Lesbian and gay Christians: Church must practice respect it teaches
Affirming Catholicism, the progressive Anglican Organisation, has welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent statement on the place of lesbian and gay people in the Anglican Church and called on him to champion the cause of gay people inside the Church as well as arguing for their fair treatment in civil society. Dr Williams statement came after the publication of a report on the ‘listening process’ which Anglican Churches world-wide pledged themselves to engage in since at least 1978 when the Lambeth Conference – the 10 yearly gathering of Anglican Bishops – called for a ‘deep and dispassionate study’ of homosexuality. In his response the Archbishop says that Anglicans are ‘to manifest a credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people.’ As well as condemning repressive legislation and hate crimes he calls for the Church to be a ‘safe space where people may be honest and where they may be confident that they will have their human dignity respected.’ The Chair of the Executive Committee of Affirming Catholicism, the Rev’d Dr Barry Norris said:
We’re delighted that the Archbishop has so unequivocally affirmed the place of lesbian and gay people in society and in the Church. However there are still parts of the Communion which have not yet openly acknowledged the presence of homosexual people, still less made a safe and welcoming place for them. At the same time North American Churches are being censured for engaging in precisely the sort of process the Archbishop and successive Lambeth Conferences have called for. We very much hope that the Archbishop will build on this statement over the coming months by challenging prejudice inside and outside the Church, and helping lesbian and gay voices to be heard.
Affirming Catholicism has for a long time backed moves to include lesbian and gay Christians fully into the life of the Church, including the ordained ministry. The organisation has also maintained that different understandings of what the Bible says on the issue need not divide the Church and has commended respectful dialogue with those who continue to hold a conservative position. The Rev’d Nerissa Jones, Chair of Trustees of the organisation said:
The listening process demands great respect, courtesy and patience from all of us who are trying to build bridges and learn to take account of others’ points of view. This sort of approach is core to the way Affirming Catholicism’s approach. Even if we have made mistakes, we will continue to engage as individuals and as a group, and we will play our part in creating safe and respectful places of encounter and dialogue.
Affirming Catholicism’s next national conference is due to take place in Canterbury in July next year and will consider in detail how Christians can understand the bible in contemporary society. The final report of the Communion’s listening process is due to be made a few weeks later at the next Lambeth Conference also in July in Canterbury.