Inclusivechurch.net hands petition to Archbishop
PRESS RELEASE – Inclusivechurch.net – 5th February 2004
The Archbishop of Canterbury is to be handed a petition signed by over 8,500 individuals and over 100 Parochial Church Councils from the Inclusivechurch network of Anglicans. The petition demonstrates the strong conviction of the majority of grassroots Anglicans that the Church of England must be an inclusive church, open to all. The handing over will take place outside Church House,Westminster on Tuesday 10th February 2004 at 1.30pm, whilst the General Synod is meeting.
‘Inclusivechurch.net is an organisation set up to campaign for an open, honest and generous spirited Anglicanism that has always been the very heart and soul of the Church of England,’ says Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser, chair. ‘It is excellent that so many people have supported the petition in such a short time, and with such little promotion.’
The message of the petition is clear: the Archbishop must resist those bent on dividing the church as an authentic response to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire, U.S.A, and continue to work for a Church that is open to all, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
The Inclusivechurch petition contrasts dramatically with the petition handed to the Archbishop last month by evangelicals opposed to a fully inclusive church for gay people. It claimed to include millions of Anglicans but turned out to have been signed by fewer individuals than this new petition from Inclusivechurch. ‘The point is that dioceses and parishes do not operate like unions, with block votes,’ says Fraser. ‘Rather, dioceses and parishes are made up of individuals.’
The vast majority of Inclusivechurch’s signatories belong to the Church of England. In addition to individual Anglicans who have signed the petition over 100 parishes have signed up too, each having passed motions of support through their PCCs. ‘It is important to note that many signatories come from parishes belonging to organisations like Reform,’ adds Fraser. ‘We have also received emails from individuals keen to protest against the actions of their local clergy who make gays or women clergy feel unwelcome, for example in places like Fort Worth or Pittsburgh in the USA, where dioceses have declared themselves to be conservative, non-inclusive zones.’
Inclusivechurch believes that this petition is part of the groundswell of Anglican opinion that is opposed to the sort of intolerance and bigotry that has been threatening the church. ‘The true diversity of Anglicanism is beginning to come through, for all that well-organised, well-funded conservative forces would have it otherwise,’ continues Fraser. ‘We are here to celebrate the true spirit of Anglicanism which is strongest when it is diverse and inclusive.’
Notes to editors:
The petition will be handed to Chris Smith, Chief of Staff at Lambeth Palace, on behalf of the Archbishop outside Church House, Great Smith Street, Westminster on Tuesday 10th February 2004 at 1.30pm.
An Inclusivechurch Eucharist will be celebrated at St Matthew’s Church, Great Peter Street, Westminster at 10th February. The preacher will be the Revd Canon Dr Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Canon of Christ Church.
Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser, the chair of inclusivechurch.net, will be available for comment on 10th February or he can be contacted on 07811 444011.
Inclusivechurch.net is a grassroots network of Anglicans with a campaigning edge, open to anyone who shares the vision of an inclusive church. It began as a group of friends from Southwark, London and Oxford who were increasingly worried about the future direction of the Church of England. Others similarly concerned over recent injustices in the church asked if they could join, including individuals from the evangelical wing of the Church. It snowballed very quickly: many thousands of people have now registered their support. A number of organizations including Changing Attitude, Affirming Catholicism, MCU, GRAS and the Open Synod group are involved.
In August 2003 a petition was launched on the website Inclusivechurch.net. It contains a Statement of Belief written by a group of Oxford theologians. The statement expresses the strong conviction that the Church is for all people regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. It calls on the Church to act justly, particularly in the appointment of clergy and bishops regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation.
Visitors to the website, be they individuals, PCCs (Parochial Church Councils) or other organizations, are invited to register their support.
The full text of the declaration signed by individuals in the petition reads as follows:
‘We affirm that the Church’s mission, in obedience to Holy Scripture, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every generation. We acknowledge that this is Good News for people regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation. We believe that, in order to strengthen the Gospel’s proclamation of justice to the world, and for the greater glory of God, the Church’s own common life must be justly ordered. To that end, we call on our Church to live out the promise of the Gospel; to celebrate the diverse gifts of all members of the body of Christ; and in the ordering of our common life to open the ministries of deacon, priest and bishop to those so called to serve by God, regardless of their sex, race or sexual orientation.’