It was this time last week that I was looking forward to the conference bringing together leaders of the worldwide Anglican communion and considering outcomes and implications. Now the conference is over and done with, we now know the outcome. While a compromise solution that was “on the cards”, something the Anglicans have been adept at doing since its beginnings, was the result, I hadn’t reckoned on the interest that has arisen, with many of my diverse group of friends on social media chipping in.
As I reflected then, it seems to me a shame that it appeared to come down how to accommodate widely differing views of the subject of homosexuality. I believe the real issue at stake is and should have been the authority of scripture and what place this has in forging the future direction of the Anglican communion. Arguably, individuals and churches going against scripture has long been an issue and one the church has failed to come to grips with. It appears, and understandably so, that the subject of homosexuality and how the church viewed same sex relationships was the straw that broke the camel’s back in a way, for example, the issue of women’s ordination didn’t and arguably couldn’t as even the most ardent conservative would likely not consider having women priests to be something deemed as sinful, whereas supporting same sex relationships is.
Besides writing on matters to do with the church, although not normally the Anglican church, given I am not an Anglican, I have also written on the subject of homosexuality (my “The Gay Conundrum” is relevant here), and I do not intend to go into a theological discourse now given much of what I have to say on the matter has already been said. To exclude, albeit temporarily, the North American Anglican communion, who have refused to budge on their stance to legitimize same sex relations, seems to me to be the right decision. I note a lot of acrimony has arisen among Anglicans in that part of the world, e.g. over who owns the buildings etc., when some have distanced themselves from the official leadership on grounds of conscience, and it seems to me it is sending the right message to both parties by implementing an exclusion. I also note here an escalation in anti-Anglican feelings, given it is not endorsing something the law now endorses. As well as needing to show a generous attitude to their gay brethren, I hope it does not focus in this “sin” anymore it does on any other sin.
Time will no doubt reveal what went on in these meetings, although the walk about by the Ugandan primate on day two was well publicized and did not come as a surprise. Perhaps it is to the credit of other leaders, especially from other African countries, that more didn’t do so. There may have been a political angle here insofar these could then influence the conference outcome in standing for traditional understandings on matters like human sexuality. It is notable that even by my standards, homophobia seems to have taken root in many of these African countries and it is perhaps regrettable that the church leaders in those countries have not spoken out enough against this. I am therefore pleased the conference agreed an motion that seeks to reach out to and include those in same sex relations or have a same sex orientation, for after all the church is for sinners: homosexual as well as heterosexual ones and should do its best to include rather than exclude.
While the outcome from the conference was better that I might have expected, I am under no illusion the church is out of the woods yet even if the resultant schism was less than might have been. After all, if it really is intent on affirming the authority of scripture, the Anglican communion needs to do a lot more when it comes to living out the gospel in order to make much impact on today’s world, many of which have been looking on and continue to see it as irrelevant.