The Church of England Newspaper reports that
On Tuesday the lobbying group Inclusive Church, set up as a result of anger over the mishandling of the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John to Reading, handed over a petition to a member of the Archbishop’s staff. The petition, with 8,500 signatures and the support of about 100 parochial church councils, calls for the ministries of the Church to be open to all regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
But the Chairman of Inclusive Church, Dr Giles Fraser, spelt out the message: “The Archbishop must resist those bent on dividing the Church as an authentic response to the consecration of bishop Gene Robinson in New Hampshire.”
Point of view: the Revd Dr Giles Fraser handing a petition from the InclusiveChurch network to Chris Smith, Dr Williams’s chief of staff, outside the Synod chamber on Tuesday. Photo Richard Watt
The BBC has a short video clip of the handover ceremony, viewable with Real Player here
The covering letter to the petition is reproduced below.
Inclusive Church Petition, February 10, 2004
We write as friends, though many of us are broken-hearted about the direction currently being pursued by the Anglican Church.
We deeply regret the fact that you were forced to overturn your original affirmation of Jeffrey John’s name as chosen candidate for Reading. The message given on that day was that the way to get things done in the church is through organisational muscle and pressure. If Christian theology boils down to little more than the machinations of power politics, block votes at Synods, websites and even petitions, then God help us all.
The other message given out on that day was that gay and lesbian people are not welcome as members of the body of Christ. The Church may weakly insist that gay and lesbian Christians are valuable members of the Church - but its actions say something very different. Indeed, the cost of the current strategy is being paid by some of the most vulnerable members of our Church. This point cannot be passed over with a weary shrug as an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of unity. Faithful gay and lesbian Christians are being scapegoated in the name of a false unity that seems little more than a cover by theological conservatives for claiming possession of the Church.
In her sermon later today, Professor Adams will say:
‘We who regard gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians, not as the latest problems on the sexuality syllabus, but as spiritual treasures for the whole community, cannot afford to equivocate or temporise. We must act to maintain safe spaces within the Church where they may be celebrated, housed, nurtured and cared for. We must support them in their life in Christ, [and] bear wide and public witness to how we have experienced their partnerships as sacraments of God’s love in a broken and divided world.’
But this is not just about any one issue. At stake here is a historic understanding of the Anglican Church as broad, tolerant, generous and inclusive. These values have always shaped the heart of our Church and they are in very real jeopardy.
When you became Archbishop you insisted that the Church must not lose touch with the values of the people of this country. It is clear they will not tolerate a homophobic Church at the centre of our spiritual life, nor will they be edified by a theology born of ecclesiastical expediency rather than theological principle.
With all our prayers and support at this most difficult time,
Rev’d Dr Giles Fraser