A better future for the Anglican Communion?

Savi Hensman


Rowan Williams has recently proposed major changes in the way the Anglican Communion is organised. Because of growing willingness in the Episcopal Church (TEC) to recognise the status and ministry of lesbian and gay people, and the global disagreement on this issue, he is putting forward a “two-track” approach. Provinces such as TEC in North America would not be able to carry out certain functions such as representing the Anglican Communion in ecumenical circles, while those which signed up to a Covenant would have a more central position. This research paper describes the background, examines the evidence on which the Archbishop’s main points are based, discusses their implications, and corrects some mistaken assumptions about history and practice. Inter alia it tackles a number of key theological issues. It suggests that a two-level Communion would be practically and spiritually harmful and suggests a different approach, less focused on institutional structures, that could be more effective in addressing divisions and ultimately enabling Anglicans to move towards a deeper unity.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has recently published “reflections” proposing major changes in the way the Anglican Communion is organised. Because of growing willingness in the Episcopal Church (TEC) both to consider it possible that lesbians and gays, including those who are partnered, may be called to any kind of ministry within the church, and also to respond positively to requests to bless same-sex unions, he has suggested a “two-track” approach. Provinces such as TEC in North America would not be able to carry out certain functions such as representing the Anglican Communion in ecumenical circles, while those which signed up to a Covenant would have a more central position.

This research paper describes the background, examines the evidence on which the Archbishop’s main points are based and discusses the implications. It is suggested that some of his claims about the nature of change in the church are historically incorrect, and that TEC has made greater efforts to abide by decisions made at international Anglican gatherings, and the overall ethos of the Communion, than many provinces which might sign up to the Covenant. Important aspects of the Anglican heritage have been rejected in recent years by some of TEC’s most vigorous critics, at a cost to the vulnerable in society and church mission and ministry.

While the intention of the Archbishop’s proposal is to promote Christian unity and spiritual growth, there is a strong possibility that the results will be the opposite. A different approach, less focused on institutional structures, might be more effective in addressing divisions and ultimately enabling Anglicans to move towards a deeper unity.

The Archbishop’s thoughts on the development of Anglicanism

There have been mixed reactions to Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future, issued on 27 July 2009 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. [1] These Reflections on the Episcopal Church's 2009 General Convention from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion focus, in particular, on the impact of two resolutions passed at the Convention, held in Anaheim in the USA earlier that month. These acknowledged that, in the view of most Episcopalians, partnered gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals could be called by God to be deacons, priests or bishops, and offered flexibility on blessing same-sex partnerships to dioceses in areas where these were recognised by law. [2] Williams has raised concerns about the implications.

His views have been warmly greeted by some Anglicans opposed to greater acceptance of partnered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people in the church, [3] though others have objected that he does not go far enough in condemning the Episcopal Church (TEC). The Vatican office has also responded positively, stating that it “supports the archbishop in his desire to strengthen these bonds of communion, and to articulate more fully the relationship between the local and the universal within the church,” according to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. “It is our prayer that the Anglican Communion, even in this difficult situation, may find a way to maintain its unity and its witness to Christ as a worldwide communion.". [4] The Archbishop’s “reflections” have also met with considerable criticism. [5]

The Anglican Communion, made up of a number of provinces in various parts of the world, has been wracked by controversy in recent years. Though debate over human sexuality has been especially heated, divisions on this issue reflect deeper theological differences. [6]

For over a century the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as being primate (most senior bishop) of the Church of England, has involved chairing a Lambeth Conference of bishops every ten years or so to strengthen fellowship and discuss important issues, though he has no power over Anglicans in other parts of the world. However, over the past decade or so, there has been intense discussion about the nature, structure and membership of the Anglican Communion and how it relates to other denominations. It is in this context that the Archbishop has produced this piece.

In it he acknowledges TEC’s concern for other churches in the Communion, suggesting however that this is not enough to repair damaged relationships. He suggests that the human rights of LGBT people should be upheld more consistently by Anglicans, but argues that this is not a good enough argument to overturn the moratorium on consecrating partnered LGBT people and blessing same-sex unions.

In his view, for any province to undertake such an act would be a major break with the way that the church has consistently read the Bible for two thousand years, and would be unacceptable unless a strong theological case were to be made and a high level of consensus achieved among Anglicans and across denominations, which has not happened. At present, he suggests, anyone in a same-sex union is in a similar position to a heterosexual person living with a lover to whom he or she is not married, and so not able to have a role which involves representing the church.

Local and pastoral factors, he indicates, should not take priority over membership of the Communion, but he respects the fact that some think differently. He suggests a “two-track” Anglican Communion, in which only those provinces willing to pledge mutual accountability and sign up to a Covenant can represent the Communion in ecumenical and interfaith circles, unlike those such as TEC who put local autonomy first.

To what extent is he correct about these points, and will his solution work?

Broken bridges

Despite Williams’ claim that “a realistic assessment of what Convention has resolved does not suggest that it will repair the broken bridges into the life of other Anglican provinces”, TEC enjoys strong and positive connections with many elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. There were over seventy international guests, including thirteen primates, at General Convention, who were able to gain a clearer sense of how TEC functioned and strengthen international links. [7]

Disagreement over various issues is common in Anglicanism, and there are indeed many Anglicans who disagree with some of TEC’s decisions. The leaders of a few provinces have been fiercely condemnatory, in particular Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria. He is also highly critical of the Church of England: for instance in 2005, in response to a pastoral statement following the introduction of civil partnerships, [8] he declared that “the House of Bishops is determined to chart a course for the Church of England that brings further division at a time when we are still struggling with fragmentation and disunity within the Communion. Let it be known that it is not a path that we can follow. It is also a path that is clearly at odds with the mind of the rest of the Anglican Communion”, and warned, “May I remind the Bishops of the Church of England that, when faced with similar decisions on the part of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada, discipline was imposed. While I have great affection and respect for the historic role that the Church of England has played in all of our lives, no church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity and no church is beyond discipline.” [9] Likewise Yong Ping Chung, then Archbishop of South East Asia, lamented the decline of Western churches including the Church of England since the days of the missionary movement, warning that “many churches have lost that vision especially those older Churches and they are persuading others to go the same way” and declaring that “I am not going to let my pulpit get defiled by people who don’t accept the gospel” [10] (his successor is more moderate).

It is unlikely that such church leaders will be appeased, whatever TEC does. But TEC maintains friendly relationships with many in the international Anglican Communion, including churches with a spectrum of views on sexuality, and many Anglicans worldwide feel more comfortable with its stance than that of its more aggressive critics. [11]

“Authority of the Church Catholic”

Williams’ emphasis on the need for any part of the universal church not to move forward on any matter unless there is consensus seems odd in the light of church history. To him, “a blessing for a same-sex union cannot have the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole” and thus cannot be supported. “When a local church seeks to respond to a new question, to the challenge of possible change in its practice or discipline in the light of new facts, new pressures, or new contexts, as local churches have repeatedly sought to do, it needs some way of including in its discernment the judgement of the wider Church,” he declares. “This is not some piece of modern bureaucratic absolutism, but the conviction of the Church from its very early days. The doctrine that 'what affects the communion of all should be decided by all' is a venerable principle.”

Yet, from the outset, church leaders have moved forward on controversial matters without getting universal consent. Peter baptised members of a Gentile household without the approval of the rest of the church, upsetting many, and explained his reasons afterwards, according to the Acts of the apostles. [12] In the letter to the Galatians, Paul showed little of the expected deference to the church hierarchy – “those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)” – and described his willingness to challenge them in defence of inclusion for Gentiles. [13] The development of the Creeds often involved fierce debate and, though greater kindness and humility could often have been shown in the course of doctrinal development, it is unlikely that much could have been achieved by altogether shying away from controversy. Often it has taken many years of testing things out in practice before they have either gained general acceptance or been abandoned.

The founding of Anglicanism – with authority vested in a national church rather than the Vatican, a liturgy in the language of the common people and likewise the Bible made freely available to them in their own tongue – was, of course, a huge offence against the “authority of the Church Catholic” (in particular the Roman Catholic hierarchy). [14]

Considerable flexibility has persisted among, and sometimes within, Anglican churches around the world, permitting theological diversity and making it possible to explore difficult issues and try out new approaches to mission and ministry, perhaps on a limited scale at first.

Older Anglicans may recall how controversial the use of contraceptives once was: when in 1930 a Lambeth Conference resolved that this could sometimes be acceptable, [15] it was a radical departure from what was regarded by both Protestant and Catholic churches as the teaching of the Bible and church tradition, [16] and from the former mainstream Anglican position. Some Anglican leaders remained strongly opposed, but thinking continued on this issue, and several other churches later came round to acceptance. It is hard to imagine what the impact on the spread of HIV would have been if these churches had, like the Vatican, held to the view that use of condoms was always wrong, and indeed tried to persuade people that they were ineffective. [17]

As in wider society, moves towards greater inclusion have long been controversial. The consecration of the first black Anglican bishop, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, in 1864 was strongly opposed by some fellow-Anglicans. [18] Whatever the worth of a native bishop, it was argued, he could not command the necessary respect. This was a time when notions of racial inferiority were deeply ingrained. He continued to face opposition for the rest of his life, and many of the priests he ordained were suspended, despite his objections, for failing to lead exemplary lives. [19] Yet gradually the notion of bishops of African, Asian and Latin American descent became more acceptable. Moves to ordain and later consecrate women also met with objections, in part because it was argued that, even if theologically acceptable, there was no consensus on this matter. Yet many now benefit from women’s ordained ministry, and even take it for granted, though some still object. [20]

Prayer, study and discussion on issues of human sexuality in various denominations has led to greater acceptance of LGBT people, including those who are partnered, and many of the churches in Europe with which the Church of England is in full communion already offer blessings to same-sex couples. [21] In August 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) agreed that partnered LGBT people could be pastors and churches could offer blessings; [22] the presiding bishop urged those with different views to continue discussing the matter while remaining united, meeting “not in our agreements or our disagreements, but at the foot of the cross – where God is faithful, where Christ is present with us, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ.” Hence there is currently no consensus on sexuality among churches.

“Mutual consultation” and “local autonomy”

There is certainly value in seeking others’ views and seeking to understand their reasoning on difficult issues, in awareness of one’s own fallibility and the possibility of benefiting from the wisdom of others in previous generations as well as one’s own. Paul’s advice to “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour,” and “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are” is worth taking seriously. [24]

It is doubtful however whether Williams is correct in his portrayal of TEC as having decided that “local autonomy had to be the prevailing value”, in contrast to those Anglican churches committed to the Covenant and thus to “mutual consultation”, “some shared processes of decision-making”, “mutual responsibility” and “a freely chosen commitment to sharing discernment (and also to a mutual respect for the integrity of each province, which is the point of the current appeal for a moratorium on cross-provincial pastoral interventions)”. Indeed it could be argued that TEC has shown greater commitment to the Anglican Communion than many of its accusers, whose enthusiasm for a Covenant is largely based on the belief (from the actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, among others) that they themselves will be able to continue to do more or less as they please. [25]

In attempting to act in accordance with the Anglican inheritance, as well as the core truths of Christianity and the demands of local mission, in openness to the Holy Spirit, TEC leaders have found themselves moving away from the practice of many other churches in the Communion and the majority view on certain matters. It is rather as if the Anglican Communion had set up a confusing set of road signs so that those who followed them faithfully ended up going the wrong way on a one-way street! Previously, when it was generally recognised that international Anglican gatherings had a purely advisory function, this would not have mattered so much: national churches could have used their own discretion on competing principles and explained their rationale. In time, as churches learnt from their own and others’ experience, greater agreement would have been achieved. But attempts to centralise have, in practice, made it harder to achieve genuine mutual accountability.

In resolution D025, Commitment and Witness to Anglican Communion, [26] TEC resolved to reaffirm “the abiding commitment of The Episcopal Church to the fellowship of churches that constitute the Anglican Communion”, and affirmed “the value of ‘listening to the experience of homosexual persons,’ as called for by the Lambeth Conferences of 1978, 1988, and 1998, and acknowledge that through our own listening the General Convention has come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships ‘characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God’ (2000-D039)”, and that “gay and lesbian persons who are part of such relationships have responded to God's call and have exercised various ministries in and on behalf of God's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and are currently doing so in our midst”, while acknowledging “that members of The Episcopal Church as of the Anglican Communion, based on careful study of the Holy Scriptures, and in light of tradition and reason, are not of one mind, and Christians of good conscience disagree about some of these matters”.

Anglicans have, for centuries, sought to draw on Scripture, tradition, reason and often experience in grappling with contentious issues. Even the wisest person may get things wrong: as sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker put it, “such is the untoward constitution of our nature that we neither do so perfectly understand the way and knowledge of the Lord, nor so steadfastly embrace it when it is understood, nor so graciously utter it when it is embraced, nor so peaceably maintain it when it is uttered, but that the best of us are overtaken sometimes”. [27] Indeed, at the heart of the good news is the story of someone judged by the religious authorities of his time as a blasphemer against the God revealed in Scripture and who is put to death, whose resurrection brings hope to the hopeless and transforms notions of the Divine and human. Many other passages in the Bible point to the value of careful study rather than judging others on the basis of incomplete knowledge.

The 1930 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops drew attention to the need for “a fresh insistence upon the duty of thinking and learning as essential elements in the Christian life”, [28] and in 1958 the Lambeth Conference gratefully acknowledged “our debt to the host of devoted scholars who, worshipping the God of Truth, have enriched and deepened our understanding of the Bible, not least by facing with intellectual integrity the questions raised by modern knowledge and modern criticism”, [29] as well as work of scientists, calling on Christians “both to learn reverently from every new disclosure of truth, and at the same time to bear witness to the biblical message of a God and Saviour apart from whom no gift can be rightly used” [30]

This, combined with the freedom enjoyed by member churches to seek to understand and minister in their own contexts (international Anglican gatherings had repeatedly rejected the notion of centralised authority [31]), gave considerable scope to try to disentangle prevailing norms from eternal truths, especially to those in postcolonial settings. If errors were made, they could be challenged and in time set right, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, who would guide those with open hearts into all the truth. [32]

By then, amidst rigorous Biblical scholarship, increasing recognition that human sexuality could result in good even if non-reproductive, and growing evidence that attempts to change people’s sexual orientation tended not to work, Anglican theologians were beginning to discuss whether same-sex relationships might sometimes be morally acceptable. As international Anglican gatherings continued to welcome “the increasing extent of human knowledge” and the “searching enquiries of the theologians”, calling the church “to a faith in the living God which is adventurous, expectant, calm, and confident”, [33] growing numbers of Christians who had observed, thought and prayed about the experience of LGBT people were coming to accept that committed partnerships were not necessarily wrong, though this was still a minority view.

The 1978 Lambeth Conference commended the “need for theological study of sexuality in such a way as to relate sexual relationships to that wholeness of human life which itself derives from God, who is the source of masculinity and femininity” and, while reaffirming heterosexuality as the “scriptural norm”, recognised “the need for deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research. The Church, recognising the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual, encourages dialogue with them. (We note with satisfaction that such studies are now proceeding in some member Churches of the Anglican Communion.)” [34]

This was reaffirmed at the 1988 Lambeth Conference, which urged “such study and reflection to take account of biological, genetic and psychological research being undertaken by other agencies, and the socio-cultural factors that lead to the different attitudes in the provinces of our Communion”, and called on “each province to reassess, in the light of such study and because of our concern for human rights, its care for and attitude towards persons of homosexual orientation”. [35]

By the time of the next Lambeth Conference, ten years later, however, it became apparent that, while provinces such as TEC had been conscientiously studying the issue for decades, in others the process had not yet begun, nor was there any intention of acting on these resolutions. This was not simply a matter of having to address local priorities first (in which case church leaders would have acknowledged that they had not yet had time to get to grips with the issue), nor of cultural factors (some of those most adamant about their views had been theologically educated in the West). Perhaps in response to the uncertainties of the modern world, many religious leaders internationally were insisting that their interpretation of Scripture should be accepted as the will of God. It was clear in the treatment of human sexuality at the Conference that this trend had affected sections of the Anglican Communion. [36]

Years later, the Anglican Peace and Justice Network’s working group on Theological Education “discussed the vexed question of Anglican teaching on human sexuality and in particular the Churches commitment to continue with the ‘theological study of sexuality in such a way as to relate sexual relationships to that wholeness of human life which itself derives from God . . .’ (Lambeth 1978 Resolution 10). We further discussed the 1988 Lambeth Resolution 64 which called all provinces to undertake, ‘deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously both the teaching of scripture and the results of scientific and medical research.’ We do not believe the Church universal honoured its commitment to undertake such intentional and necessary studies.” [37]

After heated debate, Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality was passed at Lambeth 1998. It was mixed, and in parts somewhat confusing. While “rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” and stating that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”, it made a commitment “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons”, and called “on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”. [38] It also both commended a report which recognised the difficulty of agreeing a common position on sexuality and noted the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality, which ruled out the possibility of accepting same-sex partnerships and indeed remarriage of divorced persons, though this was a practice that some “conservatives” adamantly opposed to LGBT relationships accepted. [39]

It quickly became clear, however, that some bishops did not intend to take part in any process of genuine listening or dialogue. As the Bishop of Mityana, Uganda, explained in a newspaper article shortly afterwards, “The reason we would not hear the presentation which the lesbians and gays organised is the same reason we would not let a prostitute give her ideas to the conference… We rebuke the sin, but love the sinner. What I have to emphasise is that the Church has an obligation to these people as much as we have an obligation to people who are prostitutes. We have an obligation to counsel them and bring them to their senses... I am sorry they have the orientation, but it was not given to them by God, but by Satan.” [40] It had become clear that his views echoed those of a number of other bishops.

Bishop Mutebi also signalled a radical break with over four centuries of Anglican tradition: “all ordinations of practising homosexuals are invalid. We who are standing firm in the faith will not work with them.” From arguing that certain types of people should not be ordained to claiming that their ordination is invalid is a huge leap. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion had made it clear in 1563 that ordination was valid whether or not ministers were unworthy (“Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments”). [41] While some aspects of these were no longer universally observed, Article Twenty-Six had enabled Anglicans with radically different views and practices to remain in communion. Leaders of some provinces had however by 1998 decided, without consultation, that it was in their power to determine the validity of ordinations elsewhere.

Strenuous efforts were made by the Anglican Communion Office to take forward the listening process but, as made clear in Reports from the Provinces, [42] some leaders made no effort even to pretend to listen to and learn from the experiences of their LGBT members, let alone consider the findings of eminent theologians and scientists who had engaged with the issue. For instance the leadership of the Province of the Southern Cone, which has devoted much time and energy to campaigning against TEC and promoting division among Anglicans, [43] made clear its unwillingness to facilitate listening, [44] and the Anglican Church of Kenya’s leaders displayed complete confidence in their own correctness with no hint that they might engage in dialogue or serious study of the issue. [45]

Meanwhile, in TEC, where the process of listening and study had begun in the 1960s, many church members wished to act on what they had come to believe was God’s will for them.

Involvement of laypersons has long been an important principle of international Anglicanism. The 1908 Lambeth Conference had declared that “The ministry of the laity requires to be more widely recognised, side by side with the ministry of the clergy, in the work, the administration, and the discipline of the Church”, [46] and in 1968 Lambeth had recommended “that no major issue in the life of the Church should be decided without the full participation of the laity in discussion and in decision” [47] and “that each province or regional Church be asked to explore the theology of baptism and confirmation in relation to the need to commission the laity for their task in the world, and to experiment in this regard”. [48] This TEC did. [49] By the late twentieth century there was also a renewed emphasis in international Anglican circles on mission, which “takes place primarily in a local context - congregation, parish, diocese and province - it is the responsibility of every baptised Christian; young and old, male and female, lay and ordained”. [50] A joint meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates in 1993 urged every province and partner church to “examine its own structures, to enable people to participate more fully in decision-making processes” [51] as well as commending a report Towards Dynamic Mission for study and application [52] This warned against styles of ministry by bishops that “impede the church's mission”, including “the inappropriate use of a corporate style of business management or of feudal or tribal patterns of leadership”. [53]

TEC leaders, keen to maintain harmony within the Anglican Communion as well as to placate its own conservatives, had continued to discriminate against LGBT people. But by the early twenty-first century they were under intense pressure from their own laity and parish clergy in many dioceses, who had come to believe that it was important, in the context of the theology of baptism and requirements of mission, for the church to welcome LGBT and heterosexual people equally and make use of their gifts in the service of God’s kingdom. [54]

If a genuine debate had been taking place in which leaders of “conservative” provinces explained what they thought were the flaws in the arguments of leading theologians in TEC, while demonstrating their attentiveness to the views of LGBT people in their own societies, senior clergy could perhaps have persuaded those wanting greater equality to wait longer, in the hope of reaching some kind of consensus. However, this was not the case. It was in this context that an openly gay and partnered man was chosen as Bishop of New Hampshire.

The difficulty of following potentially contradictory advice from international Anglican gatherings, and the failure of several other churches in the Communion to abide by Lambeth Conference resolutions on sexuality and other matters, should be acknowledged before TEC is described as putting “local autonomy” before “mutual responsibility”.

“Cross-provincial pastoral interventions”

Williams’ reflections focus largely on “The repeated request for moratoria on the election of partnered gay clergy as bishops and on liturgical recognition of same-sex partnerships”, but do mention (in brackets) a “current appeal for a moratorium on cross-provincial pastoral interventions”. This deserves more attention than he gives to it.

In defiance of Anglican tradition, border-crossing by churches sometimes misleadingly described as “conservative” had been going on for half a decade before the consecration of Gene Robinson, a gay priest in a committed relationship. [55] It intensified afterwards, as several leaders in other provinces, some of whom had themselves failed to act on the advice of Resolution 1.10, verbally attacked TEC and claimed to be coming to the aid of the “faithful” in the USA.

For instance Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, pledged “unflinching solidarity and fullest cooperation” with rebels within TEC, which he denounced as “a Church that exists primarily in allegiance to the unbiblical departures and waywardness of our generation; a Church that enthrones the will of men over and above the authority of God and His revealed and written Word”. [56] He made his own views on sexuality clear in a Church Times article in 2003: “Our argument is that, if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration… Protagonists of homosexuality try to elevate this aberration, unknown even in animal relationships, beyond divine scrutiny… As we are rightly concerned by the depletion of the ozone layer, so should we be concerned by the practice of homosexuality… God created two persons – male and female. Now the world of homosexuals has created a third – a homosexual, neither male nor female, or both male and female – a strange two-in-one human... Homosexuality or lesbianism or bestiality is to us a form of slavery, and redemption from it is readily available through repentance and faith in the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ.” [57]

It was apparent that he had not sought to engage in “deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality” drawing on “biological, genetic and psychological research being undertaken by other agencies”, “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons” and “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals” – quite the opposite. Indeed, for one claiming to take the Bible literally, it is not clear how he could reconcile his claims with such passages as "Judge not, that you be not judged”, [58] “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” [59] and “now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander”. [60]

This is not to suggest that church leaders such as Akinola are insincere when they claim to be acting lovingly and seeking the spiritual welfare of LGBT people. Yet if they make little effort to know and understand those whom they condemn, and indeed are profoundly mistaken about key aspects of their experience, as well as being unwilling to consider the possibility that they might be misinterpreting Scripture, they are unlikely to be able to show authentic love, which “does no wrong to a neighbour”. [61] A doctor may believe he is acting in a patient’s best interests, but if he refuses to listen when a medical researcher warns that the treatment he is pursuing is dangerous, or when the patient tries to tell him that she is allergic to what he is giving her, he may be unwittingly putting his own needs above hers.

After Robinson’s consecration, Williams joined in criticising the Episcopal Church, albeit in more moderate terms, while avoiding mention of the responsibility of the churches which had disregarded Lambeth’s calls for in-depth study and dialogue for the divisions which had occurred. While his aim was to preserve unity, the effect was probably to reinforce their belief that they were unquestionably in the right.

He set up a commission which produced the Windsor Report, [62] received by primates in 2005. This criticised TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada (in which there had also been moves towards acceptance of same-sex partnerships) for not “attaching sufficient importance to the interests of the wider Communion” and invited them to express regret for breaching the “bonds of affection”, explain their actions, withdraw from some committees of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and adopt a moratorium on further such consecrations and blessings. At the same time, a moratorium was called for on further border-crossing, and the listening process again emphasised.

The increasing claim by a handful of bishops to power over the rest of the Communion (until recently primates’ gatherings had little authority, and certainly did not influence who could attend the ACC), and their lack of even-handedness, seemed questionable to many Anglicans. Nevertheless TEC accepted the moratorium, withdrew from the committees and explained its actions at length, expressing dismay at having caused offence. [63] But bishops from other provinces continued to lay claim to parishes and dioceses within TEC boundaries, while refusing to listen to LGBT people in their own societies, or to reputable scientists and other scholars whose work might have assisted them to think more deeply about the issues involved. As Archbishop Henry Orombi claimed after an incursion into the USA in 2008, “TEC has abandoned the historic Christian faith”, and the Church of Uganda had “no choice but to continue to respond to the cries of God's faithful people in America for episcopal oversight that upholds and promotes historic, biblical Anglicanism”. [64]

Not surprisingly, it became increasingly difficult to persuade TEC members that there was any point in maintaining a moratorium on their part while their boundaries continued to be violated.

The Archbishop of Canterbury appears to have now contributed to the further undermining of the long-established structures of the Anglican Communion by suggesting that dioceses might be able to opt out of decisions adopted by their province as a whole: “in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion”. The Bishop of South Carolina, quoting Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future, has begun a process of withdrawing from TEC structures and moving towards signing up to the Covenant on a diocesan basis. [65]

The first Lambeth Conference, in 1867, took the view that “unity in faith and discipline will be best maintained among the several branches of the Anglican Communion by due and canonical subordination of the synods of the several branches to the higher authority of a synod or synods above them”. [66] If this no longer holds, the Church of England and other churches in the Communion may find, as in TEC, that some diocesan leaders seek to opt out, aligning themselves with provinces which are more in keeping with their own theological or liturgical leanings. This would be a radical change, and reduce opportunities for practising patient fellowship while disagreeing with, and maybe educating and learning from, others living nearby who are more or less “conservative” or “liberal”, “Anglo-Catholic” or “Evangelical”.

Human dignity and civil liberties

Williams states in his “reflections” that “it needs to be made absolutely clear that, on the basis of repeated statements at the highest levels of the Communion's life, no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ. Our overall record as a Communion has not been consistent in this respect and this needs to be acknowledged with penitence.” This is commendable. But it is not clear what, if anything, he intends to do about it.

Commitment to human rights has long been important to the Anglican Communion, based on love of neighbour and unwillingness to accept that any person or institution should usurp God’s place. The 1948 Lambeth Conference warned that “both the recognition of the responsibility of the individual to God and the development of his personality are gravely imperilled by any claim made either by the state or by any group within the state to control the whole of human life. Personality is developed in community, but the community must be one of free persons”, [67] and endorsed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then still in its draft form. [68] (The drafting body was in fact chaired by an Anglican, though the Declaration appealed to people of all faiths and none. [69])

Time and again, international Anglican gatherings urged commitment to human rights. For instance in 1973 the ACC urged member churches “to be sensitive to the violent dehumanization of minority peoples in their midst”, “to acknowledge the Church's vocation to side with the oppressed in empowering them to live their own lives in freedom, even at some sacrifice to itself, while at the same time seeking in the power of Christian love to bring about the true liberation of the oppressor” and “to seek for the education of the majority in these needs by confrontation with and participation in the suffering of the oppressed”. [70]

In 1979 the ACC urged member churches to “rigorously assess their own structures, attitudes and modes of working to ensure the promotion of human rights within them, and to seek to make the church truly an image of God's just Kingdom and witness in today’s world, and “involve themselves in all possible ways with the struggles of people who are denied human rights”. [71] The Lambeth resolution in 1988 supporting “Human Rights for Those of Homosexual Orientation” was discussed above, and the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolved that “its members urge compliance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the nations in which our various member Churches are located, and all others over whom we may exercise any influence”. [72]

This TEC has sought to do, but some provinces have done the opposite, especially when those denied human rights have been LGBT. Such violations were all too common in the twentieth century, including in the West, and persist even now. [73]

For instance in 2007, when human rights activists in Singapore called on the government to decriminalise gay sex, an alliance of churches, including Anglicans, [74] campaigned to make sure that it remained an imprisonable offence. Indeed they argued that lesbians too should be liable to imprisonment. [75]

In Nigeria, where gay sex is already illegal, repeated attempts have been made to bring in legislation to criminalise same-sex partners living together and anyone who assists them. [76] Archbishop Akinola has sought to encourage support for this drastic legislation, [77] claiming that “Any society or nation that approves same sex union as an acceptable life style is in an advanced stage of corruption/moral decay. This bill therefore seeks to shield Nigeria from the complete annihilation that will follow the wrath of God should this practice be accepted as normal in this land.” He tries to make the case that gays and lesbians pose such a threat that the most extreme measures can be justified: “Same sex marriage… is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this county. It is also capable of existincting (sic) mankind and as such should never be allowed to take root in Nigeria.” [78] This would seem a very clear breach of international Anglican principles, as well as of the call to love one’s neighbour as oneself [79] and not to bear false witness. [80]

In Uganda, Nicodemus Okille, the Bishop of Bukedi, was reported as claiming in 2007 that advocates of gay rights had no place in the kingdom of God, as he condemned attempts to decriminalise gay sex and end harassment of LGBT activists. [81] That an eminent church leader (who later represented Archbishop Orombi at meetings of the leadership of the Global Anglican Future Conference [82]) should teach that promoting human rights for all is a mortal sin rather than a Christian obligation is an interesting departure from mainstream Anglicanism, and it would have been helpful for the theological rationale to have been discussed more widely, even if agreement could not be reached. The Ugandan church has played an active part in encouraging human rights abuses against LGBT people. [83] Now, as Orombi proclaims that greed for money is responsible for evils such as homosexuality, [84] a law is being proposed to criminalise even putting the case for greater acceptance [85] – a clear interference with basis freedoms which would also make it a criminal offence to engage in the listening and study called for by successive Lambeth Conferences and the Windsor Report. The drive for further criminalisation is spearheaded by the ethics and integrity minister, James Nsaba Buturo, a devout Anglican. [86] He has threatened to close churches and voluntary organisations which put forward views on LGBT inclusion which are different from his own. [87]

It is worth remembering that condoning human rights abuses, while also refusing seriously to consider the fruits of scholarship on human sexuality, has affected churches’ relationships not only with LGBT people but also their families and friends, though the impact may not always be evident. Consider, for instance, the plight of a mother whose gay son is also the main breadwinner in the family, who is afraid all the time that he may be arrested, thus losing his reputation and freedom and leaving her other children destitute, and who, when she goes to church, is subjected to sermons denouncing gays in the most hostile and ignorant terms, who dares say nothing to her pastor or friends in case they guess her secret. Or imagine a university student, heterosexual himself but indignant at the harassment of his friends and abuse of state power in general, who reads fiercely anti-gay quotes from church leaders and vows to have nothing to do with the God they claim to represent.

In addition, where churches have accepted abuses of LGBT people and those seeking equality for them, ultimately this has helped to undermine respect for human rights as a whole, with extremely damaging consequences.

While the Archbishop of Canterbury is clearly uneasy about human rights abuses against LGBT people, he has generally been unwilling (along with many other Church of England bishops and other moderate Anglicans) to challenge church complicity in these directly, in contrast to repeated criticisms of TEC for moving forward on equality. This has reinforced the impression that civil liberties and human dignity are of relatively little importance, a grave departure from traditional Anglican social teaching.

Solid theological grounding

The “arguments most often used against the moratoria relating to same-sex unions”, according to Williams, appeal “to the fundamental human rights dimension of attitudes to LGBT people, and to the impossibility of betraying their proper expectations of a Christian body which has courageously supported them… However, the issue is not simply about civil liberties or human dignity or even about pastoral sensitivity to the freedom of individual Christians to form their consciences on this matter. It is about whether the Church is free to recognise same-sex unions by means of public blessings that are seen as being, at the very least, analogous to Christian marriage… In the light of the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years, it is clear that a positive answer to this question would have to be based on the most painstaking biblical exegesis and on a wide acceptance of the results within the Communion, with due account taken of the teachings of ecumenical partners also. A major change naturally needs a strong level of consensus and solid theological grounding.”

It is quite true that recognition of the value of same-sex unions is not simply about supporting human rights, though both issues are connected with concern for justice. Justice is a major theme in the Bible [88] and Christian tradition, [89] and has been repeatedly mentioned at international Anglican gatherings. For instance, the ACC in 1990 urged “every Diocese in our Communion to consider how through its structures it may encourage its members to see that a true Christian spirituality involves a concern for God's justice in the world, particularly in its own community”. [90]

This does not mean that same-sex relationships should automatically be accorded the same status as opposite-sex relationships; but it does mean that sizeable numbers of the baptised should not be systematically excluded from full participation without careful examination of the reasoning behind this, and that churches should not refuse fellowship with others which are more inclusive without making a serious effort to understand their reasons. If new evidence emerges which suggests that someone was convicted of an offence who might well be innocent, this does not mean that the conviction should be instantly overturned, but it would be unjust not to re-examine the case thoroughly, even if the person convicted is unimportant by society’s standards and there is pressure not to call into question the reputation of the police and courts. In particular, non-celibate heterosexual people seeking to love their neighbour as themselves should be called upon to imagine that they themselves, if they wished to participate fully in the life of the church, were forbidden ever to marry even if they met the man or woman of their dreams, then re-check their understanding of Scripture, tradition and reason as if it were they who were affected.

As in other issues which are theologically disputed, sometimes the arguments made for full inclusion of LGBT people (including those who are non-celibate) are indeed weak. But it is not surprising that so many Anglicans who were brought up to believe that same-sex partnerships were wrong have changed their minds, given the painstaking exegesis undertaken by a number of theologians and solid theological grounding of the case for acceptance. The work of church historians also deserves a mention, in clarifying the fact that Christian understanding of the theology of sexuality has by no means remained static or achieved universal agreement over the past two thousand years, [91] and assembling evidence that committed same-sex partnerships (whether sexual or otherwise) have at times been valued in church circles. [92]

Those in the Church of England who deserve a mention for their careful work on human sexuality, paying close attention to Scripture and tradition as well as reason and experience, include Derrick Sherwin Bailey, whose book Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition appeared in 1955; [93] John Yates, Bishop of Gloucester, who chaired a Church of England working party on the subject which in 1979 concluded that there were "circumstances in which individuals may justly choose to enter a homosexual relationship involving a physical expression of sexual love"; [94] Rowan Williams himself who, when a professor in 1989, gave a profound talk on The Body’s Grace at a Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement event; [95] and John Austin Baker, who, when Bishop of Salisbury, chaired a House of Bishops working party which argued that gays and lesbians should remain celibate, then changed his mind. [96] He had come to believe that “Persons living in faithful heterosexual and homosexual partnerships, can through sharing sexual love be ‘the grace of God to each other’. The fruit of the Spirit can grow in that soil”. Church of England scholars such as Professor Richard A Burridge, [97] Dean of Kings College London, continue to contribute to the discussion of how Biblical insights can be brought to bear on this and other debated issues.

Likewise Episcopalian scholars such as L William Countryman [98] (whose book Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and Their Implications for Today aroused considerable interest when the first edition appeared in 1988), Deirdre J Good, [99] A Katherine Grieb, [100] Dale B Martin [101] and Tobias Haller [102] (to name but a few) cannot justly be accused of ignoring the need for Biblical exegesis and appealing simply to human rights. Nor can Anglicans elsewhere in the world such as Walter Deller [103] and Paul Jennings, [104] or other theologians such as Bruce C Birch, [105] Gareth Moore [106] and Eugene F Rogers. [107]

This is not to say that there are not thoughtful conservatives who have examined the arguments and are unconvinced. But, by and large, consensus has gradually shifted on this issue over the past sixty years among those who have been able to hear views from different positions in the debate. It is regrettable that so many church leaders have chosen not to read the work of so many outstanding Biblical scholars and other theologians and respond to this, pointing out any flaws they see in the arguments made for greater acceptance, instead of contemptuously dismissing such study and reflection. Greater dialogue might help in developing mutual understanding, even if agreement is harder to achieve.

“Chosen lifestyle”

There is some ambiguity about Williams’ claim that being a partnered LGBT person is a “choice of lifestyle”. In his words, someone in a same-sex union “is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires… the question is not a simple one of human rights or human dignity. It is that a certain choice of lifestyle has certain consequences. So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle.”

It is the position of some of the more extreme “conservatives” that nobody is in fact LGBT in orientation but some people choose through wilfulness, or are persuaded because of psychological problems, to enter into intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex. Peter Akinola’s view that homosexuality is an “acquired aberration”, from which “redemption… is readily available through repentance and faith in the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ” has been quoted above.

An article on the Church of Nigeria website by the Bishop of Okigwe, David Onuoha, on “The absurdity of same sex union”, asserts that “Rather than dissipate energy and resources trying to hoodwink, cajole or subtly mislead the Church of God into accepting this satanic doctrine, champions of gay movement should first of all tell the world when homosexuality stopped being a wicked act… it becomes increasingly clear that homosexuality is a design of the reprobate mind. This is because the God who made man from the beginning made them male and female thereby making conjugal relations heterosexual. Nothing therefore can be more irrational and unreasonable than man to suddenly wake up and to tell God that ‘You made a mistake by creating male and female. It is now time to correct you!’… Of a truth, both the apostles and disciples of this movement of those who have passion and lust for same sex union are perverts. Perversion is a psychological disorder that can be corrected… To choose the wrong only to turn round and coerce others to see and accept it as right and a universal truth negates all the canons of human reasoning.” [108]

Such attitudes are common among Christians in some other denominations, including extremely influential evangelists like the late Jerry Falwell, who claimed that “Some gays say that they are born gay. But many, many realize they chose it… I believe that all of us are born heterosexual, physically created with a plumbing that's heterosexual, and created with the instincts and desires that are basically, fundamentally, heterosexual. But I believe that we have the ability to experiment in every direction. Experimentation can lead to habitual practice, and then to a lifestyle.” [109]

This is a position with which thoughtful conservatives, as well as those urging acceptance of same-sex partnerships, would disagree. [110] And it is contrary to the experience of the Church of England.

For most of the twentieth century in England, there was widespread prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people, and until 1967 sex between men was an imprisonable offence. Even today, stigma remains in some quarters, including certain faith communities. At the time when same-sex attraction was widely condemned, and people risked losing their livelihoods, friends and family if their identity became known, many attempted to change and become heterosexual, using methods ranging from prayer to aversion therapy using vomiting or electric shocks. This could cause serious psychological and occasionally physical damage, [111] while usually not succeeding in its aims. Many got married in the hope that this would change their orientation, but this was all too often disastrous for both spouses, and far removed from the notion of marriage as a sacrament in which people become more aware of, and responsive to, God’s profound love for and delight in them and call for them to be loving to others. Many did their best in such circumstances, but numerous people experienced profound distress and sometimes ended up separating or being married in name only.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ submission to the Anglican “listening process” [112] summarises what many members of the Church of England know through sometimes bitter experience: “Sexual orientation is… not a choice, though sexual behaviour clearly is. Thus LGB people have exactly the same rights and responsibilities concerning the expression of their sexuality as heterosexual people… Although there is now a number of therapists and organisation in the USA and in the UK that claim that therapy can help homosexuals to become heterosexual, there is no evidence that such change is possible.” [113] On a more positive note, “There is now a large body of research evidence that indicates that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment.” (For those interested in the historical background, some of the research on which the RCP has drawn is described in more depth in British Medical Journal articles [114] and on a website developed by London-based academics and clinicians. [115])

An American Psychological Association report in 2009 likewise found that “Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation… Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose… At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex,” though some people’s identity is more fluid than others’. This report too found that “Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations… do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders… Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals form stable, committed relationships and families that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships and families in essential respects.” [116]

Social scientists and historians have described the varying ways in which same-sex relationships and crossing gender boundaries have been expressed in different countries and at different times in history. Understandings of LGBT identity have changed, but the reality is that – across societies and cultures – sizeable minorities have not fitted neatly into patterns of relationships based solely on male-female pairing. [117]

It has long been known that same-sex sexual behaviour is common among many kinds of animal, and recent research has highlighted some of the potentially beneficial effects – the survival of species is not reliant on procreation alone. [118] The notion that same-sex attraction is “unnatural” and being LGBT a lifestyle choice like dyeing one’s hair a certain colour or buying designer furniture is simply untrue. Williams’ choice of words is unfortunate.

However, it is true that people have some choice about whether to act on feelings of desire or love for a member of the opposite or same sex. Anglicans have long recognised that sexual relationships are not simply a matter of seeking carnal indulgence but that tender, self-giving and committed relationships can bring benefits to the couple concerned and others, even if there is no chance of conception. The issue currently being debated is the extent to which this applies to LGBT as well as heterosexual people and the moral consequences of the choices made.

There are some Christians, both heterosexual and LGBT, who are aware that they are called to celibacy, largely monks and nuns, but for those who are not, there are questions about whether to be at least open to the possibility of a committed partnership entered into with the intention of permanence. It is true that, for priests and especially bishops, whatever their sexuality, the partnered “choice of lifestyle” is controversial, and certainly does not have the “authority of the Church Catholic”. Roman Catholic priests are expected to be celibate, [119] while Eastern Orthodox bishops are chosen from among those priests who remain unmarried. [120] However, evidence indicates that, even in relatively conservative societies, many priests pressured into celibacy end up having occasional casual sex or secretive affairs, or experience frustration and loneliness which can get in the way of the exercise of their priestly vocation. [121]

Compulsory celibacy (or pretence of this) can foster psychological and spiritual immaturity in both heterosexual [122] and LGBT people, and affect the overall ethos of the church in negative ways. As Rowan Williams put it in 1988, “It is hopelessly inadequate now to think that we can go back to the comfortably discreet situation in which sexual orientation was known and tacitly accepted, but never discussed, let alone affirmed. Such a situation too helps to nourish just that coyness, adolescent naughtiness and irresponsibility which many, gay and straight, I have found so tiresome a feature of the ecclesiastical gay scene: no-one holds you responsible for an adult sexuality, or suggests that you might need to share and reflect as much as anyone else, and there is little help in working out a tough and consistent morality. To argue for the need for gay liberation in the Church is not to commend a policy of letting everyone go their way in a bland situationist paradise, but to ask that this issue become part of the collective and public reflection of the Church, something on which experience can be shared and supportive and challenging patterns evolved… we, as a church, make the claim that we show something of that order of human relationships in which God is the final creative authority (‘the Kingdom of God’). When we produce a situation of repression and dishonesty, we at the very least put that claim in question for many of those in need of the good news of Christ.” [123] Greater openness in the Church of England today has opened the door to a more “grown-up” approach, but there are still risks, especially for clergy and laypeople working for the church in some dioceses.

More recently Williams, a married man with children, has spoken of the importance of his family to him amidst the pressures he faces in his own vocation: “There are two things that keep me going… and my family are one of them. Having support and love from those closest to me is hugely important. God is my other source of strength.” [124] His “chosen lifestyle”, controversial as it may be for a bishop in ecumenical circles (where it is rejected by official Catholic teaching, for instance), helps to sustain him in his calling, and this is the case for many LGBT people too.

“Representative role”

Williams states that, since partnered LGBT persons are not behaving in a way “that the Church's teaching sanctions… it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires… So long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle.”

This is problematic in various ways, including what is meant by a “representative role” and, whether LGBT relationships are acceptable or not, the extent to which this overrides all other considerations. As pointed out above, there are identities and lifestyles (such as being a woman and/or married) which would prevent people from becoming bishops in some denominations but not necessarily in the Anglican Communion, and behaviours (such as encouraging abuse of human rights) which go against the Communion’s teaching but which Williams does not suggest should disqualify someone from being an Anglican priest or bishop. Indeed all clergy, like everyone else, fail to live up to the ideals of the Christian faith. Why he believes partnered LGBT people should be especially unacceptable is unclear.

What is more, the New Testament indicates that all Christians, not just those who are ordained, have to some extent a representative role. As 1 Peter puts it, followers of Christ are invited to “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood… you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2.4-5, 9). Colossians suggests that it is members of the church in general that “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1.27).

This is reflected in Anglican teaching: as the Lambeth Conference put it in 1930, “We believe that the Christian Church is the repository and trustee of a revelation of God, given by himself, which all members of the Church are bound to transmit to others, and that every member of the Church, both clerical and lay, is called to be a channel through which the divine life flows for the quickening of all mankind.” [125] This is not to suggest that the church should never impose stricter conditions on clergy than laypersons but rather that, in considering who can represent the church, it is worth acknowledging the ways in which people actually do so, from preaching and presiding at the Eucharist to being a godparent, visiting the sick and campaigning for the rights of low-paid workers in accordance with Christian social teaching.

In practice, LGBT people, both celibate and non-celibate, are among those through whom the church’s mission and ministry are exercised. On a daily basis – as friends, neighbours, caregivers, fellow-students or workmates, theologians, church musicians, parish clergy, chaplains and even bishops – partnered LGBT people respond to God’s call and represent the church as they relate to their neighbours, Christian and non-Christian. In many cases their relationships make them better able to serve others with sensitivity and compassion and proclaim the good news with joyful conviction. Many people have benefited and continue to benefit from this. Indeed, for some non-Christians repelled by the church’s apparent obsession with excluding people on grounds of sexuality, opportunities for dialogue with those who are openly Christian may be largely through encounters with LGBT people. [126]

The fact that some LGBT Christians, especially those who are honest about themselves and in places where restrictions are tighter, are debarred by church hierarchies from following certain vocations is welcomed by some Anglicans and deplored by others. Yet in reality many LGBT people do have a representative role, and alongside their fellow-Christians act as channels of God’s grace.

A ‘two-track’ model

Williams states that: “As Anglicans, our membership of the Communion is an important part of our identity. However, some see this as best expressed in a more federalist and pluralist way. They would see this as the only appropriate language for a modern or indeed postmodern global fellowship of believers in which levels of diversity are bound to be high and the risks of centralisation and authoritarianism are the most worrying. There is nothing foolish or incoherent about this approach. But it is not the approach that has generally shaped the self-understanding of our Communion… The Covenant proposals of recent years have been a serious attempt to do justice to that aspect of Anglican history that has resisted mere federation. They seek structures that will express the need for mutual recognisability, mutual consultation and some shared processes of decision-making… They have been criticised as ‘exclusive’ in intent. But their aim is not to shut anyone out – rather, in words used last year at the Lambeth Conference, to intensify existing relationships… For those whose vision is not shaped by the desire to intensify relationships in this particular way, or whose vision of the Communion is different, there is no threat of being cast into outer darkness – existing relationships will not be destroyed that easily. But it means that there is at least the possibility of a twofold ecclesial reality in view in the middle distance: that is, a ‘covenanted’ Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave, able to take part as a body in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; and, related to this body, but in less formal ways with fewer formal expectations, there may be associated local churches in various kinds of mutual partnership and solidarity with one another and with ‘covenanted’ provinces… This has been called a ‘'two-tier’ model, or, more disparagingly, a first- and second-class structure. But perhaps we are faced with the possibility rather of a ‘two-track’ model, two ways of witnessing to the Anglican heritage… If those who elect this model do not take official roles in the ecumenical interchanges and processes in which the ‘covenanted’ body participates, this is simply because within these processes there has to be clarity about who has the authority to speak for whom.”

It is puzzling that Williams should continue to insist that the Covenant is not intended to exclude when it appears to have been devised mainly to punish provinces that did not conform to the views of certain leaders on what is permissible. The notion of a more restrictive structure, with greater power held by primates, was originally set out by Drexel Gomez, at that time Primate of the West Indies, and Maurice Sinclair, who was Primate of the Southern Cone, in a document prepared for a primates’ meeting in 2001. [127] This proposal, expressing dismay at “innovations” such as the ordination of women, ordination of “active homosexuals” and blessing of same-sex partnerships, sought to review “Authority in the Anglican Communion” and set the “Limits of Diversity”, if necessary “suspending communion with a given Province or Diocese”. It was turned down by the meeting, at that time chaired by George Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury, in favour of an approach based more on dialogue than exercise of power.

However, in the face of the threat that some member churches would leave the Anglican Communion if TEC was not disciplined for consecrating Gene Robinson in 2003, the notion of a Covenant which would “would make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection which govern the relationships between the churches of the Communion” was put forward in 2004 in the Windsor Report, along with a suggested emphasis on shared principles of canon law (the rules governing church matters). In 2006 Carey’s successor Williams announced that Archbishop Gomez would be chairing a Covenant Design Group, [128] allowing him to take forward his ideas about changing the nature of the Communion.

The draft Covenant produced under his leadership was couched in terms of “mutual accountability” in safeguarding the church’s heritage and taking forward its mission. The authority of the Primates meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury was to be strengthened. Each church was required “in essential matters of common concern, to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy… to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and discernment to listen and to study with one another in order to comprehend the will of God… to seek with other members, through the Church’s shared councils, a common mind about matters of essential concern… to heed the counsel of our Instruments of Communion in matters which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness of our mission… in the most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the covenant as understood by the Councils of the Instruments of Communion, we will consider that such churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches.” [129]

Not surprisingly, while some churches were happy with this, others took a less positive view of what they saw as a threat to their autonomy and the non-authoritarian structure of Anglicanism, until then so different from that of the Roman Catholic Church. [130] The Covenant went through various versions, becoming gradually softer in tone while still retaining some bite. [131] A third draft of the Covenant was presented to an Anglican Consultative Council gathering in May 2009. But, despite pressure from “conservatives”, including a warning by Gomez that the Communion might disintegrate if the draft was not accepted in full and immediately sent to the provinces for ratification (or not), the ACC decided that further work was needed on the section on resolving conflict, [132] which warned that “the decision of any covenanting Church to continue with an action or decision which has been found to be ‘incompatible with the Covenant’” might impair or limit “the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion” and “have a consequence for participation in the life of the Communion and its Instruments”. [133] It remains to be seen how punitive the final version will be.

Williams states that, if the Communion were to be divided into two “tracks”, “It should not need to be said that a competitive hostility between the two would be one of the worst possible outcomes, and needs to be clearly repudiated… To recognise different futures for different groups must involve mutual respect for deeply held theological convictions.” While Anglicans with opposing views on sexuality may be intolerant of one another, the open scorn towards TEC shown by leaders of certain “conservative” provinces would almost certainly intensify if they appeared to have won their campaign to have it disciplined.

When TEC produced a report explaining its actions as requested in the Windsor Report, this stated that “In this process of listening together, we are aware that humility is particularly required of us who speak from Western contexts… We desire to hear and learn the theological wisdom of Anglicans from around the globe, even as we wish to participate with all our brothers and sisters in sharing what we have received. Perhaps mutual humility is an essential virtue for the entire Anglican Communion… Let the same mind be in us all ‘that was in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5). May the Lord make even of our differences a sign to the world of the reconciling power of God. We set our hope on Christ, that we may, together with you, live for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12).” [134] In contrast, to quote from a Global South communiqué of 2005, “The unscriptural innovations of North American and some Western provinces on issues of human sexuality undermine the basic message of redemption and the power of the Cross to transform lives. These departures are a symptom of a deeper problem, which is the diminution of the authority of Holy Scripture… We call for urgent and serious implementation of the recommendations of the Windsor Report… While the Global South calls for the errant provinces to be disciplined, we will continue to pray for all who embrace these erroneous teachings that they will be led to repentance and restoration… We are encouraged that many inspirational leaders in our midst bear witness to the Scriptures and are effectively bringing the Gospel to surrounding cultures.” [135] Persuading church leaders with this approach to respect other people’s theological convictions would be difficult.

While Williams’ leadership at the 2008 Lambeth Conference sought to encourage mutual listening, some “conservative” bishops stayed away and, even among those who took part, not all were open to accepting that TEC leaders might be seeking to be true to Scripture, let alone succeeding.

Even if the Covenant is seen solely as a vehicle for disciplining churches which are too inclusive, however, other consequences might result from its adoption which might be less desirable for its enthusiasts, including Williams. As pointed out previously, many churches calling for tighter discipline are highly resistant to anything which might constrain their own freedom. The notion that churches which disregard numerous Lambeth and ACC resolutions without even explaining their reasons would be open to “mutual accountability” as part of a “'covenanted' Anglican global body, fully sharing certain aspects of a vision of how the Church should be and behave”, is highly implausible. And if part of the aim is to move towards a closer relationship with Rome, with its centralised way of working, Williams may be sadly disappointed: the Pope is hardly likely to relish the thought of dealing with senior clergy who insist that whatever they do is “Biblical” and thus beyond challenge.

Moreover, once a system was created in which local conflicts could easily become internationalised and archbishops had a right to intervene in pastoral situations overseas of which they had minimal knowledge, the consequences would be unpredictable. In the current climate, some provinces which are theologically diverse might be persuaded to sign up to the Covenant alongside those which are more “conservative”, in the expectation that only North Americans would be targeted. But what if they in turn became targets of leaders emboldened by their new authority and keen to cleanse the Communion of what they regard as error? For instance, the fact that some Church of England members, including clergy, are in civil partnerships has been condemned by some leaders elsewhere in the Communion. What if disciplinary action was sought against the C of E for failing to “to teach and act in continuity and consonance with Scripture and the catholic and apostolic faith, order and tradition, as received by the Churches of the Anglican Communion”? What if, in turn, leaders in other provinces accused the more extreme “conservatives” of failure “to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Scriptures in our different contexts, informed by… the results of rigorous study by lay and ordained scholars” and “to pursue a common pilgrimage with the whole Body of Christ continually to discern the fullness of truth into which the Spirit leads us”? [136]

The third draft of the Covenant includes a pledge to “to seek a shared mind with other Churches, through the Communion's councils, about matters of common concern, in a way consistent with the Scriptures, the common standards of faith, and the canon laws of our churches”. The Principles of Canon Law Common to the Churches of the Anglican Communion, published by the Anglican Communion Office in 2008, include “A church shall respect the autonomy of each church in the Anglican Communion”, “Leadership and authority should be exercised… with regard for the common good and the dignity, rights, needs and gifts of all”, “All persons are equal in dignity before God”, “Ministers should… recognise and protect the uniqueness and dignity of those to whom they minister irrespective of… sexual orientation… and… respect the autonomy of those to whom they minister including their ultimate freedom to act contrary to the beliefs, practices and opinions of the minister” and “Ministers must ensure that no action or omission on their part or within their sphere of responsibility is detrimental to the well-being of another”. What if churches which openly flouted these principles were held to account?

Meanwhile, the relegation of provinces committed to greater inclusion of LGBT people to an outer “track” would damage the church’s mission and ministry, sending out the signal that opposition to same-sex equality was of central importance to mainstream Anglican belief like, say, the creeds through which worshippers declare their belief in the Holy Trinity. Some people might indeed be attracted by a religious institution which strengthened their belief in their superiority over their neighbours, but would undergo spiritual damage, while others would be put off by this distortion of Christianity.

Even if Williams were to succeed in restructuring the Anglican Communion, his hope of a harmonious, united inner “track” would be unrealistic. And a divided Anglican Communion in which those committed to greater inclusion were sidelined, while failure to love and do justice to the vulnerable went virtually unchallenged, would be unlikely to “be in tune with the Holy Spirit”.

Not the end of the Anglican way

His deep desire for Christian unity has been at the heart of his actions in recent years, and there is little doubt that he sincerely hopes that these “reflections” will bring this goal closer. The problem is that the approach which has been taken has encouraged threats and bullying, including warnings by certain provincial leaders that they will leave and thus split the Communion if people in other provinces do not obey their commands, rather than the mutual submission which Paul urges in Ephesians. [137]

The value of unity is indeed emphasised in the Bible and Anglican teaching. Yet a different approach, drawing on Scripture and reflection in international Anglican circles, may be more fruitful.

To begin with, it may be useful to approach unity as a gift from God, an unearned grace, intimately bound up with how humans relate to the divine and thus to one another, rather than something to be achieved through institutional means. This is not to say that human effort is unimportant, but receptivity and generosity, an open heart, open mind and open hands, matter even more. This can be hard to grasp, being contrary to the way that society often approaches unity. For instance, in a merger between two companies, the focus is on the decisions of board members and key shareholders, rather than the views of ordinary employees and customers. Indeed their interests may be barely considered. Politicians seeking to strengthen unity in their party, community or nation may even focus on an external “enemy” or local scapegoat to unite people more effectively, so that what draws a group together may also deepen separation at a broader level.

This may not be malicious: it may be thought that whatever is good for a particular corporation, state or party is ultimately good for the world, and occasional sacrifices may be necessary for this noble aim. Churches have sometimes operated in this way, for instance covering up cases of child abuse by clergy or members of religious orders in case exposure might undermine trust in the institution and thus its ability to take forward mission and ministry, though in the end this has proved counterproductive. But when, in Luke’s gospel, Jesus turns to the poor, excluded and reviled, telling them that the kingdom of heaven is theirs and that they should seek to be like their Father in generosity and mercy, and assures his followers that God cares about each of them so much that “even the hairs of your head are all counted” (Luke 6.20-23, 35-36, 12.6-7), this is a radically different approach. He is willing to offend the pious and cause division as he ushers in a new community in which all are valued and learn to value one another (Luke 12.49-53, 14.1-6, 15.1-7).

John’s gospel likewise depicts Christ as embodying God’s love for all, and willing in defence of the marginalised to challenge religious leaders and disrupt communal unity: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you” (John 5.39-42). Christ’s followers are described as connected like branches of a single vine (John 15.1-5), brought together through him. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” he tells them, later praying to the Father, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me” (John 13.34, 17.22-23). Those drawn to One whose glory is shown in identification with the wretched, destitute, condemned and dying, and ultimately in the overturning of all systems which subjugate and destroy, will through him come to radiate love.

This kind of unity is not based on certain “important” people insisting that they will walk away from alliances with other leaders if they do not get their own way, especially where this has involved silencing or driving away some of the most marginalised. Nor do the usual rules of time and space apply: those allowing the Spirit to dwell in them, who are moved by compassion and wisdom to be attentive and responsive to those they encounter, are in intimate contact with the One at the heart of the universe, and through this connection with other people throughout the world and indeed the communion of saints. This does not mean that effort may not be needed, for instance to understand an experience very different from one’s own, deal with negative tendencies in oneself such as rivalry or submissiveness or grasp the intricacies of a conflict which has driven one’s new next-door neighbour or workmate from his homeland far away. Nor are institutions irrelevant; but they are a means, rather than an end.

Sometimes, as in the Bible, authentically close relationships will only be achieved through openly confronting tensions and disagreements and wrestling with questions to which there are no easy answers. In the Old and New Testament, time and again families and communities are wracked by misunderstanding, betrayal and division, yet God does not abandon those involved and, in the end, they are reconciled, not through pretence or procedural means but divine grace.

In acknowledging “the eagerness of the Bishops and Deputies of the Episcopal Church at the General Convention to affirm their concern about the wider Anglican Communion”, Williams mentions “an eloquent resolution in support of the 'Covenant for a Communion in Mission' as commended by ACC13”. In 2005 the ACC did indeed commend “the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the churches of the Anglican Communion for study and application as a vision for Anglican faithfulness to the mission of God”, and asked for it to be forwarded to those working on an Anglican Covenant. [138] Church of England senior clergy have done little to promote study and application of this important document, but it does offer potentially valuable insights on how the Communion might move forward, as does earlier work by international Anglican bodies on mission.
According to Transformed and Sent: Reflections on Dimensions of Anglican Mission, [139] produced by MISSIO (the Standing Commission for Mission of the Anglican Communion) in the late 1990s:

The transforming gospel addresses both personal and structural sin. We cannot reduce evangelism to the transmission of a set of articles of faith without any sense of urgency to incarnate that faith in a world beset by injustice and oppression. Salvation, the biblical idea of wholeness or health, is too often reduced to the saving of souls rather than the whole person…

Christianity is not simply a religion. The first Christians were called “followers of the Way”. They were a transforming force in apostolic times. Their concern was not only to “talk the talk”, but to “walk the walk”. Transformation in this light means action to establish conditions where wholeness of life may be enjoyed…

Moreover, to “walk the walk” means that disciples of Jesus follow the way of the cross.

The church on earth, as the church in via (on the way) remains marked by the sins of humankind and by its solidarity with the sufferings of the world… Sharp things that divide us can paradoxically turn out to be gift… The world is not used to such a possibility as this: that those on opposing sides should stay together… bearing each other’s burdens, even entering one another’s pain.

This takes us to the heart of koinonia that is participation in the life of the crucified one (cf. Philippians 2:6-8). The extent to which the church is seen to be one with human suffering is a telling sign of its identity as the body of Christ…

There are some situations where Christian mission is conducted as if it were a military campaign, where conquest and victory are the dominant images of church growth. This leads some of MISSIO’s members to wonder what it means to belong to the church.

A member of MISSIO from Brazil reflects on this in the following way:

Many years ago (through the Crusades, the Inquisition, State proselytism, and so on) the church was occupied with baptising people as the condition of membership and eternal salvation. Even today some churches hold campaigns or crusades to fill up their pews. This view sees the church as a place to avoid eternal condemnation and to gain eternal happiness. In this perspective the growth of the church is measured by the number of members, who are regarded almost as “clients”. Being “dough” is apparently more important than being “leaven” (Matt. 13:33).

This is a temptation we need to resist. Adhering to God’s plan is more important than just belonging to a church. Obeying God’s call to justice and service is bigger than the issue of numbers in pews (cf. Isaiah 65:14-21; Luke 4:17-25). The church is no longer simply an ark of salvation, but God’s agent of mission into the world. The liturgy should express, as a celebration, the action of my faith in transforming society, the church and myself. So we need to recover the images of fermentation, of being salt, light, mustard seed. This is the true meaning of the catholicity of the church. In addition to numbers, it is important to consider the commitment and the maturity of the church community, according to its context.

Instead of spending so much time domesticating new believers, the church should remember its vocation to be a sign, foretaste and instrument of the mission of God. In this vision lay people, the people of the local congregation, are in the forefront. Church structures as well as the ordained ministry exist to prepare, animate and facilitate the quality of the church’s life, rather than simply looking enthusiastically for increased numbers of people. This ministry is called to be the means of empowering mission in order to transform the kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of God (cf. Rev 11:15)...

Wherever we are, wherever we incarnate God’s mission – the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ – we need to be alive to the transforming work of the Spirit within us and among us, as well as in the world around us.

The nine points of the Covenant for Communion in Mission [140] are based on “Scripture and the Sacraments providing the nourishment, guidance and strength for the journey of the covenant partners together.” They begin with a pledge to “Recognise Jesus in each other’s contexts and lives”, include “Meet to share common purpose and explore differences and disagreements” and “Be willing to change in response to critique and challenge from others” and end with “Live into the promise of God’s reconciliation for ourselves and for the world”.

A connected report by the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism
(IASCOME) on Communion in Mission [141] suggests:

We believe that a Covenant enshrining the values of common mission that could be used as a basis for outward-looking relationships among the churches, mission organisations and societies, and networks of the Communion would provide a significant focus of unity in mission for the Anglican Communion…

We believe it provides the basis for agreements between Anglican churches at the national level – but also may be used by local parish/congregations, mission movements and networks, companion diocese links, etc. We believe the Covenant for Communion in Mission thus provides a focus for binding the Communion together in a way rather different from that envisaged by the Windsor Report…

Jesus’ disciples and his wider followers are his brothers and sisters bound together in a family relationship with God the Father….

Jesus made friends of his disciples by loving them. Christian mission is the call to love others the way Jesus did, so that we, and they, can discover the loving friendship of Jesus. The story of Christian mission includes the discovery of friendship in Jesus. This is the story of finding friendship across differences of culture, age, gender and viewpoint. It is the story of discovering the Jesus who befriends people who are excluded from their own community or are from another community. It is the ongoing story of the greatness of Jesus’ befriending-love across differences and despite difficulties…

Perhaps only companions, sister-brothers or friends can truly talk about deeply difficult things: like disagreements, imbalance of resources, and differences in power. If mission is about the sharing of the gospel in relational terms, then the quality of the relationships modelled and sought after in the Church, and more widely, are crucial.

The God we proclaim is a God of love and justice. The world in which we live, however, is characterised by injustice, greed, poverty, terrorism, abuse of power and exclusion. It is in this broken world that we are called to joyful participation in God’s mission of love and justice for all.

A better way forward

Superficial unity based on tolerance but little real engagement, or power-wielding and use of disciplinary measures, is no longer adequate in the face of the challenges of Christian mission in today’s world. Whatever institutional changes are made to the Anglican Communion, there are genuine differences which need to be tackled if Anglicans are to grow in faith, hope and love and more clearly discern what God is calling them to do. Scripture, tradition, reason and experience have much to offer in addressing complex problems, but different groups may have to be encouraged to re-examine their assumptions about what is “biblical”, “traditional”, “fair”, “modern” or “normal”.

It is difficult to predict how matters will move forward in the Anglican Communion. Yet Christians believe that God is continually at work, and can bring wonderful things out of the most tangled and messy situations. So the Archbishop of Canterbury is probably correct in suggesting that “It would be a great mistake to see the present situation as no more than an unhappy set of tensions within a global family struggling to find a coherence that not all its members actually want. Rather, it is an opportunity for clarity, renewal and deeper relation with one another – and so also with Our Lord and his Father, in the power of the Spirit... We must hope that, in spite of the difficulties, this may yet be the beginning of a new era of mission and spiritual growth for all who value the Anglican name and heritage.”

In one of the prayers sometimes used in Church of England services of Holy Communion, worshippers ask God to “teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children” and, in another, pray, by the Holy Spirit, “to have a right judgement in all things”. Congregations also call on God to “pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love, the true bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whoever lives is counted dead before you”. [142]

It is not always easy to be aware of the divine likeness in those who are marginalised or with whom one passionately disagrees, to make the right decisions on complex matters and to follow Christ’s example of love in deed as well as word. Humans inevitably make mistakes and fail to live up to their ideals. Yet through prayer, worship, study and sometimes struggle, Anglicans can hope, by divine grace, in time to “come to the full maturity of the Body of Christ”. [143]


1. http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/2502
2. Presiding Bishop's letter to the church on General Convention, http://www.episcopal-life.org/79901_112789_ENG_HTM.htm.
3. See, for instance, Rowan’s Reflections: Unpacking the Archbishop’s Statement, by the Bishop of Durham, Dr N.T. Wright (in collaboration with the Anglican Communion Institute and Fulcrum; http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=453
4. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0903430.htm
5. Examples include Reflecting on the Archbishop’s Reflection by Lionel E. Deimel, on http://deimel.org/church_resources/rowan.htm; The Fundamental problems with Archbishop Williams’ Ecclesiology and Many Who Wring Their Hands About Catholicity, Betwixt and Between, on http://thanksgivinginallthings.blogspot.com/2009/07/fundamental-problems... On the Archbishop’s Reflections, a joint statement by 13 groups working together in the Church of England, including Inclusive Church and Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (Anglican Matters), in both of which I am involved, on http://www.inclusivechurch2.net/index.php?id=12457; Homosexuality and the Anglican debate, on The Immannent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2009/08/04/homosexuality-and-the-anglican-deba... a Sermon by Andrew Nunn at Southwark Cathedral, http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/sermons/an20090802a; and a response by the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, http://www.modchurchunion.org/resources/mcu/2009-1.htm
6. See Fear or Freedom?: Why a Warring Church Must Change, ed. Simon Barrow, Shoving leopard/Ekklesia, 2008; http://books.ekklesia.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=2255; Anglican Communion in Crisis:
How Episcopal Dissidents and Their African Allies Are Reshaping Anglicanism, Miranda K. Hassett, Princeton University Press, 2007, http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8413.html
7. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_112511_ENG_HTM.htm, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_112408_ENG_HTM.htm
8. http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr5605.html
9. http://www.anglican-nig.org/prmtstmt_civilprtship.htm
10. http://www.anglican-nig.org/gensyd_onitshasept14.htm
11. See e.g. http://www.inclusivechurch2.net/Inclusion-is-a-reality-says-Archbishop-1...
12. Acts 10.1-11.18
13. Galatians 2.6-14
14. See e.g. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/timeline/06reformation.html
15. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/christianethics/con...
16. See e.g. http://www.catholic.com/library/Birth_Control.asp
17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7951839.stm
18. Crowther, Samuel Ajayi, Elijah Olu Akinwumi, Dictionary of African Christian Biography, http://www.dacb.org/stories/nigeria/crowther4_samajayi.html
19. See e.g. Protestant Christian missions, race and empire, Kim Sanecki, pp 94-99, http://etd.gsu.edu/theses/available/etd-07062006-114644/unrestricted/san....
20. http://www.anglicanjournal.com/nc/100/article/reflecting-on-the-35th-ann...
21. http://viaintegra.wordpress.com/church-same-sex-blessings-across-europe/
22. http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organiza...
23. http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organiza...
24. Romans 12.10, 16.
25. My 2007 essay Rewriting history: scapegoating the Episcopal Church, on http://ekklesia.co.uk/research/rewriting_history, covers this in some detail.
26. http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=986&type=Final
27. Learned Discourse on Justification, Richard Hooker, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hooker/just.xiv.html
28. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1930/1930-6.cfm
29. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1958/1958-4.cfm
30. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1958/1958-8.cfm
31. See e.g. Lambeth 1878, Recommendation 1, http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1878/1878-1.cfm; Lambeth 1930, Resolution 48, http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1930/1930-48.cfm; Lambeth 1988, Resolution 72, http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1988/1988-72.cfm
32. John 16.12-13
33. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1968/1968-2.cfm
34. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1978/1978-10.cfm
35. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1988/1988-64.cfm
36. A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality, Stephen Bates, Hodder, 2005, gives a useful account of the 1998 Conference, the atmosphere of which Andrew Brown described in a recent article (see Rowan’s road to schism, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2009/jul/29/anglican...)
37. http://apjn.anglicancommunion.org/reports/APJN_Jersualem.pdf; see p 26.
38. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1998/1998-1-10.cfm
39. http://www.ncs.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/kuala.html
40. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/right-of-reply-1169680.html
41. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/resources/acis/docs/thirty_nine_article...
42. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/listening/reports/provinces.cfm
43. See e.g. “Southern Cone offers haven to disaffected US dioceses”, Pat Ashworth, Church Times, 16 November 2007, http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=47396, and The danger of drift: Presentation by Archbishop Greg Venables, Primate of the Southern Cone to the UK Launch of Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, held at Westminister Hall, London, July 6, 2009, http://www.gafcon.org/news/the_danger_of_drift/
44. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/listening/reports/southern_cone.cfm
45. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/listening/reports/kenya.cfm
46. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1908/1908-46.cfm
47. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1968/1968-24.cfm
48. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1968/1968-25.cfm
49. See, for instance, chapter 3: “Theology of Baptismal Ministry” in Toward a Theology of Ministry, the Episcopal Church, 2000, http://ecusa.anglican.org/mdl_62717_ENG_HTM.htm
50. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/about.cfm
51. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc9/resolutions...
52. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc9/resolutions...
53. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/resources/documents/to... see pp 19-20
54. For examples of how TEC members have understood the demands of participation in baptism and mission, see Professor Louis Weil’s talk at the Drenched in Grace conference organised by Inclusive Church in 2007, http://www.inclusivechurch2.net/Drenched-in-Grace-When-signs-signify-Rev..., and the 2009 Chicago Consultation publication “We will, with God’s help”: Perspectives on Baptism, Sexuality, and the Anglican Communion, http://www.chicagoconsultation.org/site/1/docs/We_Will_With_God_s_Help.pdf
55. See e.g. http://anglicansonline.org/archive/news/articles/1998/980425a.html, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_6_117/ai_60026671/,
56. http://www.americananglican.org/statement-from-archbishop-akinola-on-the...
57. http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=20653
58. Matthew 7.1
59. Matthew 7.12
60. Colossians 3.8
61. Romans 13.10
62. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/windsor2004/index.cfm
63. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/us/04episcopal.html?_r=3&adxnnl=1&oref...
64. http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/12495/
65. http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/dioceses/bishop_lawrence_speaks.html
66. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1867/1867-4.cfm
67. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1948/1948-5.cfm
68. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1948/1948-8.cfm
69. http://anglicanexaminer.com/ER.html
70. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc2/resolutions...
71. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc4/resolutions...
72. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1998/1998-1-1.cfm
73. See e.g. the Yogyakarta Principles, 2007, http://www.yogyakartaprinciples.org/principles_en.htm; Love, hate and the law, Amnesty International, 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/POL30/003/2008/en/d77d0d58-4cd3-... Together, Apart, Human Rights Watch, 2009
74. http://www.nccs.org.sg/NCCS/Home.html
75. See e.g. ‘Council of churches commends singapore government on anti-gay legislation, calls for criminalisation of lesbianism’, Fridae, 12 March 2007, http://www.fridae.com/newsfeatures/article.php?articleid=1874&viewarticl...
76. ‘Penal Code: Proposed changes 'relevant and compassionate', Methodist Message, March 2007, http://www.methodistmessage.com/mar2007/penalcode.html
77. See e.g. http://allafrica.com/stories/200908060009.html, http://www.nassnig.org/legislation.php?page=6&year=2008
78. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2009/mar/13/religion...
79. http://thinkinganglicans.org.uk/uploads/CoNposition.pdf
80. Matthew 22.34-40
81. Deuteronomy 5.20, Luke 18.18-21
82. http://allafrica.com/stories/200712271162.html
83. http://www.gafcon.org/news/communique_from_gafcon_leadership_meeting/
84. See e.g. my piece on Contrasting church attitudes on human rights for all, http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/8492
85. http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/17/689190
86. See e.g. http://www.sundayvision.co.ug/detail.php?mainNewsCategoryId=7&newsCatego...,
87. http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i_Vvh-afaH30C28nlscaqqI8RtnA
88. http://www.ugpulse.com/articles/daily/news.asp?about=Uganda+to+de-regist...
89. See e.g. Exodus 23.6-7, Deuteronomy 1.17, Deuteronomy 10.17-19, Psalm 10.17-18, Isaiah 1.14-17, Amos 5.21-24, Matthew 24.45-51, James 5.1-6
90. http://www.anglocatholicsocialism.org/acsoc.html
91. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc8/resolutions...
92. Adrian Thatcher has usefully summarised much of this – see e.g. http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2043 and http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=2051
93. The work of John Boswell and Alan Bray is especially significant – see e.g. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n11/davi02_.html
94. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derrick_Sherwin_Bailey
95. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1580496/The-Right-Reverend-Jo...
96. See e.g. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/religionreport/stories/2003/1679109.htm
97. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/bishop-widens-church-rift-on-homosexua..., http://www.independent.co.uk/news/gays-prepare-secret-survey-of-the-cler...
98. https://www.kcl.ac.uk/about/structure/dean/profile.html, http://www.kcl.ac.uk/content/1/c4/56/37/ESAlecture2007i.doc
99. http://www.pohick.org/countryman.html
100. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/5162
101. http://www.vts.edu/podium/default.aspx?t=105591
102. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/listening/book_resources/docs/Dale%20ma...
103. http://www.chicagoconsultation.org/article.php?id=4
104. http://www.anglican.ca/primate/ptc/galilee/3-deller.htm
105. http://www.anglican.ca/primate/ptc/galilee/7-jennings.htm, http://www.anglican.ca/primate/ptc/galilee/10-jennings.htm
106. Author of To love as we are loved: the Bible and relationships, among other works, http://www.amazon.com/Love-As-Are-Loved-Relationships/dp/0687421888; see also http://www.oxford-institute.org/docs/2007papers/2007-1Birch.pdf
107. http://www.rdg.ac.uk/Chaplaincy/reviews/books/0826459498.html
108. http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=3069
109. http://www.anglican-nig.org/smsexun_bponuoha.htm
110. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/assault/interviews/falwell...
111. See, for instance, Baptist evangelist Tony Campolo’s views in his dialogue with his wife Peggy Campolo in 1996, http://www.bridges-across.org/ba/campolo.htm, and Anglican theologian Andrew Goddard
112. See e.g. “When gay meant mad”, Beverley D’Silva, The Independent on Sunday, 4 August 1996, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/when-gay-meant-mad-13080...
113. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/listening/book_resources/docs/Anglican%...
114. Personal accounts and theological reflections on such therapy can be found in books such as Exchanging the truth of God for a lie, Jeremy Marks, RoperPenberthy, 2008; and web pages such as http://www.beyondexgay.com/narratives
115. “Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s—an oral history: the experience of patients”, Glenn Smith et al, BMJ 2004;328:427, http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/328/7437/427 and “Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s—an oral history: the experience of professionals”, Michael King et al, BMJ 2004;328:429, http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/328/7437/429
116. http://www.treatmentshomosexuality.org.uk/
117. News release http://www.apa.org/releases/therapeutic.html?imw=Y, full report http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/publications/therapeutic-response.pdf
118. See e.g. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/journal_of_the_history_of_sexuality/v010/10...
119. See e.g. “Evolution myths: Natural selection cannot explain homosexuality”, Michael Le Page, New Scientist, 16 April 2008, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13674-evolution-myths-natural-sele... and “Same-sex sexual behavior and Evolution”, Nathan W. Bailey and Marlene Zuk, Trends in Ecology and Evolution Vol.xxx No.x, 2009, http://download.cell.com/images/edimages/Trends/ecologyevolution/TREE_11...
120. http://www.wwrn.org/article.php?idd=30894&sec=4&con=4
121. http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/misc/damaskinos_celiba...
122. See e.g. “Majority of Poland's Catholic priests 'want end to celibacy'”, Matthew Day, The Telegraph, 23 February 2009, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/4788059/Majority... “Isolated Life Takes Toll on New Priests”, David Briggs, Pulpit and Pew, 2001, http://www.pulpitandpew.duke.edu/newpriestlife.html
123. See e.g. “Sins of the father”, Catherine Deveney, Scotsman, 9 August 2009, http://news.scotsman.com/interviews/Sins-of-the-father-The.5534678.jp
124. “Introduction”, Speaking Love’s Name, Jubilee Group, 1988, http://www.anglocatholicsocialism.org/lovesname.html
125. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3036153.ece
126. http://www.lambethconference.org/resolutions/1930/1930-1.cfm
127. See e.g. “General Convention, Young Adults and Mission”, Otis Gaddis III, Daily Episcopalian, 10 July 2009, http://www.episcopalcafe.com/daily/young_adults/general_convention_young...
128. http://thewitness.org/agw/douglas.html, http://www.thewitness.org/article.php?id=199
129. http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/621
130. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/report/draft_text.cfm
131. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/responses/index.cfm
132. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/index.cfm
133. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_107438_ENG_HTM.htm
134. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/ridley_cambridge/dr...
135. http://ecusa.anglican.org/documents/ToSetOurHopeOnChrist.pdf
136. http://www.globalsouthanglican.org/index.php/comments/third_trumpet_comm...
137. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/ridley_cambridge/dr...
138. Ephesians 5.21
139. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc13/resolution...
140. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/commissions/missio/a_d...
141. http://www.aco.org/ministry/mission/commissions/iascome/covenant/covenan...
142. http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/IASCOMECompleteReport.html
143. http://www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/downloads/pdf/mvcollects374-523.pdf


© Savitri Hensman was born in Sri Lanka. She works in the voluntary sector in community care and equalities in the UK, and she is also a respected writer on Christianity and social justice. An Ekklesia associate, Savi has contributed several chapters to the recent book Fear or Freedom? Why a warring church must change, edited by Simon Barrow (Shoving Leopard / Ekklesia, 2008). She has written and reflected widely on the future of Anglicanism and is herself a member of the Church of England.