Thinking Anglicans

Inclusive Church open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Inclusive Church has issued this open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

St John’s Vicarage
Secker St
London SE1 8UF

www.inclusivechurch2.net

10th June 2010

Dear Archbishop

We are writing to express our grave concern about the contents of your Pentecost letter and its consequences applied with such speed by the Anglican Communion Office.

Your letter opens with a reminder of the joy of Pentecost, when “we celebrate the gift God gives us of being able to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various languages of the whole human world”. But the result of your proposals – to summarily remove from those Communion bodies to which you directly appoint, those provinces which are in your view in breach of the moratoria – is a diminishing of the diversity of the Anglican Communion and a silencing of the different languages in which we are called to speak.

Our concerns are three-fold.

First, it is clear from the actions of the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion that the application of the sanctions is one-sided and disproportionate. The Anglican Church of North America may now provide cover for the Bishops previously ordained by Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya but these provinces remain committed to them and the actions which made the emergence of ACNA possible, actions carried out in direct violation of the moratorium that you asked for. It would be farcical to suggest they are no longer breaking the moratoria just because they have been successful in generating a breakaway body to provide local cover for the result of their acts. The Secretary-General is “seeking clarification” regarding the Southern Cone and Canada. However, without consultation, he has proceeded in removing members of The Episcopal Church from Communion bodies. This kind of punitive exclusion will do nothing to promote the “path of mutual respect and thankfulness that will hold us in union and help us grow in that truth.”

Second, by proposing these actions you are not strengthening but diminishing the distinctiveness and the contribution of the Anglican voice to our ecumenical dialogue. It is clear that all the major churches are engaged in the struggle to acknowledge and include LGBT Christians. The Anglican Communion has been more open than most about its struggle, and has earned the respect of many of our partners in this. By excluding those provinces which have been able, despite deep controversy and through profound study and prayer, to include both those who welcome LGBT Christians and those who do not, you are empowering the Anglican Communion to speak with a voice which does not reflect its truth; it is, in short, inauthentic. Further, it fails to acknowledge the terrible persecution which is experienced by LGBT Christians, and those who uphold human rights as reflecting crucial Gospel values, in many of those provinces which are at the forefront of opposition to TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. Your previous statements opposing homophobia and seeking generosity from (among others) the Church of Uganda are undermined by these actions.

Third, the actions proposed and taken appear to pre-empt the consequences of the draft Covenant. You reiterate that “the Covenant is not envisaged as an instrument of control”. And yet, by these sanctions you are prefiguring the life of the Covenant by already excluding from Anglican dialogue those who do not have majority support – creating, by default, track 2 churches. It is increasingly clear, as discussions about the Covenant continue, that whatever its original intentions it is already becoming an instrument of control, an additional “instrument of unity” which will achieve precisely the opposite.

By excluding TEC and possibly the ACoC in this way, the voices are also silenced of the thousands of members of the Church of England for whom the life of TEC and the ACoC is a source of joy and thanksgiving – for whom the full inclusion of LGBT Christians within our parishes is already a reality, even though the structures and senior hierarchy of the Church of England are unable to acknowledge this reality.

You stress the urgency of mission. The result of these actions is further to undermine the mission of the Church of England, and to cause despair amongst those who are trying to enable all to understand the love of God. Supporters of Inclusive Church have spoken with you on a number of occasions about the vital urgency of speaking generously about the breadth of Christian experience. Unless we do, we will be unable to re-engage with the communities we seek to serve in this country and who are bemused by the Church of England’s continuing rejection of LGBT Christians.

The period of engagement for which you call will not be served by putting in place further exclusionary structures. It is only the conservative extreme of the Anglican Communion which appears to support – indeed, to encourage – further division. We are profoundly supportive of the sort of frank and open conversations for which you too hope. Therefore, a question – how do you anticipate these conversations being fruitful when decisions have already been taken which further reduce the status of LGBT Christians and those who welcome them?

Yours sincerely

Canon Giles Goddard
Chair, IC

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Susannah Clark
Guest

This message makes me quite tearful. As a transsexual christian I know first-hand (as do those close to me) the ways in which society can exclude, and the harrassment that can happen on the street. I feel that TEC has shown exemplary courage in standing by the full participation of ordinary men and women who happen to be lesbian, gay or transgendered, in the life of the church. I wish I could convey to Rowan, first-hand, just how acute the difficulties and cost may sometimes be, not only for oneself but also those you love, when diversity is subjected to… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

Well, I am glad that someone in the C of E is stating the obvious.

Since the arrival of Augustine, no appointment to Canterbury has been such an overwhelming disappointment. I do not see how anyone can dispute this.

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Very Good. Any one or any body who can must speak up and speak out.

This is worse than the Carey years and that is saying something.

Williams will not be able to subvert the church in his own image. We are not following …

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest

Dear Dr. Williams, Peter Akinola, Henry Orombi, Drexel Gomez and destructive accomplices at the Anglican Communion and ACNA, Please note the words of Brazilian President who calls homophobia a “perverse disease” Homophobia: “the most perverse disease impregnated in the human head.” Is it not time YOU start educating yourselves and preaching enlightenment instead of endangering the lives of other Anglicans with superstitious, taboo and emotionally/spiritually sick notions collected from Selective Scriptural sources and the ¨minds¨ of those who would harm others in the name of God who COMMANDS us to ¨love thy neighbor¨ (not exclude, punish and humiliate thy neighbor)?… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I thought that was rather well written: certainly puts the argument clearly.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

This comment from an older book by Wolfhart Pannenberg has come to mind during the increasing controversy over Williams Pentecost letter, and the increasing hierarchical direction of the Communion. I commend the whole section of the book from which it is taken. “The theological identification of the church with the kingdom of God has all too often served the purposes of ecclesiastical officials who are not attuned to the kingdom of God. Many church leaders like to think they are in possession of the truth, or at least they posses the ultimate criterion of the truth. Because they feel themselves… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Many thanks Susannah Clark. Many thanks.

Have signed up.

‘If you like (but only if you wish) please sign this facebook page “Positively in communion with the Episcopal Church”:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/album.php?profile=1&id=128612660494946

As Giles Goddard suggests, the distancing of TEC from other Anglicans through restrictive measures (other Anglicans like myself) does seem to be “a diminishing of the diversity of the Anglican Communion” and I regret that.’

I find your writings here moving, clear and challenging.

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Thanks so much for the Pannenberg. Seems spot on to me. Gives me words for something I felt and was groping after within myself.

Very, very helpful. Prophetic

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

A thought I’ve had for some time but not expressed before is about the phrase ‘in communion.’

I do find the term ‘in communion with’ and its variants strangely unAnglican, and suspect it to be another borrowing from RC concepts. I don’t think it is to be found in the BCP (1662) and I’m not sure it makes much sense in reality.

But also, I don’t think it a very helpful or useful kind of term, in the current context. I don’t think ‘we’ get to pick and choose.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

A very fine letter from Inclusive Church. Thank you, and thanks also to my sisters and brothers in the C of E who have voiced support for TEC and Canada. MLK said that the long curve of history is on the side of justice. It’s heartening to have you guys along.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

Thank you to Inclusive Church. I’d be happy to sign up on Susannah Clark’s face book, but (apparently) would have to join face book first. Could Inclusive Church have a ‘sign up’ page for their letter? That might be easier and more direct.

john
Guest
john

Of course, I’m entirely in agreement with others here that this is an excellent letter and encouraged by the way liberals in the UK, as elsewhere, are beginning to speak out, as perhaps they have not done sufficiently hitherto. I thought the following was particularly trenchant and near the bone: ‘Supporters of Inclusive Church have spoken with you on a number of occasions about the vital urgency of speaking generously about the breadth of Christian experience. Unless we do, we will be unable to re-engage with the communities we seek to serve in this country and who are bemused by… Read more »

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

I think Inclusive Church’s letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury is both insightful and well composed. The thing that most concerns me and I’m certain I am not alone in this thought, is that the Archbishop’s sly “handlers” will never allow Rowan Williams to even see this fine letter, yet alone know that any letters of constructive criticism will ever reach the eyes of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is essentially the same issue Roman Catholics who are critical of the Pope and the hierarchy face on a daily basis. Letters never reach the hands of the top people because… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest

” suspect it to be another borrowing from RC concepts.”

No, no – just Catholic ones. 😉

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Folks can only determine when, how, and if – to speak up now. Nobody but nobody has any say in whether RW or any of the other self-regarding traditionalists (aka insider club homophobes?) are listening or ever will listen to the active fruits of the Spirit expressed in the daily lives of so many queer folks, thriving around the planet despite all the prejudices and violence so customarily exercised against them. It is as if the Holy Spirit fell upon the Gentiles at Cornelius House, only to have the believers in Jerusalem repeat, grimly and blindly: BUT they are still… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John “But – here’s the difficult bit – even as we proclaim ‘the breadth of Christian experience’ – we have to continue to provide space for those who in all good conscience do not agree with us.” That depends on what you mean by “providing a space”. We would, in this country, not accept people who believe that women are inferior to men, although of course, we would pray side by side with them in church. We would not provide a nice space for people who didn’t like blacks, we would believe that to be illegal and highly immoral. It… Read more »

Penny Nash
Guest

This is a wonderful letter.

I have heard more than once that the ABC does not see things such as this letter because his “handlers” control the information he does see about things going on around the Communion. Can someone say more about this – who are these handlers? How did they get the job? Does the ABC not do any of his own research or reading without them? Is this normal protocol for an ABC to be shielded or fed editorialized information?

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

Thank you Canon Goddard.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“The Anglican Communion has been more open than most about its struggle, and has earned the respect of many of our partners in this.” – Inclusive Church – However, the Church of England’s part in all of the struggle has been rather minimal so far – except, of course, for the dogged determination of those on the edge, like ‘Inclusive Church’ and others who have championed the cause of the emancipation of women and LGBT persons. This makes it all the more important that the ABC and the English House of Bishops pay attention to what this excellent Letter is… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“The thing that most concerns me and I’m certain I am not alone in this thought, is that the Archbishop’s sly “handlers” will never allow Rowan Williams to even see this fine letter, yet alone know that any letters of constructive criticism will ever reach the eyes of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

That concerns me also. It further concerns me that the ABC has had lots of time to listen to the likes of Dunkin’ late of Pittsburgh but not other voices.

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

The IC letter is a masterpiece and speaks what so many of us what to have Rowan hear. Susannah Clark’s piece is at least equally to-the-point. I am indebted to the authors of both. But let’s note that neither contains any of the bile or venom which now passes for ‘thinking Anglicanism’ so often in these pages. Our disagreement with Rowan and our sense of terrible disappointment at the path he has chosen – even when it feels like betrayal – doesn’t give us the right to descend into personal attack. I find it amazing how many people can impute… Read more »

Laurence
Guest
Laurence

“the Archbishop’s sly “handlers” will never allow Rowan Williams to even see this fine letter” This may have been true in pre-internet days but, handlers or no handlers, surely RW browses the blogs in his own time. “I think it’s about time we moved away from believing there is anything moral or acceptable about homophobia and I think it’s about time that no space is left for it anywhere under whatever pretence or label” Thank you Erika – spot on “the visitation of the Presiding Bishop of TEC to the UK. One hopes that the voice of the Holy Spirit… Read more »

Columba Gilliss
Guest
Columba Gilliss

If Rowan sees nothing but what his staff or other “handlers” want him to see, it is because he, himself, does not want to. It is rather like those dentists and physicians who hire receptionists precisely to prevent direct contact.
Columba Gilliss

john
Guest
john

Erika, We’ve been over this (and analogous cases) millions of times. I’m talking of people who, not personally homophobic, believe they have to uphold church tradition on the matter. For most such people, such ‘upholding’ takes only the reduced form of ‘withholding’ positive endorsement. Such people, in my book, are not ‘per se’ homophobic. The core difficulty for them is the bible, and that inevitably leads us all into very charged areas. In this case, personally, I think a lot of bosh is talked on both sides. BOTH. I wish liberals didn’t have to say: ‘it’s all a matter of… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“But – here’s the difficult bit – even as we proclaim ‘the breadth of Christian experience’ – we have to continue to provide space for those who in all good conscience do not agree with us.” – Posted by john

I’m fine w/ that . . . as long as that space is not on my (Imago Dei) neck, thank you! :-/

Rev Sidney Jensen
Guest

Erika Baker says “We would, in this country, not accept people who believe that women are inferior to men”. Surely, many evangelicals and some ACs believe that women and LGBT people ARE inferior to straight men. Her being a woman is partly why some ‘straight’ Southwark men objected to ++Katharine being in ‘their’ Cathedral.

ruidh
Guest
ruidh

Since the arrival of Augustine, no appointment to Canterbury has been such an overwhelming disappointment. I do not see how anyone can dispute this. Must I be the one to stand up for the middle? Extremists on both sides excoriate the current ABC for failing to take their side. He serves the Communion and serves it faithfully in difficult and turbulent times. He only does that which a majority of provinces have asked him to do. He has tried to by time. Those too impatient to allow others to see the fruits of their efforts dislike him immensely for this.… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

To Cynthia and the others worried about those close to the ABC: I don’t think you should let the ABC off the hook. Surely he knows how to turn on his computer.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

Times online letter: well, unless Sandy Christie is a woman (??) they are all …… men.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“To Cynthia and the others worried about those close to the ABC: I don’t think you should let the ABC off the hook. Surely he knows how to turn on his computer.” I wouldn’t be so sure. The Dio of Va’s recently retired Bishop Lee didn’t. He had his secretary print off his emails so he could read them. He typed a reply and she converted it to email. This ws so widely known that he was teased about it at his retirement party. The ABC is a younger man that +Peter, but still could be a non-user. I have… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John We’ve been over this millions of times, but largely with respect to women’s ordination and women bishops. The lgbt debate is different because it doesn’t just bar a group of people from certain positions in the church but it treats them as second class in every aspect of church life. In many of the AC countries it treats them as criminals and immoral creatures. I don’t care why people feel like that, or whether they dress it up as a belief in the bible, it simply is not acceptable. I don’t really care about why BNP supporters hate blacks… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Rev Sidney I don’t believe that all those who oppose women’s ordination believe that women are inferior. Many do, I grant you! But just as many genuinely believe that a woman acting as priest is as ontologically impossible as a man having babies is biologically impossible. No value judgement, just the genuine belief that God doesn’t allow women priests. In practice you’re right, it’s the same principle as the lgbt debate, only further advanced – the theology has been done and the CoE as a whole has accepted it, there are women priests and there will shortly be women bishops.… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“A view not shared by all the clergy in Southwark diocese – see this nasty little letter from some of them in The Times:” – Laurence on Sunday – If the signatories to this Letter in the Times are indicative of supporters of the ABC in his bid to impose discipline on TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, no wonder the Church is in such a mess. The opinion expressed in the letter – that TEC has flaunted the moratoria imposed by the Windsor Commission without any justification, is simply unfair and pays no attention to the facts. Those… Read more »

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

“Think and believe what you like, but you will not be given the power to discriminate on the basis of those beliefs. “ That’s why the Voter’s Right Act was passed in the states in the mid-1960’s. You can feel all you want, it just isn’t legal. Period. There are still racial jokes told around the table in many families (mine included embarrassingly at our “stag” fitting-out of my family cottage in northern Michigan last weekend, then again, I come from a ‘conservative’ family) But you don’t act on such impulses, as you know despite the tittering, giggling and guffawing… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

I think Rowan Williams retains his iconic radiance despite the murk of church politics. Erika Baker, I wish the Church (both RC and Anglican) would just get over it, accept gay couples, admit it’s been wrong for centuries, and apologize. But it does not help to over-simplify what is involved here. For the church to reach that decision, and to provide the theological justification, and to ensure a minimum of consensus on it among faithful and clergy, a lot of time and patience is required. Recall that the argument for gay marriage has been a vibrant one in our society… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Spirit Truth takes time, I accept that. But that does not mean that lgbt people have to actively take the place of their opponents and cushion them with understanding. What is happening in reality is that the more time you give people to change their minds slowly, the longer they take and the more entrenched they become. What needs to happen is that more and more people stand up and say “enough of this nonsense”. I understand why my toddler has tantrums, but I wouldn’t be a good mother if I set up a system whereby tantrums were accepted as… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Erika, You’re polarising like mad. For you there are only ‘pros’ and ‘antis’. I understand this psychologically (believe me, I really do), but it’s not the way to conduct an argument nor does it adequately describe reality. The trouble with the notion of ‘interpretation’ as applied to the bible is that it sort of implies that the bible is always right – it’s just our reading which is wrong. At the same time, as I’ve said, I think we are stuck with it, otherwise divisions risk getting of hand. But in my heart of hearts I just think Paul was… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

John makes a good point about interpretation. The fact is that most Anglicans, liberal or conservative, don’t look to Paul as an authority on marriage. We tend, whatever our views on the same-sex dimension of it, to view marriage as “an honourable estate” and not a Plan B for those too incorrigibly horny to achieve the perfection of Christian abstinence. So “reasserters” are just as selective in this respect as anyone else, which is why I’m actually more sceptical about the other half of John’s point: I’m less and less convinced that it is possible to oppose same-sex unions without… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John I’m not polarised, I’m biased. I know that there are not only “pros” and “antis”, there are also a lot of in-betweens. What interests me is not anyone’s psychological state, but the power they have over me and people like me. And I’m finding it astonishing that people like you can genuinely expect me to just go with the flow. It just shows that we still have way to go until everyone has finally understood what’s at stake. At least I presume that you would not ask a black person to go with the flow if people felt he… Read more »

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

Thank you, Erika Baker @ 7:58am BST! Yes, there are honest differences, but when men (and it’s mostly men) refuse to acknowledge PB Schori’s title, refuse to attend communion with her, insult her, I can’t help it, it’s just plain wrong. “Think and believe what you like, but you will not be given the power to discriminate on the basis of those beliefs.” — beautifully put, evensongjunkie. I still fail to get why TEC has to instantly obey every jot and tittle of the Windsor Report as if it is Holy Writ, but provinces engaging in diocese poaching are given… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John Leaving personal feelings aside, I still have philosophical problem with your comment that we have to provide space for those who disagree with us. We’re seeing this in the debate on women bishops. The CoE wants them, FiF cannot accept any compromise that does not involve complete seggregation for FiF. What kind of practical “providing space” are you actually thinking of? I can just see the whole women bishops’ situation being played out again if you start allowing openly lgbt priests and bishops. People will want to be protected from them, we will end up creating structures in which… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

No, Paul wasn’t a homophobe. That wasn’t invented. The Concept homosexual is from 1869 and it’s symmetrical opposite only from 1890.

It i s about interpretations. Interpretations w r i t t e n into the translations of the sacred Texts by unreliable zealots into Social Politics.

john
Guest
john

Erika, I would give FiF people who want to stay (in some sense) within the C of E what they want. They want a system which avoids their being under a woman bishop. It is not true that this would involve complete segregation. They would still be within a certain diocese (as well as within whatever other structure there was). People who attended such churches would not themselves necessarily be 100% anti-women bishops (they frequently aren’t). In practice, as you must know, there is much lay traffic between FiF and other C of E churches. And when I go on… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“The fact is that if they wanted to they could get round it as they have done with divorce and remarriage. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to use the Bible to confirm their pre-existing prejudices. “

I am reminded of a cartoon I saw many years ago. One man watches another rapidly flipping through a very large book:

“What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for irrefutable proof of my pre-existing convictions.”

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Where male priests preside in certain contexts, it doesn’t matter whether they are pro- or anti- women priests or women bishops. I would, however, try to encourage one thing: joint services, where, in the case of a woman president, FiF people could receive reserved sacraments. This was tried at Blackburn Cathedral, only to be howled down on all sides, including on this site.” – John on Monday – And this John, In my opinion, is precisely why theologically informed ‘Thinking Anglicans’ were not in favour of the idea – that anti-women members of a congregation should be given the Reserved… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

I think the Rowan Williams who got it right was the one who wrote a letter of protest along with many other bishops at the 1998 Lambeth conference, asking for the debate on the ethics of homosexual relationships to be kept open in a spirit of mutual respect. This Rowan Williams still peeps out even in his unpleasant official role as a vigilant overseer of church order. He recognizes that the TEC are acting according to their conscience. Unlike all Roman Catholic bishops, he has never condemned gay couples or the idea of gay marriage (which, by the way, seems… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to think that, regardless of stated belief, in practice traditional Christianity has at least *two* objects of worship: God as revealed in Jesus the Christ, and Paul of Tarsus – or, as Goran Koch-Swahne would rightly point out, those writings attributed to Paul. I honestly don’t think “worship” is too strong a word to use for Christianity’s traditional approach to Paul. Now, setting aside my own reservations about Paul and his conversion, it presents a real crisis, as Paul’s teaching is seen as co-equal to Jesus’, even superseding it, at times! I have been… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John Your solution for FiF would have worked before women bishops. FiF have since said themselves that they cannot accept a male priest who was consecrated by a woman, nor can they accept a male priest consecrated by a male bishop who also consecrates female priests, and they cannot work under a female bishop. To cater for all those caveats will, in future, be much more complex and restricting than your simple solution which worked perfectly well while we were talking about female priests only. But my real question, bearing in mind the topic of this thread, is how you… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Erika, I think if you read me more carefully you would find that what I suggest would be acceptable to most FiF people. As regards LGBT people, you are still reading and thinking in a completely polarised way. I specifically designated people who thought and acted ‘in good conscience’ and whose ‘opposition’ amounted to nothing more than unwillingness actually publicly to endorse sexual relations (and most of whom would regard it as grossly improper to question individuals about such matters). These people are not homophobic. I think their thinking is wrong but it is not prejudiced – it is actually… Read more »

simon dawson
Guest
simon dawson

Goran wrote “No, Paul wasn’t a homophobe. That wasn’t invented. The Concept homosexual is from 1869 and it’s symmetrical opposite only from 1890.” It’s an interesting concept this – that a thing can be said not to exist because the word describing it did not exist. Did God not exist before mankind developed language? “Cultural concepts” change over time, but we recognise a basic continuity from generation to generation. The cultural concept of marriage today is hugely different to the cultural concept of marriage in Paul’s time, but we don’t deny that marriage existed, or deny the link. Similarly for… Read more »