Honest to God
The consecration of homosexual bishops is a matter of justice
The Episcopal Church in the United States voted last week to overturn a moratorium on the ordination of gay bishops. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told the General Synod yesterday that he regretted that decision.
The ground of Dr Williams’s concern is clear. Since his enthronement six years ago, he has sought to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion. He spoke last week of his hopes and prayers that “there won’t be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart”.
It is a noble aim to maintain a federation of 38 autonomous churches united by tradition. But Dr Williams’s appeal for restraint is ultimately untenable. It cannot override a simple and direct acknowledgment that homosexual clergy, including bishops, belong in the Church.
Dr Williams should state that principle, even aware of its divisiveness. Churches that insist on the inerrant word of Scripture, notably the Pauline epistles, will not accept the consecration of open homosexuals. Yet social attitudes to homosexuality have shifted radically in the past generation. The sources of Christian inspiration are diverse. They do not derive only from a private response to Scripture.
It is possible to maintain that the Episcopal Church has been impolitic in its vote, but still maintain that it is right. A united Anglican witness to the nation and to the world is a valuable civic as well as religious resource. Those member Churches, including many in Africa, who conscientiously cannot accept homosexual bishops, should not have appointments forced upon them. But the issue is not one of denominational preference alone. It is also a matter of justice.