The 2004 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada is meeting now. Their convention website gives detailed coverage including webcasts, and the Anglican Journal reports from the convention are posted here. The webcasts all are in .wmv format (Microsoft Media Player).
There are news reports today in two British newspapers:
In the Guardian Stephen Bates reports Canada’s Anglicans debate blessing of gay unions.
In the Telegraph Jonathan Petre says Williams envoy hopes to turn gay marriage vote.
Both these stories report the speech made to the synod by Gregory Cameron, who is secretary to the Lambeth Commission.
This speech can be seen and heard on a recorded webcast downloadable here, but as this is a 7.5M download, a full transcript also appears below.
Also below that is a copy of the relevant portion of the Presidential Address (full webcast is 13.7 Mb, downloadable here) to which reference is made several times in Gregory Cameron’s remarks.
Update 11 June Official version of this speech is now on ACO website here.
Some Canadian news reports:
Anglican schism feared over same-sex blessings
Anglicans clear way for vote on leader
Gay Anglican priest elected to high post at synod
Anglicans elect gay B.C. priest to Synod
And an internet naming angle reported in the Anglican Journal:
Who owns the name ‘Anglican’?
Transcript of talk given to Canadian General Synod by Gregory Cameron on 29 May 2004.
I suppose that I should begin by saluting your courage as a General Synod in being willing to debate what is probably the single most controversial topic that could be chosen today in the life of the Anglican Communion today. It is arguably crazy that it should take up so much of the Communion’s life at present, but, as your Acting Primate said last night, it is a debate which has been short on generosity, and long on vituperousness. To debate it, however, is your absolute right and, many would say, your duty, but it does mean that I am filled with something of a quiet terror as I stand here before you, knowing the strength of diverse opinions on the issue.
I have been asked to speak to you as the Secretary of the Lambeth Commission on Communion,and as you have heard, this is the body set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Primates of the Anglican Communion after their meeting last October to look at ways of keeping the Communion together in the wake of all the events of the last eighteen months. And so it is that I have come, not only to speak to you now, but perhaps more importantly to listen to you, to discern what is going on in the life of the Anglican Church of Canada, and to hear the different viewpoints that are generated and expressed. And I am extremely grateful for the hospitality afforded to me, and for the honesty with which those conversations have begun.
No debate or decisions can be taken in vacuum, and that I suppose is why I have been asked to provide something of the Anglican Communion context. But I am uneasy about doing that in a situation that almost anything one says will be interpreted as aiming at one particular goal or another. And I’m uneasy about it as well, because quite honestly I am struggling with different loyalties in the current situation.
First of all, I want to be loyal as a disciple of Christ, because that is what I try to be; I want to be loyal to the chair and members of the Lambeth Commission, whom I represent on this occasion, and to their process of work, and that does not complete itself for another four months or so; I want to be loyal to those of my friends who are gay, and whose Christian faith and discipleship often puts my own to shame; I want to be loyal to my fellow Christians of the Global South, who see recent developments as a terrible betrayal of the gospel. And last but not at all least, I want to be loyal to you as the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, and to respect your proper autonomy.
And I rehearse those loyalties, not merely as a piece of self-indulgence, but because I suspect that many Anglicans across the globe feel the same tug of similar and different loyalties, and that this is one of the main reasons why the debate has been so fierce - on all sides, this debate touches deeply the integrity and convictions of our faith.
Of course, the idea of a Public Rite of Blessing for Same-Sex Unions is not new, and not distinctive to the Anglican Church of Canada. Indeed, only yesterday a colleague was pointing out to me that bishops in the Episcopal Church of the USA have been developing such rites since at least 1973. You do not need me to tell you how the case for same-sex civil marriages, let alone mere same-sex partnerships, is very much part of the political debate here in North America, in the United Kingdom and in Australia; nor will you need reminding about the decisions of the General Convention of ECUSA last summer which recognized the developments of rites of blessing as within the legitimate life of the church.
Less well-known are the same debates currently going on within the Lutheran Church of Sweden, in the Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran churches in the States; the acceptance by some of the Lutheran churches of Europe of pastors openly living in same-sex relationships; and the decisions by Old Catholic dioceses in Europe to authorize such rites. For many, such developments are a welcome sign that the church is at last turning its back on centuries of prejudice and oppression.
However, nothing can be plain sailing - and no sooner did your Diocese of New Westminster persuade its bishop to accept its desire for a Public Rite of Blessing of Same-Sex Unions than that decision was under attack. The Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong passed a motion advising against the adoption of controversial decisions in the life of the Anglican Communion - by a diocese without consulting the province, and by a province without consulting the Communion; and in so doing some of its members at least were seeking to invoke an ancient principle of church government - that what touches all should be decided by all.
Opponents of the decision in New Westminster were quick to point out that not only had ACC12 urged caution, but that the decisions flew directly in the face of the teaching on human sexuality adopted by the overwhelming majority of Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 1998. The Primates of the Anglican Communion, as a body, reiterated their own views at their meeting in 2003 - they wrote to all the Communion to say that they could not as the college of the senior bishops of the Anglican Communion, together support the authorization of such rites, echoing their earlier statements of 2000 and 2001. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself said at that meeting that there was no theological consensus on such matters.
In other words, at least three, arguably the four, of the Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion took positions opposed to the developments in New Westminster. Others went further, and were quick to condemn - in June 2003, the Primate of Nigeria and leader of 17 million Anglicans, announced that he was severing communion with the Diocese of New Westminster, because he believed that it was being unfaithful to Scripture.
Now your Acting Primate has rightly pointed out that as a matter of church law none of these voices have anything more than a moral authority in the Anglican Communion, and primates have not been slow to assert the autonomy of the independent provinces, such as for example the Primate of the Province in Southern Africa, who has said almost its’ none of our business what happens in other provinces.
but you need also to be aware that our sister and brother Anglicans of the Global South - much of Asia, most of Africa and in Latin America - are asking whether the Anglican churches of the West are prepared to pay any attention at all to the Instruments of Unity, and they intend to judge the value we place on our Communion with them by the heed we pay to the views expressed. Nor should we decry their motives, this is no game playing - on all sides people are acting out of profound convictions that this is what God calls the church towards.
Your Acting Primate could have cited principles adopted at successive Lambeth Conferences to support his anger at the irregular actions of primates from overseas intervening in the internal affairs of your Church. “That is not the Anglican way”, he said to us last night - but the fear of the Lambeth Commission is that it may end up becoming the Anglican way, as we move from respect towards rivalry: and that is why the Commission is working so hard to find ways to allow the Anglican Communion to walk together again.
Whatever happened in New Westminster: within days of Nigeria’s condemnation, the whole matter was eclipsed by the election of a Bishop Coadjutor for the Diocese of New Hampshire in the States. These two events taken together have caused joy to many of those who have witnessed - or experienced - the intolerance and persecution of gay people at first hand, but it is also true it caused enormous pain in other places - in Pakistan, Uganda, Nigeria, and Egypt, Christians - and not just Anglicans, but Baptists and Copts and others - were publicly pilloried and physically attacked, homes being set on fire, and people physically assaulted. The Russian Orthodox have severed links with ECUSA; the Oriental Orthodox Churches have suspended talks with the Anglican Communion, and their church leaders have denounced what they see as an attack on the institution of marriage and the teaching of the Bible about family life. The Roman Catholic Church has paused for thought about what they make of the Anglican Communion’s claim to be a worldwide family of churches, and stated that developments constitute a new and serious obstacle to the path to unity.
Reaction has come from right across the oikumene of the church. As Cardinal Casper said to the Archbishop of Canterbury on his visit to Rome, “In this day and age, no one is an observer. We are all participants.”
Within our own Communion, the leaders of twenty-two of the thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion, representing about forty-four million Anglicans, have pronounced that they reject the moves in New Hampshire and in New Westminster as incompatible with the Gospel and with the Christian fellowship of which they are part. They have said that these developments tear the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level, and a state of broken communion now exists between ECUSA and some twelve to eighteen provinces of the Communion.
I really would that this was not so, but I cannot pretend that this is not the reality across the Anglican and ecumenical world at the moment. All of this has become a distraction from the wider mission and ministry of the church, and innumerable bishops speak of how they are frustrated by the seeming inability of the church to move beyond this topic.
The Lambeth Commission, for its part, is painfully, carefully listening to all who will talk to it, to discover whether there is a way to hold this great family of ours together - and it has been given a mere twelve months by the primates in which all provinces have been urged not to take precipitate action in order to allow space for the Communion to find a way to heal itself.
This week, the eyes of all those other provinces will turn to you, to watch how you decide. It is your decision, and you must bring your collective wisdom to bear upon it. But I am afraid to say that the context of this decision is so fraught at the moment that the fear must be that no matter what the careful wording of your resolutions this week, the Anglican Church of Canada will be seen to be debating, as I think your Acting Primate recognized last night, the place of gay and lesbian lifestyles in your Church. Fairly or unfairly, the Anglican and ecumenical worlds are likely to react to your decisions on whether they perceive you to support or to reject the possibility of public rites of blessings of same-sex unions as elements of your lived-out faith in Canada.
If you say “no” to the motions before you, you will be in danger of letting down the thousands of gay people in your midst, who are part of your Canadian family, as well as all those others who are looking towards the Anglican Church of Canada to set a new standard in dealing with this issue.
But if you say “yes”, the work of the Lambeth Commission becomes horribly complicated, because we will be told that the Anglican Church of Canada refuses to hear the voice, or to heed the concerns of your fellow Anglicans in the growing provinces of the Global South, who are your international family. The reaction to such a decision, without very careful explanation and liaison by the Church of Canada, is likely to be on a par with that currently being experienced by your neighbours to the South.
Now that may be a price worth paying if you conclude that that is where Christ leads. You must do what you believe God is calling you to do - as your Acting Primate said - to do what will expand the realm of God, but I think I would be unfaithful to the task I have been set if I did not say that the implications of your decision for the unity of the Anglican Communion, perhaps even its very survival in its current form, are just about as serious as it could get.
Transcript of portion of Presidential Address by Archbishop David Crawley, Acting Primate on 28 May 2004
…Thirdly, we face a difficult and demanding discussion and debate on the place of gay men and lesbians in our church, focussed particularly on the issue of the blessing of same-sex couples.
It would be… inappropriate for me to speak of my own position in this matter, but I do want to make some comments about a couple of things.
First, I want to remind us that for the Anglican Church of Canada, we gathered here in this Synod is the highest legislative body in the Anglican Communion. Just as in New Zealand, or England, their General Synods are the highest legislative body in the Anglican Communion for them.
Our Communion is a communion; it is a family of 38 regional or national churches, which has no central legislative body, and no central magisterium— such as the Roman Church has.
[pause] There is no body external to the Anglican Church of Canada which can make definitive rulings about our life.
We have in the Anglican Communion what are called - in a kind of odd phrase, that always makes me think of the dentist - Instruments of Union.
First is the Archbishop of Canterbury - who is, of course, without jurisdiction in this country.
The other day the General Secretary sent him a letter of invitation to come on behalf of the Canadian Church to visit Detroit [laughter] - well, they don’t know North from South, do they? - anyway, because the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church and the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church are having a joint meeting in Detroit in 1905 - er, 2005 - 1905? Bit late, aren’t we? - 2005, and the General Secretary wrote and issued an invitation, and they put it on his calendar but they couldn’t say yes, ‘till they got a letter from me, because only the Primate can ask him to come into this country, because he has no jurisdiction here.
Secondly, the Lambeth Conference is precisely what it’s called: a conference. It is an advisory body; it can make statements about things, and it can advise, but it has no compelling power. They have moral force, they have intellectual force, but it is not a legislative body.
The Anglican Consultative Council? Listen to it’s name: consultative - it is to consult, it is not to decide for the Provinces.
The Primate’s MEETING, it’s called - isn’t even - isn’t even anything more than a meeting! It is an advisory body. Now, I believe it’s important for us to make a decision on this matter… whatever the decision may be. I don’t think we can stand three more years of this strange night-battle in which we’re now engaged.
Having said all that, I have to say, and I want to say, and - that we must acknowledge that we are in fact part of a Communion, and whatever we do will affect other parts of the Communion; and that whatever we decide will not be decided in any sense of ill-will against the other parts of the Communion, or of ignoring their concerns; but in the knowledge of their concerns, still making the decision that we must make - one way or the other, for our own life….
The photographs of American soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq gave me pause for all sorts of reasons, not least because some of the soldiers are Christians.
It has been an interesting turn of events that, while I was growing up, my teachers were predicting the end of religion. Belief in God was a throwback to magical thinking and feudal society, so I was taught. Yet, it turns out these days, religion is as much of a force in world events as it has ever been.
I think that blaming soldiers for abuses is to treat the symptom but not the cause. Soldiers are everything and nothing; we have no idea how they are prepared, if at all, for the complexities of the roles they are expected to fulfil.
What I have found deeply troubling is reading how fundamentalist Christianity has permeated the centres of power in the United States.
The absence of any US commitment to environmental politics, for example, can be traced to a deeply held belief in the current administration that, if Jesus is coming back to judge the world and reduce it to a cinder, why bother saving the rain forest? The same idea of judgement encourages a sense of the world being divided into the saved and the damned, the good and the bad: we are good, and all the evil in the world is out there somewhere.
Once you take on this mindset, then the abuse of prisoners follows from this. The only circumstance in which abuse can be justified is that they are the enemy and they represent all that we consider to be evil. Once you’ve made that decision, the rest is easy, they have no rights, they can be treated however we feel like, they deserve whatever they get, we are the righteous, we are the chosen. It doesn’t matter if you lock suspects up in Guantanamo Bay for two years with no basic human rights.
Keeping all the evil in the world Out There somewhere is very comforting. People have grown huge church congregations by gathering those huddled together, set apart from the evils of the world. I want to take a different Christian view.
Deep at the heart of Christian faith is a view of life from the perspective of the victim. Imagine how Christian faith looks to the prisoner on the receiving end of a GI boot. Maybe two years ago he was on the receiving end of one of Saddam’s boots, now it’s a Christian one. How do we look to them, what must they make of the wonderful new world and values that liberation has brought.
Christianity says that it is possible to do something about the evil in the world. You don’t stop evil by deciding it is only to be found somewhere else, and that its source is somebody else. When Christians gather to worship, we routinely make the space to consider how we look to others, and to allow God to show us the evil within ourselves.
I can say, and I believe, that Saddam Hussein is an evil man, and I don’t expect anyone to disagree with me. But I can keep saying that, and the world doesn’t change, we just feel cosy that the evil is being committed by someone else.
What happens if I ask what an Iraqi prisoner sees when he looks at me, or looks at people who act on my government’s behalf? What does he think of the values of my world, as he sees them acted out on him? What happens if I ask whether there is any truth in what he describes when he looks at my world? And what can I do about it?
University Sermon 2nd May 2004 preached by Revd Dr Giles Fraser
University Church, Oxford
In the years leading up to 1519, Martin Luther experienced what might be described as both mental breakdown and theological breakthrough:
“I did not love God” he said “I hated the just God” and was indignant towards Him, if not in wicked revolt, at least in silent blasphemy.”
Martin Luther’s admission that he had come to hate the God in whom he believed sparked a theological revolution that was to transform the political geography of Europe. What was it that he hated? For Luther, service to a God who demanded human beings earn His love had become service to a heartless despot, impossible to please. Consequently, the confessional had become a private hell of never being good enough, of never earning enough merit to satisfy the unattainable demands required for salvation. This was the shadow-side of the Pelagian’s breezy moral optimism. Luther’s deep sense of the extent of human inadequacy made him appreciate that a God who dealt with human beings strictly on the basis of merit, strictly on the basis of what they deserved, was always going to be a God of punishment. Rowan Williams writes: “this experience was an experience of hell, a condition of moral and spiritual hopelessness. The God who presides over this appalling world is a God who asks the impossible and punishes savagely if it is not realised”. In the years leading up to 1519, Luther came to see his former understanding of Christianity as inherently abusive, and the psychology of the confessional as a destructive cycle whereby the abused child constantly returns to the abusive heavenly father for comfort.
In exposing this cycle of abuse Luther blew apart the theological establishment. Parallels with arguments that are now transforming the political geography of Anglicanism are remarkable. For the debate about homosexuality is a great deal more than a debate about sex. It’s a debate about the nature of God’s love for human beings that has much in common with debates that drove the Reformation. For the message the Church has given to gay Christians is the message Luther came to see as inherently abusive: God does not love you as you are - you need to be completely and fundamentally - and perhaps even impossibly - different before He will love you.
Consider the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster’s advice to gay Christians that they should find a way of being cured of their homosexuality. Having investigated allegations, the Crown Prosecution Service decided his comments did not amount to a prosecutable offensive - the Public Order Act of 1986 only applies to the incitement to racial hatred. Nonetheless, his remarks deserve the deepest theological censure. For gay Christians who have tried to become acceptable to God by subjecting themselves to electric shock therapy, or by being bombarded with pornography - thus to “cure” themselves of homosexuality - have been forced into precisely the sort of private hell Luther experienced in the confessional. The Bishop of Chester’s theology serves only to describe a cruel and abusive God who cares little for the emotional or spiritual welfare of His children.
Luther’s theological breakthrough was to describe a wholly non-abusive God, a God who loves His children gratuitously and not on the basis of merit. God’s love is experienced as grace, freely given: not as a demand that in order to be loved human beings must first become something impossibly different to what they already are. Luther’s articulation of this very different conception of God released Christians from bondage to a theological construction that made the Christian life seem as desperate as the life of a hamster on a wheel. Against those who would conscript this desperation into financial gain through the system of indulgences, Luther spoke of Christian freedom and the Babylonian captivity of the church. Against those who would make sexuality a part of the whole package of guilt and self-disgust, Luther would renounce his monasticism in spectacular fashion by marrying a nun. Ecclesiastical authorities can no more insist upon celibacy than they can “forbid eating, drinking, the natural movement of the bowels or growing fat” he declared.
Following Luther, generations of evangelicals described the huge joy of being released from the burden of impossible expectations. In countless hymns, the imagery is of throwing off a huge weight, thus to fall down before Jesus to accept His love. One of the best-loved of Charles Wesley’s Methodist hymns has it thus: “I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” The next verse begins: “No condemnation now I dread.” Being saved is evangelical language for describing the new life that opens up beyond the censure of an abusive God. The sense of finally facing the truth, the sense of admitting it to others, the sense of being accepted as one is, the sense of being released from the burden of impossible condemnation: being saved is an experience emotionally identical to coming out of the closet.
The problem, however, is that the ecclesiastical closet has become a crucial part of the structure of deceit without which a great deal of Church life could not continue. Unwilling to cope with another theological civil war, Church authorities have preferred to reinforce a culture of shame that condemns gay clergy to a subterranean existence. Of course, the church also desperately relies upon its gay clergy who make up such a high percentage of clergy in general. Roman Catholic historian Professor Eamon Duffy recently claimed “there is a real danger in the western Catholic Church that the clergy will become a profession for homosexuals”. Thus the Church’s preference for the ecclesiastical closet. And consequently, the nervous breakdown has become an almost inevitable phase of ordained ministry for gay clergy. But if the connection between the closet and Luther’s confessional is correct, what the church is afraid of turns out to be the very message that it is set up to preach: the reality of salvation.
The irony, of course, is that it is evangelicals who have so spectacularly lost the best insights of their own tradition. Where are the latter day Wilberforces or Shaftsburys? These were men who fought against tradition and, a narrow interpretation of scripture, in order to bring about liberation - most significantly perhaps the, liberation of slaves.
In America, it was evangelicals in the North, inspired by the Great Awakening, that began to agitate for the release of slaves from captivity. For Southern literalists, the North was perceived as inherently liberal, playing fast and loose with scriptures - in particular, Ephesians 6 - that were deemed crystal clear in their support for the institution of slavery. The Bishop who preached at Gene Robinson’s consecration in New Hampshire quoted one eminent divine as saying: “If the scriptures do not justify slavery, I know not what they do justify. If we err in maintaining this relation, I know not when we are right - truth then has parted her usual moorings and floated off into an ocean of uncertainty”. Sound familiar? Robert Dabney, one of Virginia’s leading Presbyterian theologians, insisted that: “The teachings of abolitionism are clearly of rationalist origin, of infidel tendency, and only sustained by reckless and licentious perversions of the meaning of the sacred text”. Those who supported slavery were, they claimed, the “traditionalists”, and those who sought a change in the historic teaching of the church were, in effect, trendy liberals more concerned with some nebulous “spirit” of scripture than with what it actually says. In one sense, the traditionalists were correct: the church had for centuries supported and defended the institution of slavery - as it had supported and defended the subjection of women: a battle, I have to say, that is still far from being fully won.
But those who argue for change are not foisting a politically correct agenda onto a reluctant ancient text. The issue is not about the nature of what it is to be gay or black or a woman: the issue is what it is to be God. And the one thing we know about God is that He seeks to call us out of darkness into light, to call us out of pain into joy, to call us out of deceit into truth, to call us out of oppression into freedom. In short, the Gospel is good news. What, I ask you, is good news about having to subject yourself to electric shock treatment or pornographic aversion therapy in order to become acceptable to God? A God who demands such of his children is not a God of good news or salvation, but a God of surveillance, a God of control, a God indifferent to the pain of his creation.
This is why there can be no compromise with those who wish to force gay Christians back into the closet, or who wish to drive them out of the closet thus to drive them out of the church. When Jeffrey John refused to hide within the ecclesiastic closet - thus sparking off global apoplexy amongst conservatives - his crime was to tell the truth. And the truth has changed things - truth has that effect. Jeffrey’s silent courage as a gay Christian suggests to me that there is some deep connection between the lyrics of one gay anthem: “I am what I am, and what I am, needs no excuses” and Martin Luther’s: “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
It is an example that more and more will follow.
Rise like lions after slumber, in unvanquishable number, shake the chains to earth like dew, which in sleep hath fallen on you, ye are many, they are few. And let the great assembly be, and declare with great solemnity, that ye are as God hath made ye, free.
Let the Reformation continue.
Whilst on holiday in Spain I had the opportunity to see what local papers were saying about the recent ban in Barcelona on bullfighting. The very idea that Spain might be banning what the world had thought of as its national sport seemed almost impossible — that is, until you remember what they paid for David Beckham. Maybe bullfighting isn’t the draw it was, either for tourists or locals.
The press began by noting that cock fighting, bear baiting, bull baiting and dog fighting were, like bullfighting, once far more widespread, but across Europe a growing horror of such cruelty to animals had gradually reached everywhere.
The bull doesn’t naturally fight. It’s a gentle herbivore, and, as a domesticated animal, has been bred over hundreds of generations for its gentleness. All idea of fighting is foreign to it. The cows allow us to milk them, and cattle have been our best friends for thousands of years. It doesn’t ‘fight’ at all until lances have been hurled into its back. There is no contest in taking a sword to such a creature. It’s like taking a machine gun to a boy who throws stones.
In Spain, bullfighting had become identified with extreme right wing, oppressive government. It had come to symbolise the oppression of ordinary people, of minorities, of those who were different. So, it was unsurprising that the Catalans, whose language and whose culture had been suppressed in Franco’s time should see themselves as such an minority, and side with the noble, suffering bull, rather than with the murderous weapons of the bullfighter in his suit of lights.
Oppressive regimes glory in portraying punishment and killing as a sign of their power. This is what was at the heart of the circuses of ancient Rome. Ritualised execution in such a state could be the fate of anyone who was different, as Christian martyrs of the first, third or 20th century have testified.
Sports which involve killing brutalise those who take part, and all those who watch.
Now, the Catalans appear to have had enough. In a secret ballot which probably surprised everyone, they outlawed the old national sport. I expect they will be followed by similar votes from people in the other marginalized areas of Spain, and eventually the whole nation will turn against the blood lust of this barbaric sport.
And when they do, we shall need to ask ourselves whether, in order to demonstrate that ours, too, is a civilised society, and part of a modern Europe with decent values, we should ban the sport of hunting wild creatures with dogs.