence) mailed to each bishop. It hopefully will get there today, Thursday, when the sexuality debate begins in earnest. Fortunately I thought ahead to put them in envelopes, so they will probably get through the mailing system without interruption.) So nearly every bishop in the Anglican Communion will have an accurate introduction to the evidence available on homosexuality, as well as a reasonable introduction to the rules of engagement for honest and graceful discussion.

At the section meeting on sexuality yesterday (Wednesday), chaired by Bishop Buchanan, a homosexualist group had apparently been invited to make a presentation. (The bishops are divided into several "sections" which are given specific topics to discuss, concerning which they may generate resolutions to be presented to the plenary session with all the bishops. Those resolutions will then supposedly represent the "non-legislative mind of the Anglican Communion".) Of the 60 bishops present, 40 stood up (bless their hearts) and said that they would not allow such a presentation to be made unless the alternative views were also allowed (e.g., such as celebate homosexuals, homosexual who had left the lifestyle, etc.). That idea was apparently not acceptable to some, so the event was "postponed". Perhaps for good. Amidst much acrimonious debate.

At the daily 10 am press conference this morning, Bishop Duncan Buchanan from South Africa was discussing yesterdays event in his "section" meeting. He described how startled he was at the hostility -- which, he said, he was very used to and wanted to "honor" as part of the process. Having survived apartheid, he was used to such vigorous debate.

The discussion and questions by the press did not seem to be going anywhere other than to compound the circularity of everything. So I raised my hand to offer some suggestions. The person who was chairing the meeting, who had read our booklet, called on everyone in the room, including persons all around me. He clearly did not wish me to speak. Finally the bishop pointed to me -- "That fellow has had his hand up for a long time", noticing that the chairman was avoiding me. So, thanks to the courtesy of the bishop, I got a chance to speak. 

I said that much of the debate consisted of each side throwing platitudinous bricks at each other. The bishop smiled and nodded. I said that there had been collected a mountain of empirical evidence on the medical and other aspects of the problem, and wondered whether there had been any effort to bring experts who were familiar with that hard empirical evidence -- on the grounds that a commitment to the truth by way of verifiable facts might be a way of bringing the discussion out of its circularity and irresolution. He admitted, with just a slight blush of guilt, that that had not been done, but indicated that he was not closed to the idea, maybe even thought it might be a good idea.

A friend from the ESA (Episcopal Synod of America - now Forward in Faith) suggested that I offer my services to make a presentation on the available evidence. A summary is right in our booklet. After the meeting I asked the bishop if I might do that. I would be leaving the next day, but would be willing to make arrangements to stay over if I could be of help. He kept saying that perhaps the bishops needed more time to work through their hostility, indicating that he did not wish to take me up on my offer. He did say that he would get in touch with me at the press center if it turned out to be a good idea.

My impression is that that will not be likely to happen.

The chair was a bit embarrassed at being somewhat rebuked by the bishop for ignoring me, and asked me if I was satisfied at being fairly treated afterwards. He said that he did not expect me to ask a balanced question, an opinion he must have gotten from reading the booklet -- the whole point of which is to have a candid and mutually respectful meeting. "But you did ask a balanced question," he said, with a bit of surprise.

After the official press conference, I gave Bishop Buchanan a copy of the booklet, and again said that I wanted to be helpful. He did not appear eager to take me up on the matter.  (There are indications abroad that "conservatives" as well as "liberals" consider yours truly to be a "trouble maker".)  To be fair, he does not know me from Adam, and may have heard via the grapevine that I am not to be trusted to promote honest discussion -- at least that would be the view of some, as indicated by the chair of the meeting.  


A homosexualist group then held their own press conference outside the building to celebrate a "Rainbow Ribbon Day", i.e., a day to celebrate the inclusion of homosexualist ideas in our culture, and to launch a booklet, "Called to Full Humanity - Letters to the Lambeth Bishops", put out by "Lesbian & Gay Christians", with preface by retired archbishop, Desmond Tutu.

One of the speakers was Bishop Richard Holloway, bishop of Edinburgh, who (like Frank Griswold, the American Presiding Bishop) has made statements about homosexuality which are both morally and intellectually irresponsible.

At the question time, I was again being avoided by the moderator. Finally he called on me, but asked me to "make it short". Bishop Holloway said that he had heard my question in the previous press conference, and that "I know where you are coming from." (I should have replied, "Good, that makes us even.")

I asked the bishop, "If the evidence should indicate that God did not approve of homosexuality, and that homosexuality was not a healthy state of affairs, would that make any difference to your position?"

He knew that he was on the spot, and it showed in his face. If he said "yes", that would put his position at risk because, as he may well realize, the empirical evidence is overwhelmingly against his position. And if he said "no", that would make him seem irrational right out in front of God and everybody.  The homosexualist strategy has almost without exception been to pretend to foster honest discussion, but to undermine it if it should ever show real promise of happening. 

So he wiggled out by saying that if he received a fax to that effect signed by God, he might change his mind. Which, being interpreted, means: Unless you are God, there is no possible evidence you can bring that will change my mind. 

I should have asked whether the Bible might be considered a fax from God.   He also ignored the health part of the question.  It was easier to fend me off by hinting that I was not an infallible witness, rather than dealing with the scientific questions where "infallibility" has no currency.   Interesting -- to find the "liberals" wanting infallible evidence to which to appeal.  Well, no, he did not want infallible evidence, he only insisted that I produce infallible evidence. 

The indication is that Bishop Holloway considers himself infallible. If it takes an infallible bit of evidence, a fax signed by God Himself, to change Holloway's mind, that implies that he must consider himself to have a matching infallible case.  Apparently Holloway has received a previous fax (why, maybe even a proof text) from God which supports his current infallible opinion.    

After the press conference, I went up to a small crowd that was talking with him.  As the crowd diminished and I got closer, he stepped back and said, "That's enough of that...." and walked off.  He did not want to talk with me.  

It is clear, therefore, that Holloway is not willing to discuss his commitment to homosexualism on the basis of the kinds of evidence to which us ordinary fallible mortals are consigned. Either Holloway agrees to the mundane kind of empirical investigation, or there is no use holding a discussion with him. If the kinds of medical evidence regarding the massive disease-producing character of homosexuality, and the drastically shortened lifespan of homosexuals, both male and female, are not relevant to Holloway's case for homosexuality, then there is no possibility of having any serious discussion at all. If an honest discussion on the kinds of behavior typically engaged in by homosexual persons is not relevant to his kind of discussion, then he has made himself unworthy of public debate, and, until he declares a commitment to fact and logic, should no longer be taken seriously as a spokesman for the Christian (or any other) community.

One has to believe, again, that there is no serious interest in the truth of the matter, that homosexualists for the most part have made up there minds, so don't bother them with the facts. If persons who are sexually attracted to others of the same sex (and those who agree with them) wish to conduct their lives on that basis, no one can stop them. But we can stop them from making public policy decisions on that basis, and well we should.


Now all this took place amidst many calls by the homosexualist folks for open discussion of the issues.  

Richard Kirker, General Secretary to the Gay and Lesbian Caucus says in a press release: "We need a healthy debate on the presence of lesbians and gay sin the church. And we are trying to get the issue on the agenda at the [Lambeth] conference."

They want to get the homosexual case on the agenda, they say.  Their actions demonstrate, again and again, that they want to get their agenda on the table and everyone else's off the table.

The truth is that they do not want honest discussion, and that they will systematically torpedo any attempt to create it. Their calls for open dialogue are cynical attempts to disarm their opposition. The saddest aspect of this all is that the pseudo-conservatives (who do not know how to conserve anything) are not taking them (or God) seriously, and indeed forcing an honest discussion based on fact and logic.  

What would have happened at Lambeth, or at any Episcopal General Convention if there were, say, twenty bishops who would persistently raise the hard questions and insist on reasonable answers, who would not let the Halloways of the world sidestep the issues with deceit.  The other side would panic, raise a storm, and soon lose their credibility.  It is only the cowardly silence of pseudo-conservatives which allows the travesty to continue. 

The almost universal incompetence or unwillingness of our leadership on all sides to force candid debate is appalling. Our failure in that respect leads to continually snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. A truly honest public dialogue, based on fact and logic, is what homosexualists fear more than anything else -- despite their pleas for it.

The way one "forces" honest debate is just by doing it. Get up and ask honest and searching questions. Make honest statements. And be willing to be corrected oneself. One might, after all, learn from the other side. As Paul notes (Romans 1:18 ff.), the Fall begins with the subversion of truth. So the obligation to be serious and unfaltering truth-seekers and truth-speakers is an obligation of the very highest order, falling upon each of us all of the time.

In the words of the book of Revelation -- "They know that their time is short." If we systematically keep dragging the discussion back to the truth and to honest rules of engagement, then the time for subverters of truth will shorten all the more quickly (on both sides of this debate -- some of us might even repent). Open debate (giving our testimony) is the strategy of Revelation 12:11. The issue is not primarily sex, it is the subversion of truth. The compulsive trap of homosexuality comes from subverting truth, falling into idolatry, and then into activities over which we no longer have control. If truth and the Lord of truth were honored and respected and pursued, sexuality would take care of itself.

Fellow Christians: Pray that our bishops, clergy, and laity will give up their martyr complex ("Woe is me!"), and start being martyrs (the Greek word means witnesses). "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony (witness), for they loved not their lives even unto death."

The word of our testimony is simply our witness -- telling the truth as we see it. That is what God is calling us into: "Come, let us reason together..." (Is. 1:18) But we must follow the way of the cross to do that -- desire to give our honest testimony more than we love our lives. Even risk being called "homophobe!" For the sake of truth and the Lord of all truth.

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