From the Dean of Durham
Sir, — On consecutive days at the General Synod, I sat through the debates
about women bishops and the Windsor report. I was bemused at how little the
clear connection between these two key debates was recognised.
The Windsor report has been consistently presented as an issue not of
homosexuality per se, but of ecclesiology: how far diversity of belief and
practice can be contained within our Communion, and indeed our fellowship with
partner Churches. But precisely this question lies at the heart of the debate
on women bishops: whether any province should act autonomously and risk
damaging relations both within the Anglican Communion and beyond it.
Women bishops are a “deal-breaker” for some; for others, homosexuality is.
Both are problematic in the developing world. Yet the General Synod seems more
willing to embrace the risk to communion posed by women bishops than that posed
by committed homosexual relationships, even though in each case where a change
of discipline has happened, it has been according to the due process of the
The Windsor report’s ecclesiology suggests that those provinces that have
ordained women bishops ought to express “regret” for their actions in at least
testing the bonds of communion, if not placing them under real strain. To my
mind, these are theological and ecclesial issues of the same sort. To treat
them differently is to land ourselves in an ecclesiological bog of illogic.
Maybe homosexuality is coloured by such a degree of “shame” in our Church as
to make it next to impossible for us to debate it in the same way as we are now
beginning to debate women in the episcopate.
The Deanery, The College
Durham DH1 3EQ
From Mr Stuart Gullan-Steel
Sir, — I noted with interest the
decision of the Primates to ask their Canadian and American brothers and
sisters in Christ to withdraw from certain meetings because of the ordination
of an openly gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions.
The concept of homosexuality is a 19th-century one, and scripture, in so far
as it deals with the subject at all, refers only to acts, not sexual
orientation. The only texts that deal with such acts are in Leviticus and St
Paul, and scholars differ about whether the condemnation is of the acts per se
or only of abusive practices associated with them. On the other hand, there are
numerous condemnations of adultery in both the Old and New Testaments and in
the Gospels themselves.
Why is it, therefore, that the Church of England is prepared to bless the
forthcoming civil union between the Prince of Wales and Mrs Camilla Parker
Bowles, whose very public affair contributed to the break-up of both their
marriages, and yet the C of E will not bless unions between same-sex couples
who have harmed no one? Is this not a double standard?
648 Jay Street, Utica
New York, 13501 USA
From the Revd Mike Howes
Sir, — After last week’s events
concerning the position of the American and Canadian Anglican Churches, I find
myself, as a retired English priest, in a wilderness, facing a conservative and
fearful Church I fail to recognise.
Where now is the loving and caring Church I felt I had belonged to and
served for the past 62 years? Why has the gospel of God’s love been hijacked,
perverted, and twisted, into homophobia and hate? Why has the Church of England
been placed so firmly in support of the conservative and reactionary right by
our leadership? Is there an evil at work here?
Shouldn’t we of the more moderate variety of Anglicans in the Church of
England ask that our Church also be given the chance to withdraw for a time of
consideration and prayer with the North American Churches rather than be
automatically associated with the forces of right-wing reactionaries seeking to
grasp power? I consider that this would be more in keeping with Christ’s gospel
than what is now being presented to us as an accomplished fact by the Primates
of our Communion.
Is there anyone out there listening, please?
182 Rookery Lane
Lincoln LN6 7PH
From the Revd Jean Mayland
Sir, — We are told that as the
Episcopal Church in the United States and the Canadian Anglican Church were
asked to withdraw from attendance at the Anglican Consultative Council, the
leaders of some of the reactionary and so-called “traditional” provinces were
celebrating. Many of us were shocked and saddened.
We have not threatened to withdraw our small incomes or take our bat and
ball elsewhere, but we nevertheless care intensely for our gay brothers and
sisters, and long for our Church to be welcoming, open, and inclusive.
Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters bear the full weight of the pain.
They also suffer the patronising comments that, of course, they are cared for
pastorally by the very people who refuse to listen to what they are saying
about their sexuality and their commitment!
Those of us who are “straight” are deeply hurt by what is being done to our
Church by the reactionary forces who seem to want us to become a people of a
Book and not a people of a Person.
The Archbishop of Canterbury says wistfully that he wishes that this problem
would go away, and the Church could once more engage creatively with the
imagination of people in this country. This “problem” will not go away until it
is seized as a possibility. The way in which we handle this possibility is the
way in which we can engage imaginatively with people in our nation today.
JEAN M. MAYLAND
Minster Cottage, 51 Sands Lane
Barmston, East Yorks YO25 8PQ
From the Revd Dr Ross Thompson
Sir, — The divisions with which the Windsor report strives to cope are not
reconcilable, since, as Archbishop Rowan Williams once pointed out, neither
side can recognise the other as Church.
For radicals and liberals, inclusiveness comes first: Jesus accepts all
manner of people, and this forgiveness enables them to grow in accord with his
teaching. For conservatives, repentance comes first, and is the precondition of
There is an ultimate unity here, in that both parties would agree that
acceptance and repentance are vital. In that unity we ought to rejoice more.
But there is no way we can express it institutionally.
Deep differences in pastoral care, sacramental order and teaching depend on
which is seen as coming first, acceptance or repentance. Who should minister or
receive the sacraments; whether there should be heresy trials; whether it is
for the institutional Church to decide, or the guided individual within the
Church to discover, what needs to be repented of — these and all manner of
other issues will be answered differently depending on your view. It is not
surprising that the Anglican Communion has now begun to split.
The split is not geographical, however, but theological; and I am worried
about those who find themselves geographically on the wrong side of where their
faith is. In particular, what pastoral care and oversight will now be given to
those on either side who find their geographical province has taken an official
line they can regard only as incompatible with the gospel?
The Church has been generous in providing such things for conservatives.
Now, in this land, it will be the liberals and radicals who need them. Will
they be provided, and, if so, how?
36 Richard Lewis Close
Danescourt, Cardiff CF5 2TB
From Mr Kevin Carey
Sir, — The Dromantine communiqué, and the
Windsor report before it, fail to tackle the central issue raised by
homosexuality: where does it rank in the superstructure of our common purpose?
What the Anglican Communion lacks is a moral counterpart of the Lambeth
Quadrilateral on doctrine. It is not good enough for Evangelicals to say that
all biblical pronouncements are of equal weight and relevance. We might argue
that sins against God, our neighbour and simply ourselves rank in descending
order. We might want to distinguish between motive and outcome; and we might
even conclude that scripture is equivocal or silent on some moral issues.
The discussion of such a framework would force Evangelicals to explain why
public schism in Christ’s Church — or even the refusal to worship with those
who reach different moral conclusions — is less sinful than private sexual
The Evangelicals are being given an easy ride because the official response
to them has been administrative and majoritarian rather than theological and
principled, an inadequate precursor to schism.
KEVIN CAREY (Reader)
112a High Street, Hurstpierpoint
West Sussex BN6 9PX
From Canon Paul Oestreicher
Sir, — For centuries, the Church of England and, derivatively, Anglicanism
worldwide have contained and held in full communion Christians of widely
differing and sometimes incompatible theological and ethical convictions.
To suspend from full membership — with an implied view to expulsion — those
who hold an innovative conviction on a single ethical issue flies in the face
of our Church’s ethos, makes us look ridiculous, and, much more importantly,
is, in more senses than one, a denial of charity.
Religious intolerance is a global threat. We join that bandwagon at our
97 Furze Croft, Furze Hill
Brighton BN3 1PE