Saturday, 30 May 2009

Lesbian Bishop elect of Stockholm

The Diocese of Stockholm in the Lutheran Church of Sweden, with which the Church of England is in communion, has elected a new bishop. Nothing unusual there, except the bishop-elect is not only a woman, but also a lesbian. Eva Brunne lives in a registered partnership with another woman and has a young son.

She was elected by a significant majority of 413 votes to 365 against Hans Ulfvebrand, her opponent in the final second round of the election on May 26. How refreshing to see a Bishop chosen in an open manner by a wide range of people who know the gifts, experience and suitability of the candidates, rather than the mysterious appointments system of the Church of England.

Bishop-elect Eva has been chosen as the most suitable person for this leadership role, regardless of her sexuality. We can and do applaud the Church of Sweden for this prophetic decision, but we look for the day when such an appointment in the Church of England would not in itself be newsworthy.

By the Porvoo Agreement, the Church of Sweden is also in communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales and the Church of Ireland. Is it too much to hope that leaders of these Anglican churches can be open to learn from their sister church in Sweden, and embrace the ministries of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members?

Are conservative Christians unfaithful to Genesis 1?

Conservative Christians opposed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church don’t just have a problem with human sexuality and homosexuality. They have a problem with God, God who created human beings in his own image (Genesis 1.27), saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good (Genesis 1.31).

Conservatives have a problem with God who creates abundant life in rich and wonderful diversity and loves lavishly – grains of sand, hairs on head, lilies of the field, sparrows, gay men and lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered and heterosexuals.

The fullness and abundance of life of which Jesus speaks is there to be enjoyed and immersed in at every step on our journey through life. For any human being the discovery that there is abundance of life all around us awakens the abundance of life within us. Once awakened, it can flow lavishly, opening hearts, souls and bodies to the glorious awareness of all that is holy and infused with the presence of God.

God’s lavish, loving abundance is a problem for conservatives of a puritan persuasion. Conservative Christians are a problem for God’s creation and not the solution. Those who are drawn to respond to God in creative, lavish and unorthodox ways are a problem for conservative Christians.

Conservatives defend and are on the defensive.

They set out to defend ancient understandings. They major on the fall, sin and guilt and a dualistic view of the world, divided into good and evil, the sacred and satanic, the saved and the lost.

God is an object in creation, external to a person’s being, who issues rules and commandments for us to obey and against which we shall be judged, setting them all down in a book.

Conservatives have a fragmented awareness of life and fail to capture a vision of the wholeness of life in which everything is interconnected and holistic.
Their faith perspective is damaging to the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A dualistic world view is damaging for humanity, encouraging and fomenting conflict and division between nations, faith communities and within Christianity itself.

A dualistic world view is damaging for the planet, failing to see the deep interconnectedness and fragility of ecosystems and the unity in creation.

The world needs saving from a conservative Christian world view. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ in the living awareness of people who are deeply open to love, beauty, glory, holiness.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Melanie Phillips’ world of intolerance and persecution

Melanie Phillip’s article in the current edition of the Spectator majors on the idea that what is normal is being subverted and destroyed in our society. Melanie knows what normal is, normal lifestyle, normal ethical principles, normal sexuality.

She thinks that a liberal society should show tolerance of homosexuality but thinks this has been hijacked by an agenda which aims at destroying the very idea of normative sexuality altogether by smearing it as prejudice.

Lesson one for Melanie (from my psychotherapy training) – there is no normal. Normal is what the majority think or what a culture has accepted as normative for them. In truth, though, each person’s normal is unique to them. Normal for me is being gay, loving my male partner, waking up in the morning with him, eating muesli and making toast.

Christians being persecuted by Equality and Human Rights Commission
Melanie Phillips’ argument is that the freedom of Christians to practise their religious faith and live by its precepts is being prevented by profoundly illiberal and oppressive ‘progressive’ voices in church and society. The Equality & Human Rights Commission is being used persecute Christians, a tool of oppression designed to stamp out all such heresy. It is making homosexual practice, once outlawed, compulsory and is prohibiting Christian practice.
When people make such obviously exaggerated and false claims, and when every day Anglican Mainstream publishes such assertions, you know that they are in a desperate corner and are using extreme language and arguments to support an ever weaker position.

The church is being asked to honour and respect the presence of LGBT people in church and society. It is not being asked to approve patterns of behaviour which is judges to be unhealthy in heterosexuals.

Melanie Phillips says tolerance of homosexuals is right. But she goes on to make a series of statements that are so laughably extreme that she undermines the potential reasonableness and integrity of her own position.

“The Equality Bill is the latest and potentially most oppressive attempt to impose politically acceptable attitudes and drive out any that fall foul of these criteria.”
“..the attitudes being imposed constitute an ideological agenda to destroy Britain’s foundational ethical principles and replace them by a nihilistic values and lifestyle free-for-all ..”
“.. they represent a direct onslaught on the Judeo-Christian morality underpinning British society.”
“Most people have been intimidated into silence under this onslaught.”
“… Christians in particular are being unfairly targeted by discrimination laws …”
“… religious groups will be banned from turning down gay job applicants on the grounds of their sexuality ... so churches, mosques and synagogues will therefore be forced to employ, for example, gay youth workers.”

LGBT people have been persecuted for centuries and are still being persecuted in many countries. Christianity has been and is still a major influence in this persecution. LGBT people are victims of persecution, but I am not and will not allow myself to be victimised. I observe with some bemusement conservative Christians now playing the victim card in their argument against the full inclusion of LGBT people.

Christians and other faith groups are being treated unfairly, says Melanie. They have no right now to uphold their belief that certain types of sexual behaviour are wrong. This is simply trumped by gay rights, which allows them no space at all (her italics) to uphold their religious beliefs. It is totalitarian.

Thank you Melanie and Anglican Mainstream, for so consistently overstating your case. I am confident that the carefully reasoned case presented by Changing Attitude, a Christian organisation, that the church should grant full equality to LGBT people, is being heard and will eventually be accepted by the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Leading UK conservative bishops and Synod members support schismatic Canadians

Three evangelical bodies in the Church of England have sent a letter of greeting to Bishop Donald Harvey and letters in support of St John’s Shaughnessy.

The Venerable Michael Lawson writes as Chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council and on their behalf. The letter says the CEEC are deeply conscious that the bishop is a genuine and authentic part of the Anglican Communion, and equally that he offers orthodox ministry. He is, says the letter, facing an atrocious ordeal.

The Steering Group of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in UK and Ireland which includes Bishop Michael Nazir Ali of Rochester and Canon Dr Chris Sugden and Mrs Sarah Finch, both members of General Synod have written to St John’s expressing wholehearted support in this time of great difficulty and shock and sadness that such an action be taken against them at St John’s.

The FoCA letter says they have grave concerns regarding the diocese of New Westminster’s departure from orthodox Christian teaching - which is held by the majority of the Anglican communion.

Dr Philip Giddings, Convenor, Canon Dr Chris Sugden (again), Executive Secretary and Bishop Wallace Benn of Lewes, Trustee wrote to St John’s Shaughnessy on behalf of Anglican Mainstream’s Steering Committee.

They say they recognize in St John’s the marks of authentic Anglican identity, faith and practice and send a message of solidarity, encouragement and support in prayer as the parish enters the judicial process to enable them to continue to use the property and resources that God has entrusted to them in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the good of all the people of Vancouver.

There is a challenge in the letters to those who think they are the true members of the Anglican Communion, starting at the top with the Archbishop of Canterbury, including the majority of bishops and parishes in the UK, the majority of Provinces in the Anglican Communion and filtering down to all those LGBT people and supportive heterosexuals who believe they are thoroughly orthodox, genuine, authentic and serving the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The implication is that supporters of Changing Attitude and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Anglicans who reject Lambeth 1.10 and the moratoria on ordinations and blessings are not orthodox or genuine. That is an arrogant implication.

The bishops and General Synod members who have signed are themselves undermining the Windsor Report and the moratoria on cross-provincial interventions.

The three groups are writing in support of a bishop and parish acting in defiance of their own diocesan bishop who is in good standing with his own Province and within the Anglican Communion. Unlike many of the Global South bishops, Bishop Michael Ingham attended the Lambeth conference and has been unwaveringly faithful.

The launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans on July 6 in London is the next step in a carefully planned strategy to introduce schism to the United Kingdom.

Almost certainly some of those signing these letters wish to see schismatic bishops in England leading schismatic parishes, and all because LGBT Anglicans in the UK want their loving relationships to be affirmed by the church.

Numbers are always important for these people. They claim that those attending Gafcon 2008 represented some 40 million Anglicans world-wide, 70% of the total active membership of 55 million.

Well, this is another grandiose, arrogant claim. If all that they claim is true, then they will eventually replace the present Anglican Communion with their new FoCA model. Time will tell.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Scott Rennie - Interview on BBC Scotland


Check out the interview with Scott Rennie on BBC Scotland's Politics Show here.

And check out Colin's article in the Guardian here.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Lifestyle choice – orientation and practice

The debates in the Church of Scotland this weekend about the appointment of the Revd Scott Rennie as minister of Queens Cross church in Aberdeen and his subsequent interview on BBC Scotland raised the canards of lifestyle choice and orientation versus practice yet again.

It is not a lifestyle choice, Scott Rennie told his interviewer. No-one says that about heterosexuals. Indeed they don’t, and heterosexuals would be puzzled if anyone told them their sexual orientation is a lifestyle choice.

It is offensive and demeaning every time someone refers to my identity as a lifestyle choice. The other debate being conducted at the moment about the Church of England bishops opposition to the government over its plans to amend the incitement to hatred laws may not influence the way conservative Christians talk about me, but I wish there was some way of educating them out of the deliberately abusive way they talk about lesbian and gay people.

As offensive to lesbian and gay people is the repeated distinction between orientation and practice. I am allowed to have a homosexual orientation but I am not allowed to practice my orientation. The practice being referred to is love, loving, making love, expressing and sharing love with a partner. In the minds of conservative Christians, practice equals sex. When straight or gay people engage in sex for it’s own sake, they practice something less than ideal. When we make love, we are doing something holy and sacred whether we are gay or straight and whether anyone thinks the Bible proscribes same-sex romance.

Scott Rennie emphasised the fear under which people live in the church. When the church eventually sees the light it will free lay people, clergy and ministers to leave their fear behind and live joyously in their own divine light.

LGBT people live not in fear of God’s judgement but in fear of what other Christians might do to them. As Scott said in the interview, this makes honest and truthful dialogue impossible. In the Anglican Communion it makes a proper Listening Process impossible. It won’t be possible until Christian teaching and attitudes have changed. But when that day is reached, neither the Listening Process nor Changing Attitude will be needed.

Meanwhile, we have to learn to live with our differences and respect each other, and part of the respect that all members of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion need to show to LGBT people is to learn that using the language of lifestyle choice and distinguishing orientation and practice would be offensive to heterosexuals and is offensive and demeaning to us.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Dreaming of global cooperation in the Church

Two more quotes from Solitude by Robert Kull, which struck me as I read them before meditating this morning:

“Blinded by projected fear and assumption of their own righteousness, and certain that their personal beliefs are true, secular and religious fanatics on all sides insist that global cooperation is impossible, but I think it worth a try.”

“What enormous suffering and destruction we have wrought by mistaking our descriptions for what they describe and by becoming slaves to the dogma we ourselves have created. Instead of seeking common ground, we often demand compliance and condemn apparent indifference.”

Am I a fanatic, I asked myself? I am sure some of the conservatives present in Jamaica think so, much as I think they are. I‘m passionate - for the continuing transformation of the Church into a Kingdom community.

“ACC’s close vote delays debate on Covenant” is the headline to today’s report on ACC14 by Pat Ashworth in the Church Times, accurate, although she wasn’t there. “Chaos as ACC battle on Covenant plan” the inaccurate headline to George Conger’s report in the CEN, who was there (arrived Friday, left Saturday).

“Williams: Feel others’ pain”, Church Times headline; “Archbishop hails ‘glorious failure” CEN headline to George Conger’s second report. George had returned to the USA on Saturday – Archbishop Rowan’s final address was given the following Tuesday. The Archbishop did not say the ACC meeting had been a glorious failure. He quoted Maria Boulding who says the alternatives for Christians were not success or failure, but glorious failure and miserable failure.

Andrew Carey, noted for his consistent negativity to Archbishop Rowan, says he “read widespread reports of confusion and mismanagement.” He didn’t read my blog, did he, but only the reports by conservatives, those who spin everything negatively.

Changing Attitude works for full inclusion and truth. My understanding of the truth is filtered through my experience and that is true for every human being. Blindingly obvious, of course, but conservatives think their truth is more truthful than mine. I always try to be honest and truthful in my reporting – and partisan, because CA advocates for the full inclusion of LGBT people.

Changing Attitude advocates for a fully inclusive church, LGBT people, women, children, those living with disabilities, all who in one way or another the church marginalises, excludes or holds a prejudice against.

Dualism, the compulsion to polarise, which is endemic to conservatives, is a curse, as, at times, is the parable of the sheep and the goats. Not satisfied with dividing the world into believers and non-believers Conservatives further divide the world into true and false believers and true and false Christians. The divisions they are trying to create in the Communion are founded on this false and pernicious duality.

I didn’t have many conversations in Jamaica with those holding radically different views from myself, much to my regret. I had a few, and they tailed off as the days passed. But the members of ACC did have conversations in the Bible study groups and discernment groups with people holding a wide range of radically different positions, and they learnt from them and allowed their hearts and minds to be changed a little.

And I was really present and visible in my own way, a gay man reporting on ACC14 and chatting with members and staff. I have wonder whether the hostility shown to me on Monday by Bishop Nwosu might have been to some degree displaced anger. The issues for the Communion had not been dealt with in the way he and some other conservatives wanted, especially in the outcome to the Covenant debate. Perhaps I was the visible target for his frustration, and a symbol of what his own teaching and mind set thinks is wrong with the Communion. Perhaps to a degree he is blinded by projected fear and the assumption of his own righteousness, and certain that his personal beliefs are true.

We are all capable of being blinded by projected fear, can assume that our own righteousness is more holy than yours, and over-certain that my personal beliefs are true. Conservatives fear lack of certainty about the Gospel and salvation. I fear dogmatism and certainty. And I fear for the ability of the church to ever been open enough to form a Christian community which works for global cooperation, compassion and generosity to those who are “different”.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Restored relationship with Bishop Nwosu from Nigeria

I received a gift in the long queue leading into the Departure Lounge at the Airport in Kingston, Jamaica as I began my journey home. I found myself standing next to Canon Phil Groves and in front of Bishop Nwosu from Nigeria with whom I'd had the unpleasant encounter. We had smiled at each other in passing when we met in the hotel and I had wondered about opening a conversation with him. Now I was given the opportunity as we queued for 20 minutes.

I told him that I would like to visit Nigeria and if he was agreeable, to come and meet him and talk with him. His response was a very positive yes. We didn't talk about our encounter about the photograph, but about Nigeria and his diocese and indirectly about 'the gay issue'. He seemed to be a very different person from the angry man who had confronted me two days ago.

He told me the Nigerian House of Bishops meet for 5 days next week. He will be joining them and reporting back on ACC-14. Canon Groves offered to visit Nigeria in his role as Coordinator of the Listening Process. The Bishop was concerned that he should come when the rainy season has finished, in November.

Whatever has happened in our previous encounters, we always have to be prepared to walk the extra mile and to repair relationships, without necessarily revisiting previous unpleasantness.

In the plane on the way home I regretted that I hadn't initiated a conversation with him earlier when we could have sat and talked in the hotel. But I didn't, and we can't live our regrets. We had a good conversation in the Airport and I believe and trust that it will be possible to visit Jamaica one day and continue the conversation on his territory, which might be much more comfortable for him (and a tad uncomfortable for me, but what's new?).

One of the questions I will have to discuss carefully with Davis Mac-Iyalla and other Changing Attitude Nigeria leaders is whether it might be possible to set up a safe meeting between a small number of LGBT Anglicans in Nigeria and the bishop.

Meanwhile, it's good to be home safely after what has been a very good week for the Anglican Communion and for the work of Changing Attitude in reminding the ACC that we LGBT people are faithful and committed, firstly to God, and also to a vision of Communion transformed in its welcome to LGBT people.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

ACC-14 ends with Jamaican enthusiasm in worship and members committed to mission and unity

Final blog from Jamaica. ACC-14 ends this evening with a gala supper for the members and staff. Earlier the closing service was held in the Cathedral Church of St Jago de la Vega in Spanish Town.

I’ve been reading a book I found in Devizes Library while I’ve been in Jamaica - Solitude: A year alone in the Patagonian Wilderness by Robert Kull. It’s the daily journal he kept interspersed with short reflections. Two sentences struck me this morning:

“Instead of building a self-enclosing fortress of knowledge, the intellect can be used to expand the space of awareness and enrich the experience of living. Conceptual knowledge isn’t useless or bad, but it does tend to be self-referential, and we can easily mistake it for the world it describes.”


One of the things the Anglican Communion, at the level of it’s Instruments (with the exception of +Rowan) isn’t very good at is getting out of the head, opening interior, contemplative space, giving time for awareness of what is, and remembering that not everyone sees the world the way we do.

This has been a good ACC meeting. Almost everyone agrees this is so. A few dissenters have gone away muttering about treachery and incompetence in the Covenant debate. Everyone I have spoken with here has been very positive about their experience of ACC-14 and of the future of the Anglican Communion. They will return to their Provinces with new vision and energy for the future of the Communion and I rejoice in that on behalf of Changing Attitude. It will help to strengthen bonds of affection between LGBT people across the Communion as we continue to endure resistance to our full inclusion and restrictions imposed by Provinces obeying the moratoria.

The music at today’s service was yet again inspirational. Choirs from The Queens’ School, Glenmuir High School and Kingston College sang separately and beautifully before the service from the organ gallery and combined to lead the hymns with passion. It’s pointless to print the first lines of hymns – you needed to be present to catch the rhythm and and joy of Jamaican hymnody.

The preacher at today’s service was the Rt Revd John Paterson, outgoing chair of the ACC. John is an Anglican who might be happier spending a year in the Patagonian wilderness that at an ACC meeting, though he has being doing this in one capacity or another for 21 years. He is an introvert, a contemplative. He preached on the abrupt ending of St Mark’s Gospel and concluded by writing an ending for the Gospel as the ACC members prepare to return home.

"The disciples – the members of the ACC went out and flew home from Jamaica. Trembling and panic had not seized them, other than going through customs and immigration. They told everyone they met that Christ is alive and living in Jamaica, and they fully expected him to accompany them on their journey, and to meet them when they arrived home. And what is more, they said, the Anglican Communion is alive and well, and functioning faithfully and effectively in places right around God’s world, in places of fear and strife, in places of poverty, places of wealth, places of natural disaster. Anglicans everywhere are following our Lord’s beckoning to meet him in their Galilee, in the places where they live and work, in the midst of God’s creation where which so badly needs our care."


Earlier in the address he had commented on Anglican polity which has always held that it is bishops in Synod or Council that are able to make decisions that guide the life of the church. For the Communion, he said, the Primates’ meeting cannot do that. We should look to our Primates for wise guidance and theological insights but that is quite different, in his view, from making binding decisions from which the rest of the Church is excluded.

The former Joint Standing Committee of Primates and the ACC has become the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and should meet more than once a year, with the right balance of Primates, clergy and lay people represented. This is a significant advance in helping the four ‘Instruments of Communion’ work more cohesively together.

Bishop John Paterson has helped give the ACC a much more significant role in the Communion has he hands over to bishop James Tengatenga. This is good news for those of us who believe the Communion will be healthier with an enhanced role for lay and clergy voices.

I have enjoyed good conversations with many of the ACC members, with only the occasional hiatus. Bishop Mike Hill from Bristol is always warm and friendly, good to see Rose Hudson-Wilkin as a new England member, Archbishop Thabo Makoba from South Africa, Bishop Cathy Roskam (who suffered indignity in Nottingham), Ian Douglas and Josephine Hicks all from the USA and Christopher Potter from St Asaph and the Archbishop of Wales and patron of CA, Barry Morgan. The ACO staff (especially the media team), and the volunteers from the churches of Jamaica were unfailingly helpful and generous with smiles and time.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Canon Phil Groves briefed the press last Thursday on the Listening Process

Last Thursday I was challenged by Canon Chris Sugden and David Virtue for having written than there are gay Primates. Their challenge (which seems to me to be totally unprofessional) happened around the table directly after the media briefing attended by Canon Phil Groves, responsible for the Listening Process. I was so disturbed by the encounter with Chris and David that I forgot to post a report of the media briefing.

Canon Groves reminded us that his is a monitoring role, not an advocacy role. Gay and lesbian people are part of every diocese, but not in the centre of the room, not seen or heard across many parts of the Communion. There is a genuine lost opportunity for mission when the Church doesn’t listen to lesbian and gay people. Without a process of listening to lesbian and gay people, how are members of the Mothers’ Union, Youth Leaders, etc., going to learn about the reality of the world they live in and hear the experience of lesbian and gay people?

I asked Canon Groves how LGBT might be heard and find a place on the Instruments of Communion. In the ACC, Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meeting we are still talked about rather than listened to or with. The moratoria and listening process both extend the period in which LGBT Anglicans in the west continue to wait for full affirmation by their churches.

He said that the Instruments are not fully representative of other groups such as women and young people. There is no mechanism to enable lesbian and gay people to be given places in the Communion Instruments and Canon Groves wasn’t sure such a move would be appropriate.

David Virtue told him there are tens of thousands of ex-gays in the Communion and he is not listening to their voices. He referred to the Anglican Mainstream ‘Sex and the City Conference’ where he said there were hundreds of people saying they wanted out of homosexuality. David Virtue wanted Chris to look at the work of Mario Bergner and the Zacchaeus Fellowship and consult Peter Ould and Terry Buckle and make their work part of the Listening Process – not so much a question as telling Phil how to do his job.

Canon Groves was asked by Robert Lundy (American Anglican Council) about the $1.5 million grant from the Sacker Health Institute. Did he know, Phil Groves was asked, that Sacker was part-funded by the Ford Foundation and they have a liberal agenda? The Ford Foundation grants have no influence on the grant being made by the Sacker Foundation, he responded.

He was questioned about the Indaba process which will be used inappropriately, he was told, in the Listening Process. Canon Groves defended Indaba, used the image of the family – the church family is loyal to Christ, a new community. The church takes society and works to transform it into Christ. We assume that the western societal values and models we work with can be trusted, but they are as open to abuse as Indaba can be.

David Virtue made a statement rather than asking a question. Canon Groves talks a lot about culture. The view of homosexuality held my Emanuel Kolini, Henry Orombi, Peter Akinola and himself needs no more theological discussion. He and they come from different cultures but there is no difference in their attitude to homosexuality.

It’s about human rights in the west and community rights in Africa, said Canon Groves. The Virginia Report talked about the good news of Jesus Christ in particular cultures. Culture changes the way people understand the Gospel. Canon Groves said he had discovered the gospel as it is lived in Uganda working alongside Archbishop Orombi. We are always enlightened by seeing the gospel through the eyes and experience of another culture.

Robert Lundy asked how the Listening Process will help the Communion makes decisions that stick. The question, said Canon Groves, is how we include people in the journey we make together in making decisions. Our process may not work and we can’t say that the process will be the answer to all out problems. In Corinth, St Paul calls the Christians there to recognise Christ as Lord of one Church. He asks them to be part of a journey to the truth.

Before Canon Groves, John Rees, Legal Advisor to the Anglican Consultative Council, had talked about the Constitution and legal issues affected by UK charity and company law.

He was quizzed about the refusal to seat Philip Ashey by Canon Chris Sugden, which produced my favourite press briefing moment. Chris writes his questions before hand, something I would do if only I could work out in advance what my question might be. John Rees’s response to Chris’s lengthy question was: “I’m not sure if that’s a question or an essay, really.”

Presidential Address - Archbishop says gays and lesbians scapegoated

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered his Presidential Address in the meeting room which has been used as a chapel for ACC-14 following evening prayer on Monday evening. The full text of his address will be posted online on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, here is a transcript of hasty notes I took of the address.

Achievement
He began by asking, what have we achieved? There is no absolute measure of achievement and in critical times, seemingly small achievements may in fact be larger ones. We got up every morning and prayed, studied the Bible, affirmed our will to stay in relationship, did some planning, about evangelism, church growth, etc. We agreed the substance of the Covenant and maintained a time scale.

Our willingness to act as one in certain areas and praying as one by God’s will is quite and achievement. The work of God can be seen in small and apparently routine things. God gives us the grace and liberty to plan and pray together. There is no evidence that we have no future together.

Challenge
Nobody has moved very much in the last 10 days. The problems are not guaranteed a solution. There remains an intensely felt stand off between groups in our Communion. He referred here to the discussion held by the ACC on the Holy Land which for him had echoes of perceptions nearer home - the attitude from one side or the other that we have conceded something and you haven’t moved. Our divisions and fears are not as deep or poisonous as those between communities in the Holy Land. He talked about identifying with victims and said something shifts when people on both sides of a conflict are able to recognise one another.

Gays and lesbians scapegoated
Who bears the cost in our conflict, he asked. Christian credibility has been shattered by the scapegoating which lesbian and gay people experience. We are bound in a community in which scapegoating and rejection are very deeply ingrained.

Others think that decisions people have made in other parts of the world mean that they cannot share Christian witness with their neighbours.

How are these two groups to come together for at least some recognition to be shared? I know that won’t solve the problem, he said. Part of the imperative is in dealing with it in a Christian way. If we talk of moratoria and cease fires this is only useful and serious if it is part of the background of recognition (of the other).

You are going back to your Provinces with a quagmire of detail and procedure. We did it because we hoped Christian people would be able to recognise each other a bit more fully, hopefully and generously. Good listening allows the other really to speak.

The second challenge is even more uncomfortable. We talked about the Covenant and sanctioned a measure of delay. We are committed to a basic timetable. Don’t delay consideration of the Covenant in your Provinces – pray and talk now. Any delay will be as brief as possible. Begin intelligent engagement as soon as you can. Some, many, may be reluctant to engage with the detail. The possibility of a certain kind of division is there.

Some speak of the future as a federation, dispersed, some talk of us being more strongly or less strongly bound together. There is a real possibility of having more and less strongly bounded Provinces. How do we preserve the structures that allow us to do what we want together? What are the structures, protocols, Instruments, that allow us to work together? We will need organs of life-giving exchange. Don’t write off the Instruments of Communion. What makes things impossible is the ceaseless rhetoric of fear and competition, rivalry and resentment. There will not be the flow of life unless we behave hopefully and respectfully as we deal with each other.

Lessons
What have we learnt here? We are not very good at resolution passing. At the next ACC I recommend briefing in advance about resolution procedures and how they work.

We have learnt to recognise that relations need to be deep enough and worked at enough, learning about God from one another. We are given to one another as believers – this is basic N.T. theology. We need to work on these relations if we are to be able to receive what God gives us.

We have been rooted in our host church in Jamaica for a time. We’ve seen what an ordinary, local church does – intermittently holy, intermittently a mess. Real church happens here on the ground.

The natural devastations, earthquakes and hurricanes, which makes structures very vulnerable, are a striking and potent metaphor. There is divine faithfulness at work, the church exists wherever it is set. Anglican investment is in the particularity of places and cultures.

We are so preoccupied with talking about the autonomy of Provinces and not about particularity and the gifts we have to share. We have come to a deeper engagement through our study of the Gospel of Mark. The marginal characters in St Mark’s Gospel are the ones who see the point when the disciples don’t, the syrophoenician woman, Bartimaeus, the centurion at the cross. The Gospel of Mark is a celebration of the stupidity of the disciples and bad news for Christian elites, focussed on success and failure.

Maria Boulding, and English Roman Catholic writes that the alternatives are glorious and miserable failure. We fail and fail again but the grace of our Saviour is inexhaustible. Mark’s apostles finally decided to be glorious failures. If we ask whether this meeting has been a success or failure we should ask a few Mark-shaped thoughts.

First face your failure, not his or hers. Then ask how it could be made glorious. Ours is a flawed, fragile, precarious Anglican fellowship.

Results of election to ACC Standing Committee

The results of the election to the Standing Committee of the ACC were announced this afternoon. Eleven people stood for the four vacant places. Those elected maintain a balance, geographically and politically, except that they are all men. None of the four women who stood were elected.

The successful candidates are:

The Revd Ian Douglas of The Episcopal Church, Professor of Mission and World Christianity, Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dr Tony Fitchett of the Anglican Church of Aoteoroa, New Zealand and Polynesia, a family doctor in Dunedin and chair of the ACC resolutions committee.

Dato’ Stanley Isaacs of the Province of South East Asia, senior partner in a law firm, member of Diocesan Synod, Standing Committee, chair of Diocesan Properties Development Committee and Diocesan Investment Funds.

The Rt Revd Azad Marshall, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Diocesan Bishop of Iran and Director of the Inter Faith Centre, Teheran, Iran.

Standing but not elected were:

• The Rev Canon Mwita Akiri, PhD, Anglican Church of Tanzania
• Mrs Helen Biggin, Church in Wales
• Professor Juanildo Albuquerque Burity, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
• The Revd Dr Maurice Elliott, Church of Ireland
• The Ven Dr Sarah Macneil, Anglican Church of Australia
• The Rt Revd Susan Moxley, Anglican Church of Canada
• Ms Sarah Tomlinson, Scottish Episcopal Church

The following have already been elected during this meeting:

Chair: Bishop James Tengatenga, Central Africa
Vice Chair: Canon Elizabeth Paver, England

The Following will remain on the Standing Committee:

Mrs Philippa Amable, West Africa
Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, Ceylon
Ms Nomfundo Walaza, Southern Africa

Monday, 11 May 2009

Bishop James Tengatenga, new ACC chair, responds to question about lesbian and gay Anglicans

This afternoon’s press conference was attended by Bishop James Tengatenga, newly elected chair of the ACC and Archbishop John Paterson, outgoing chair.

Questions ran in two directions – back to Friday’s Covenant vote from some - and from me, looking forwards, I asked Bishop James how he would ensure a continuing place for lesbian and gay people in the Communion when we are faced with an extensive period of listening and Covenant process and moratoria.

Bishop James was present at Lambeth 1998 and voted for resolution 1.10 but recognised that it is internally contradictory. As a Church, he said, we have said that we have and recognise gay and lesbian people. The question Lambeth 1.10 poses is how we deal with this in terms of different orders and ministries.

Sometimes it may seem as if the Church does not acknowledge gay and lesbian people but we do, he said. We are engaged in a slow process of discernment in a Communion of 80 million people across the world. The Church is a big institution and it is amazing that we are able to hold so much diversity together. He said this gives him hope that we can move ahead together.

I had met Bishop James at a PWM conference in 2007 and enjoyed a long conversation with him then. He is conservative about the gay issue as might be expected but he is an open person and understands what it means to be gay and to be marginalised and oppressed.

I am suddenly struck by the contrast between the attitude and behaviour of Bishop James from Southern Malawi and Bishop Ikechi from Nigeria. The Nigerian view that homosexuality is satanic is not just abhorrent to someone from a western culture like the UK – it is not a way of looking at human sexuality that Bishop James would recognise, nor would Archbishop Thabo from South Africa. These bishops have both related to me in a warm, pastoral way. The Nigerian bishop was abusive and threatening. How can I be in communion with a bishop who believes he is entitled to bully and abuse people?

A further short step in the thought process makes me wonder how the North American members of the Church of Nigeria relate to the Nigerian idea that homosexuality is satanic. There are insane relationships between these boundary crossing parts of our Communion.

Bishop John Paterson briefly reviewed the 21 years he has been a member of the Anglican Consultative Council. He was asked about the confusion in the Covenant debate on Friday and his chairing of the debate. John Rees was also on hand to answer questions. John Rees said the excitable comments were coming from who were not in the room and did not witness the debate.

John Paterson said he has always tried to be as fair as possible as chair, measured and slow. The Council is composed of intelligent people who knew what they were voting for.

James Tengatenga said the problem the ACC has is that the process seems to work okay debating certain resolutions and then we come to other resolutions and the process is not okay – people want to work at contentious resolutions clause by clause.

How do LGBT Anglican Nigerians endure satanic claims?

My colleague and friend, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, has sent me a message of reassurance following my encounter with Bishop Nwosu.

Davis is glad “that I came out alive from an encounter with such people who can do anything to achieve their own goals in the Communion in the name of Christianity.” I don’t think I am at risk of being killed here in the Jamaica Pegasus hotel but Davis’s comment reminds me that many Nigerian LGBT people are threatened with death and killed because of their sexuality.

The incredible anger expressed by the bishop to me shows me what gay Nigerians can expect if they dare to make themselves visible. Davis did that, initially in Nigeria and then from the relative safety of Togo where he received death threats and was physically attacked. The Church of Nigeria claimed there was no proof they were implicated in the threats or attack.

My experience this morning shows me that Nigerian bishops are perfectly capable of threatening and intimidating people – and if they will do that to me in the context of an ACC meeting, how much more feely will they attack and abuse those they disagree with at home in Nigeria.

Davis reminded me that every Sunday members of Changing Attitude Nigeria in every Diocese in the Church of Nigeria are worshiping under the same roof with priests and bishops who hold intolerant, abusive and threatening views about gay and lesbian people. He asks how many more LGBT Nigerians will become refugees from the country before the Church of Nigeria repents its homophobia.

Last week I had a brief conversation with the Ven Dr Abraham Okorie. I introduced myself as Director of Changing Attitude and said we worked for LGBT Anglicans.
Later in the week he contributed to the debate on the Anglican Covenant, referring to The Episcopal Church as satanic because they want to create more problems rather than heal wounds.

Satanic was the word he used about lesbian and gay people in his conversation with me. Lesbian and gay people are only welcome to come to church if they repent, he said. Their activities are satanic. For Dr Okorie, and possibly for bishop Nwosu, there is no place for LGBT people in Nigeria. They are a satanic presence. There can be no listening process when church leaders hold this attitude. The support of the Church of Nigeria for further punitive legislation against gay people and gay marriage is perfectly logical in their mindset.

Not all Nigerian bishops, priests and lay people have the same mind set. Unknown to them, many have gay and lesbian sons and daughters. Many also have homosexual feelings which they suppress or turn into anger against gay men.

The attitudes of these representatives from the Church of Nigeria compromise their associates, some present here, from the UK and North America. Leaders of Anglican Mainstream tell me that bringing practitioners of reparative therapy to a conference in the UK is a contribution to healing LGBT people which the Listening Process should acknowledge. I want to ask them how this apparently docile and tolerant attitude relates to the Christian theological view in Nigeria that homosexuality is satanic.

What might the conservative strategy be?

What might the people in my previous post have been plotting (because plotting is what this uncomfortable huddle of men looked as if they were doing)?

The Anglican Communion Insitute published a lengthy analysis of Friday's Covenant debate in which they concluded that the resolution hadn't been properly passed. The statement by Christopher Seitz, Philip Turner, Ephraim Radner, Mark McCall and
the Rt. Revd. John Howe concludes:

Two actions are required as a matter of urgency:

This issue must be re-visited immediately by the ACC and voted upon in a lawful and proper manner during this meeting. The alternative is moving forward with lasting questions as to the legitimacy of the entire process. Is this in doubt?
An explanation must be offered by those in charge of these proceedings, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chairman of the ACC, as to how such manifestly improper procedures were permitted to unfold from the outset of Friday’s session and, indeed, of ACC-14 itself. It appears to us that things descended into chaos and no one stopped and sought to bring things to order.
If lawful and proper action on the covenant is not forthcoming from this meeting of the Council, the only appropriate response is for the Churches of the Communion to begin themselves the process of adopting the Ridley Cambridge Text.

I will blog on developments through the day. Next we have plenary reflecting on the Mission Encounters which took place yesterday. The day concludes with a Presidential Address by Archbishop Rowan.

Nigerian bishop not Jamaican homophobe threatens UK gay activist

I came to Jamaica in the knowledge that it is a very homophobic country and I would need to be very careful and discrete here. I assumed that if I were to be threatened, it would be by a hostile Jamaican man. I was wrong. I have been threatened thos morning by Bishop Ikechi Nwosu of the Church of Nigeria, reinforced by the Ven Dr Abraham Okorie, the Nigerian clergy delegate.

Following the 8.30 press briefing, at which Canon Chris Sugden from Anglican Mainstream was not present. After the meeting I wandered downstairs to the swimming pool. Across the breakfast room I saw Canon Sugden with the Bishop Nwosu, Dr Okorie and Stanley Isaacs from South East Asia (the latter three ACC delegates. Also with them were Philip Asher and Julian Dobbs. I thought the group was worth a photograph because Canon Sugden had engaged in conversations similar to this at the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam.

Having taken the photograph, I returned to the press room. Bishop Nwosu and Dr Okorie suddenly burst into the room and immediately challenged me. The bishop demanded that I gave him my camera. I had no right to take his photograph without his permission, he said. Calmly, I said no, I am not giving you my camera. He was seething with anger, looming over me, jabbing his finger at me. He was intimidating and very frightening. I understood how Nigerian bishops can so successfully and easily intimidate their own people.

I asked him whether this was the way a bishop should speak to another priest in the Anglican Communion. He continued with his demands that I give him my camera. I asked him if he was angry because I am a gay man. Yes, he said.

For one last time, he asked me, more appropriately, let me have that camera please. I responded firmly and calmly, no (though I felt anything but calm inside). You will see the consequences, he said as he finally gave up and left the room.

The incident raises a number of very serious issues. Why was he so angry at having his photograph taken in a public place? I have taken several pictures of him in the meeting room, where there are rules about taking photographs that I have signed to comply with, but I haven’t as yet used them.

Why was he so angry at having his picture taken in that context. What does he have to hide? Well, I can guess, and normally, the conservative strategy is to hire rooms in an adjoining hotel and hold meetings away from the public gaze.

Having failed to get what they wanted from Friday’s debate on the Covenant (just read the conservative web sites, blogs and commentaries), their next move would be to come up with a strategy today designed to sabotage this meeting or impose their own will.

Stanley Isaacs also leapt upstairs after me and turned his anger on a group of American journalists standing in the foyer. The atmosphere for me now is very unpleasant here. I know there is a Nigerian bishop present whose anger is almost uncontrollable.

Conservative plots are nothing new to me, nor will they be to those reading this blog. I was reminded of the attempt by Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma to exorcise Richard Kirker at Lambeth 1998.. What has shocked me this morning is Bishop Nwosu’s attempt to threaten and intimidate me. Isn’t this what conservatives are doing all the time to our Communion, all the time trying to hide behind a fa├žade of niceness and reasonableness?

Sunday at St Andrew's, Half Way Tree, Port Royal and I-scream, Devon House

The delegates at the ACC meeting in Jamaica travelled to parishes in different parts of the island today to take part in worship and engage in Mission Encounters with members of the church after the service.

Tomorrow, Monday, they will be joined by representatives from the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands who took part in the encounters. They will meet in closed session initially and in an open plenary session at 10.30 when I and other journalists will be able to witness and report the results of the encounters.

I attended the nearest Anglican Church to my hotel, St Andrew Parish Church at Half Way Tree, a complex of road junctions dominated by a dramatic concrete bus terminal. The kapok tree that stood here disappeared in the 1870s. The church by contrast huddles low on the ground surrounded by a cemetery. The foundations were first laid in 1692, but it was rebuilt and has been extended several times. The outside is unremarkable, brick, but the interior is beautiful, dominated by chandeliers and stained glass at the liturgical east end.

Dr Philip Aspinall, the Primate of Australia, presided and preached. The service was familiar, somewhat surprisingly so – the setting used was the same as we sing in Devizes. The hymns were also mostly familiar. Following a trumpet fanfare we sang ‘All praise to thee’ to Engelberg, the Gradual was ‘In Christ there is no East or West’, the Offertory ‘God is love’ to Abbot’s Leigh and Father Lord, we offer you’ by Richard Ho Lung, which I would love to sing in Devizes. ‘There is a redeemer’ and ‘Lord of our diversity’ were sung during Communion and the Recessional was Jesus, Prince and Saviour’ sung to St Gertrude.

Sirrano the Rector welcomed Dr Philip Aspinall and the ACC visitors and I was welcomed by a woman lawyer sitting next to me. It was mother’s day, so about 50 members of the Mother’s Union, resplendent in white, sat in a block towards to back. We sang ‘Faith of our mothers’ and a young boy read a poem, very movingly.

I met up with some colleagues after the service and we drove to Port Royal, at the end of the Palisadoes, the narrow 16km long spit which encloses Kingston Harbour. The British settled here in 1656 and built a fort, now called Fort Charles, to defend the entrance to the harbour.

Time and the elements haven’t been kind to Port Royal. An earthquake in 1692 destroyed most of the town, two thirds being lost under water, and killed over 2,000 of the town’s 8,000 population. Another earthquake a century ago and a hurricane in 1951 did further damage. The area gradually silted up and severed the Fort’s connection with the sea.

At the entrance to the Fort is the church of St Peter, brick built in 1725. Their Communion service had just finished and we were able to meet members of the congregation and visit the church. It has an amazing wooden organ loft constructed in 1743 and beautifully carved and decorated.

The population of Port Royal has shrunk to 2,500, there are several churches serving the population and the congregation struggles to maintain a beautiful and historic building. The communion vessels used by the church are said to have been donated by Captain Morgan, buccaneer who gave his name to a certain rum. Your reporter in Port Royal was allowed to hold the church flagon.

Lunch was ordered next at Gloria’s Rendevouz, a wonderful open air restaurant, and while we waited for it to cook we hopped round the corner to Morgan’s Harbour hotel and marina, standing in the old naval dockyard. A strongly iced pineapple juice was welcome. Port Royal was notorious centuries ago for pirates and buccaneers, so to add authentic period flavour, the hotel desk is staffed by a man dressed as a pirate. He was taking a phone call as my colleagues took pictures of him, and began to camp it up. I did just wonder …

Our sojourn away from the ACC meeting concluded with a visit to Devon House, built in 1881. We didn’t go to visit the house, to be honest, but I-Scream, in a courtyard to the rear, which, because it was Mother’s Day, was crowded and we queued for a long time. But the mango ice cream was worth it!

Today’s break in ACC business has been worth it. I’ve been able to read other reports of Friday’s Covenant debate. I knew conservative reports would be strongly judgmental of the debate and the outcome, both because of the way journalists here were reacting and because it was simply inevitable. The atmosphere here for everyone else is calm. If we are in a crisis, it is one fuelled by those who want to cause chaos. The Anglican Consultative Council itself is alive and well and conducting business as usual.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Covenant debate – who was to blame for chaos?

Yesterday morning’s debate was very confusing and at times a real mess. Canon Kenneth Kearon, General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, attended a media briefing directly after the Anglican Communion Covenant debate had concluded.

Press conference with Canon Kenneth Kearon
Canon Kearon’s explanation about what had happened and exactly will happen next as a result of the motion was helpful.

Delegates voted in favour of the Covenant but had been divided between those who wanted to send the text (including the new Section 4) to the Communion now, and those who believed more time was needed to consult on Section 4.

If the delegates were voting simply to delay the process, they wouldn’t have agreed to bring it back to ACC-15 for final decision, which sets a 3 year deadline (2012).

A working group will be set up speedily to consider who will look again at the text of Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge draft in consultation with the Provinces.

The working group will bring the (possibly amended) text to the meeting of the Joint Standing Committee which is scheduled to take place by the end of 2009.

The Ridley Cambridge text will then be sent to the Provinces for consideration (Section 4 integrated with Sections 1-3).

The Ridley Cambridge draft of the Covenant will not therefore be ready to be considered by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church at Anaheim in June 2009. General Convention will not consider the Covenant until 2012. The process in other Provinces may not allow them to consider the Ridley Cambridge draft by 2012. There will be less than 21/2 years available.

Journalists blame Archbishop and Resolutions Committee
Canon Kearon was asked questions by, and presented with statements from certain members of the media at the press conference. These are the people who write accounts of meetings on which the majority of people depend for information.

Questions put to Kenneth Kearon by some journalists at the conference implied that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the resolutions committee were to blame for the chaos.

One journalist said he was confused, and if he is confused, how do we expect people to take the Communion seriously. Incredible dishonesty is going on here. The covenant has now failed, he said. I could see his story being written as the questions were asked and statements made.

Another journalist quoted Archbishop Drexel Gomez who said the Communion is close to breaking up and we’re in an emergency.

A third journalist said there was a clear split in the final vote on the disputed clauses. Indiscipline can now continue, he said, adding “the whole Communion wants the Covenant” - which isn’t exactly true.

The chaotic debate
My perception was that there were two reasons for the chaos. The first and most significant, which hasn’t been reported elsewhere, is that no-one was at hand to advise the chair on the standing orders which set the rules for ACC meetings. At meetings of the Church of England General Synod a legal adviser always sits to the left of the chair and can offer instant advice. Yesterday’s debate would have benefitted from having John Rees closer at hand to provide advice.

The second cause of the chaos arose within the meeting itself. Delegates for whom English is not their first language ( and for some, not even second or third) find it understandably difficult to follow the process. Cultural differences about process and the way decisions are made and where power lies or should lie also affected delegates’ understanding of what was happening. And finally, some delegates carried a very strong agenda to the debate and their interventions contributed to increased tension and rising confusion.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury intervened, he did so to rescue the session from increasing chaos. I thought he summed up very succinctly and helpfully exactly where the debate had reached and what the delegates intended. Other journalists thought the Archbishop had abused the democratic process and had been putting that possibility to delegates as they dispersed at the end of the debate. This enabled them to say at the press briefing, “Delegates think …”

The chair of the resolutions committee might have intervened as +Rowan did, and might also have been accused of contravening standing orders. But no-one knows what the standing orders say and certainly no-one was referring to them in the course of the debate. Conservative members, Stanley Isaacs and Bishop Mouneer Anis in particular, repeatedly stood to make points of order, but I doubt if anyone knew whether they were legitimate according to the ACC Constitution.

Bishop Mouneer claimed that when Resolution A was defeated and debate continued on Resolution C (which included clauses from A) something illegal had been done. John Patterson, chairing, said that the vote on A had been taken in anticipation that material would be introduced in C and the ACC knew this.

It was always the voices of those who oppose the full inclusion of LGBT people who claimed abuse of process and argued for instant closure and the sending of the Covenant now. They do not want to allow as much time as it takes to listen, to wait on God, and ensure the Covenant receives maximum assent.

A flavour of the debate
Calmer voices were heard in the early part of the debate on an amendment to include a fourth moratoria asking for the cessation of litigation, which was ultimately lost.

Josephine Hicks of the Episcopal Church incursions had started in 2000, 3 years before the consecration of an openly partnered gay bishop. And continue even though, at personal cost, TEC has fully complied with the moratoria. Incursions continue despite what the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primates meeting, ACC, etc, have said. It is time to move beyond the moratoria and allow TEC, Canada and other Provinces to be true to themselves and allow all members to participate fully in the life of the Church and the mission of God.

Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori urged delegates to vote against the amendment. Those who wish to appropriate property have done so without consultation. Bishops have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to protect church assets. Bishop Barry Morgan from Wales supported her – a Welsh bishop would have no choice but to take legal action to recover or protect assets.

Stanley Isaacs from South East Asia said the ACC should not be afraid of moratoria. For the good of the Church there should be no limit on restraint for the good of the church.

After coffee they debated an amendment proposing to detach Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge draft and send it to the Provinces for review. Members like Stanley Isaacs wanted to send the Covenant now. It would be disastrous to send the Covenant without Section 4, he said - It is a ray of hope to us in Provinces where the homosexual problem divides the Communion and embarrasses our churches.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Final version of the Resolution on the Anglican Communion Covenant

This is the resolution as amended in the course of this afternoon’s debate at the ACC-14 meeting in Jamaica.

The effect of the resolution is to delay sending the Covenant out to the Provinces for something like 6 months and to open the possibility of Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge draft being revised.

Clauses c and d were included from an earlier draft after people spoke strongly both for and against. The vote was 40 in favour and 33 against integrating the clauses. I think the votes represent the division between those who want no further delay but want the present Ridley Cambridge draft to be sent straight to the Provinces, and those who prefer that the Communion takes proper time to consider the possible revision of section 4 of the Covenant.

Clause e was amended in the course of the debate, adding ‘as The Anglican Communion Covenant’.

The vote on whether to approve or not the final clause, f, has yet to be reported. If approved, the agreed resolution will read as follows:

Resolution B: Draft Resolution on the Covenant

The ACC:

a) thanks the Covenant Design Group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts for an Anglican Communion Covenant and, in particular for the Ridley Cambridge Draft submitted to this meeting;
b) recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may provide an effective means to strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion;
c) asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision, and to report to the next meeting of the Joint Standing Committee;
d) asks the JSC, at that meeting, to approve a final form of Section 4;
e) asks the Secretary General to send the revised Ridley Cambridge Text, at that time, only to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and decision on acceptance or adoption by them as The Anglican Communion Covenant;
f) asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 on the progress made in the processes of response to, and acceptance or adoption of, the Covenant.

Confused morning session results in Draft C of Covenant Design Process resolution

This session of ACC-14, which has been extended into the afternoon, has been getting itself hopelssly confused in trying to deal with the original draft motion on the Covenant Design Process which contained two Resolutions, A and B (see earlier blog). Delegates are in conflict as to whether or not to adopt section A or instead, revise Section B. They have just voted and agreed to reject in its entirety Clause A, 17 votes for, 47 against, 1 abstention.

A new draft resolution was prepared during the lunch break and is now being debated, with two new clauses being debated as amendments to the original Section B.

Draft Resolution C reads:

The ACC:

a) thanks the Covenant Design Group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts for an Anglican Communion Covenant and, in particular for the Ridley Cambridge Draft submitted to this meeting;
b) recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may provide an effective means to strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion;
c) asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision, and to report to the next meeting of the Joint Standing Committee;
d) asks the JSC, at that meeting, to approve a final form of Section 4;
e) asks the Secretary General to send the revised Ridley Cambridge draft, at that time, only to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and decision on acceptance or adoption by them;
) asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 on the progress made in the processes of response to, and acceptance or adoption of, the Covenant.

It is now being debated and voted on clause by clause.

Bishop James Tengatenga elected chair of ACC


The election of Bishop James Tengatenga of Central Malawi in the Church of the Province of Central Africa as the new Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council was announced during this morning's session of ACC-14 in Jamaica. He will take over from the Rt Revd John Patterson from Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and will serve until 2015.

Bishop James was one of four candidates and reached the 33 votes needed out of the total of 66 at the third stage of counting. Mrs Elizabeth Paver from the Church of England was the runner up in the election.

I first met Bishop James at the Partners in World Mission Conference held at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick in December 2006. Bishop James was one of the keynote speakers, and made two presentations on Hospitality that listens, and Hospitality that transforms. He was also a member of the Lambeth Conference Design Group for 2008. Bishop James and I have shared a long supper conversation at the conference and have continued our friendship at international since then.

Changing Attitude England warmly welcomes his appointment and congratulates Bishop James.

Amendment to add 4th moratoria against litigation lost by one vote

There has been a moment of real drama this morning during the consideration of the draft resolution on the Windsor Continuation Group process.

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Jerusalem and the Middle East proposed an amendment to clause c), adding a phrase proposing a 4th moratoria stopping all litigation as proposed by the Primates at their meeting in Dar es Salaam.

A number of people spoke for and against the amendment including Bishop Bill Godfrey of the Southern Cone (for), Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, Ian Douglas from TEC, Archbishop Barry Morgan from Wales (all against), Stanley Isaacs from South East Asia (for), Susan Lawson from Canada (against), Bishop Azad Marshall of Jerusalem and the Middle East (for), Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of the Sudan and Dr Maurice Elliott from Ireland (both against).

The amendment was lost, 32 votes for, 33 votes against.

Covenant Decision Process - text of proposed resolution

When the delegates at ACC-14 have completed their consideration of the Windsor Continuation Group resolution, they will turn their attention to the proposed resolution on the Covenant. Here is the proposed draft:

Covenant Decision Process

Resolution A: Status of Section 4

The ACC:

a) resolves that section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge Draft be detached from the Ridley Cambridge Draft for further consideration and work;
b) asks the Archbishop of Canterbury, in consultation with the Secretary General, to appoint a small working group to consider and consult with the Provinces on Section 4 and its possible revision, and to report to the next meeting of the Joint Standing Committee;
c) resolves that the reconsidered Section 4 may, at the request of the JSC, be offered for adoption as an addendum to the Covenant text.

Resolution B: Draft Resolution on the Covenant

The ACC:

a) thanks the Covenant Design Group for their faithfulness and responsiveness in producing the drafts for an Anglican Communion Covenant and, in particular for the Ridley Cambridge Draft submitted to this meeting;
b) recognises that an Anglican Communion Covenant may provide an effective means to strengthen and promote our common life as a Communion;
c) asks the Secretary General to send the Ridley Cambridge draft, at this time, only to the member Churches of the Anglican Consultative Council for consideration and decision on acceptance or adoption by them;
d) asks those member Churches to report to ACC-15 on the progress made in the processes of response to, and acceptance or adoption of, the Covenant

Windsor Continuation Group resolution being debated at ACC-14

The delegates at ACC-14 are voting on the text of the Windsor Continuation Decision Process resolution this morning. They are taking a coffee break at the moment, but here is the text as it stands at present, with one amendment already agreed, replacing notes with affirms in clause (b).

Proposed draft resolution on the Windsor Continuation Decision Process

The ACC

a. thanks the Archbishop of Canterbury for his report on the work and recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group,
b. affirms the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group,
c. affirms the request of the Windsor Report (2002), adopted at the Primates’ Meetings (2005, 2007 and 2009), and supported at the Lambeth Conference (2008) for the implementation of the agreed moratoria on the Consecration of Bishops living in a same gender union, authorisation of public Rites of Blessing for Same Sex unions and continued interventions in other Provinces;
d. acknowledges the efforts that have been made to hold the moratoria, gives thanks for the gracious restraint that has been observed in these areas and recognises the deep cost of such restraint;
e. asks that urgent conversations are facilitated with those Provinces where the application of the moratoria gives rise for concern;
f. encourages the Archbishop of Canterbury to work with the Joint Standing Committee and the Secretary General to carry forward the implementation of the Windsor Continuation Group recommendations as appropriate,
g. asks Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order to undertake a study of the roles and responsibilities in the Communion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting; the ecclesiological rationale of each, and the relationships between them, in line with the Windsor Continuation Group report, and to report back to ACC-15;
h. calls the Communion to pray for repentance, conversion and renewal; leading to deeper communion.

Gay journalist attacked for writing the truth

Sometimes at Anglican events like this ACC meeting, I wonder if I occupy the same reality, the same world view and norms of public engagement as some of those around me. I’ve continued to think about the encounter I had yesterday with two other journalists following the morning press conference.

One of them started by challenging me that on Wednesday I had reported something that wasn’t true. I was told I had to retract what I had written and/or explain to an ignorant public that if I write that someone is gay, I don’t also imply that they are sexually active. As I wrote yesterday, such an idea wouldn’t occur to the ordinary people I encounter in my life. They are not thinking about the sexual activity of other human beings all the time.

But my overnight thoughts – why do two Christian journalists think they have the right to put me on the spot and demand that I retract something I wrote because, without having information I have, they can't believe it's accurate. Under intense pressure, I did stand my ground and repeated several times that what I wrote I know to be true.

The information seems to be intolerable for them. I’ve pondered on the reasons why. Is it because I know something they don’t – that certainly seems to be part of the intensity of their reaction. Here in Jamaica, they we calmly, assertively, confidently aggressive (if you understand what that feels like). I was asked the same question in Alexandria by one of the journalists, but there his anger was intense.

Do journalists put each other on the spot after press briefings normally? Perhaps that isn’t an important question. More important, I suspect, is their lack of imagination. Why it is so hard for them to imagine that there are lesbian and gay people at every level of the church, sitting in meetings with them, worshipping alongside them, at every level of the church’s hierarchy. It is somehow shocking in their hearts and minds when they become conscious of gay people in places they never expected to find us. It must seem to them like a plot or a cruel joke being played by God.

It isn’t, it’s just normal, ordinary. There are people throughout the church with a different sexual identity who are as faithfully, prayerfully, lovingly Christian as they imagine themselves to be.

Journalists become the story. This is something that annoys me, not because I am put in the frame of the story, but because it distracts from reporting, accurately, what is happening here at ACC-14. Another journalist who hasn’t even arrived has written that he prays he’s not flying to Jamaica to record the final heartbeats of the Anglican Church (sic). It is really a mess at the ACC 14 meeting in Jamaica right now, he says. No it isn’t, friends, it’s really good here and impressive work is being done. It’s just that they don’t understand homosexuality and can’t accept that after years of hiding, the LGBT people God calls to faith and ministry are slowly becoming visible.

Mind you, after days like yesterday, I could wish I had remained in the closet.

What does it mean to be gay?

When someone tells you a particular person is gay, do you immediately assume that they are sexually active?

I was taken to task this morning by representatives of those who describe themselves as mainstream, global, orthodox Anglicans. I was told that if I write that there are gay primates (or bishops or priests) people will assume they are sexually active and therefore living in disobedience to church rules and teaching and not fit to be leaders of the church. That isn’t what being gay means, I said, it’s an integrated personal identity, what a person is in the same way as a heterosexual has an identity.

I was next asked, then what do I mean by gay? To be gay is about all the things that give me identity and make me a person – self awareness; emotions; relationships, intimacy, sexual desires. I was almost pounced on – so it is about being sexually active? No, I repeated, trying to remain calm. It’s living with and being aware of the whole range of emotions and desires that make us human, but not necessarily acting on them.

I was told again that if I write that there are gay primates, people will assume they are sexually active and I need to publish a correction and explanation. No I don’t, I said, because most people wouldn’t make that assumption.

The conversation continued for over 30 minutes during which I suspect I spoke for between 5 and 10 minutes. I was asked next about the Anglican Mainstream Sex and the City Conference held in Westminster 2 weeks ago when Joseph Nicolosi and Jeffrey Satinover spoke. I am to be sent a DVD so that I can see for myself the authoritative, therapeutic, non-coercive way in which these people work.

I constantly have questions in my mind about those journalists from the GAFCON/ACNA axis of the Communion who come to report on events like the ACC meeting. Here are three:

Why is it that the media representatives of those who advocate adherence to (their understanding of) Biblical teaching and church rules for homosexual people are all heterosexual males?

Why do they continually imagine that all gay men are sexually active?

Why do they think that watching a DVD about reparative therapy is going to change my mind in any way? I’m prejudiced, deeply prejudiced against reparative therapy because of conversations I have with many friends who endured ex-gay ministries and because of my own psychotherapeutic background.

Today’s conversation was fine in an Anglican way but it didn’t follow the rules or logic that I normally expect in conversation. There wasn’t ebb and flow, disagreement and convergence. Instead there was, as always in these conversations a position, a logic, an argument, an explanation presented, to which I am left struggling to respond. The next move is to introduce a subtle tangent so that I am always, always chasing to keep up with their logic. It isn’t normal. If this is mainstream orthodox Anglicanism then I have never, in 60 years of being an Anglican, ever been mainstream or orthodox, not in the way they now define it. This isn’t the orthodoxy of my youth.

At the end, I proposed that we organise a conference in which speakers from different perspectives meet and explore in a public forum the differences in our theology, ideas about identity, etc. to see what they look like when explored publicly This wasn’t thought to be a good idea. I was told it would be better to meet as we have done before under Chatham House rules so that we can protect people. Who needs protecting, I asked? I don't, I'm happy to engage in public. I have nothing to hide. If I don’t need protecting, then it must be those who argue for reparative therapy and against the full and equal inclusion of LGBT people in the Communion.

I did my best today, but these are never encounters in which normal logic or experience prevails and I felt battered at the end. There is something weird about people who believe that reparative therapy is THE Christian answer which brings healing and happiness to those who have an ‘unwanted’ homosexual attraction.

One of their lines of argument is that the percentage of the population who are gay is grossly over-estimated. The UK Government used the figure of 6% for Civil Partnerships. They would claim it is around 1%. The percentage of people seeking reparative therapy in their 1% figure is therefore going to be a negligible number.

They tell me that they are not saying that all gay people want or would benefit from reparative therapy. I always accept that if a person wants to avail themselves of the chance to become a happy heterosexual, they are free to do so.

They also repeat that no gay gene has been identified and therefore homosexuality doesn’t have a scientific reality. If it doesn’t then why are they expending so much money, time and energy ridding the church of something they believe doesn’t really exist?

I have now met in person and online thousands of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The vast majority are ordinary, well integrated adults who live healthy, responsible lives. In the UK many get on happily without the church because in comparison with society, the church is seen as prejudiced and hostile to LGBT people. In other countries, Nigeria for example, the CAN groups are engaging with ever growing numbers of gay people. Those I have met have been as healthy, normal, and ordinary/extraordinary as their UK counterparts.

Members of the self-appointed “mainstream, global, orthodox” segment of the church are doing massive damage to LGBT people across the globe. They deter gay people in the west from ever considering the church as a spiritual home or Jesus Christ as the friend who loves them unconditionally. In parts of the world where attitudes to homosexuality are punitively repressive and judgmental gay people continue to attend church but distance themselves from it and see it as an instrument of repression, supporting the prejudice of government and society.

While the Listening Process goes on (and there is no short cut and I support the listening process 100%) LGBT Christians are organising their lives independently of conservative church theology and teaching. We are not inventing a new religion or rejecting Jesus Christ as the fullness of God in human form, nor abandoning prayer or the Bible. We have confidence in God’s love for us and we number in the millions.

Compared with the several hundreds who seek out church ex-gay and reparative therapy ministries there are hundreds of thousands of LGBT Anglicans, most of them keeping their heads down, and being faithful to God’s call despite the worst the church tries to teach us about our humanity.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Is the Listening Process report good news for LGBT Anglicans?

But first, what about the suffering of the unheard North American secessionists?
The first person to rise following Canon Phil Groves presentation was Stanley Isaacs, lay delegate from Southeast Asia. He didn’t so much ask a question as make a statement.

As we receive this report on the Listening Process and the resolution, he said, can I ask this house to consider the problems that have been caused in the Episcopal Church in North America, affected by the affirmative actions on human sexuality. TEC is somewhat fractured with groups forming dioceses and provinces of their own.
There should be a listening process for those who have are affected by and suffering from these actions.

He suggested that a form of words be added to the resolution to require the Communion to listen to the case of these disaffected people - those requesting alternative Primatial oversight and seeking a total (I was tempted to write final) solution to the North American problem.

The portrayal of those seceding from the Episcopal Church as victims was repeated today by Stanley Isaacs. He spoke for a minority in North America who feel themselves to be marginalised.

If they are small, marginalised and unheard in the way described by Mr Isaacs, what do we make of the rhetoric of ACNA, CANA, AMiA, GAFCON and associated networks and groups, which constantly claim to be successful, growing, and to represent the huge majority of Christians in the Communion.

ACNA, GAFCON and the other complex variety of North American groups and networks are not unrepresented at the ACC meeting. They have bishops, priests and lay delegates from each of the African and South American Provinces to which they are affiliated.

What Stanley Isaacs clearly doesn’t understand is the oppression, prejudice and violence which LGBT people are subjected to in countries of the Communion where penal codes are harsh against homosexuality.

LGBT people have no voice in the ACC. There are no delegates who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. It is as difficult for a gay delegate to be nominated as it is for Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Jerusalem, to meet a gay person in Egypt, as his questioned indicated.

And next, what’s the point of listening to homosexuals?
The Rt. Rev. Mouneer H. Anis of the Epsicopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East rose to ask what was the purpose of, what is to be achieved by, listening? Combating homophobia is an honourable aim to achieve but we don’t know how to care for people with a homosexual orientation. Should we be caring if we tolerate the practice of homosexuality?

He said that when he was a doctor in Iraq, he knew people with a homosexual orientation who wrote him secret letters seeking help. Secret, because homosexuality is something abnormal, a shameful thing, a crime in our culture and people can be punished if they are spotted practising homosexual activity.

It is difficult in some Provinces (because of these legal and cultural attitudes) to have actual listening. He had invited an Egyptian homosexual he had met at the Lambeth Conference to come and talk with him, but the man didn’t come. I would welcome the listening process across the Provinces, Dr Anis said.

I sensed a genuine conflict in Mouneer Anis as he spoke. He was troubled by the supreme difficulty he confronted of finding a homosexual person in his own country to have a listening conversation with. I disagree with his understanding of homosexuality but I think he is genuinely confronting himself and the issues being raised.

He continued - God witnesses to what I am saying, that one bishop said to me, I disapprove of practising homosexuality. I know it is contrary to scripture but I can’t say this openly because my diocese is dependent on finance from the West. The dilemma experienced by bishops such as this needs to be addressed. It is exactly this kind of coercive, manipulative relationship about which Canon Phil Groves was speaking and which makes transparent, trusting listening impossible.

Bishop Anis, a medical doctor, distinguishes between having a homosexual orientation and being a practising homosexual. I’m not sure whether, when he uses the word orientation, he means that homosexuality is wilfully chosen as a movement away from the heterosexual norm, or he genuinely recognises homosexuality as an identity.

Mouneer Anis and Stanley Isaacs have internalised an interpretation of Scripture and church teaching that sexual activity between people of the same gender is always, under any circumstances, condemned by God.

They have a problem imagining the possibility that being gay and practising being gay, as Bishop Anis puts it, can and should be integrated and that to split, dis-integrate the identity and physical expression of love for another person is to damage the humanity and integrity of lesbian and gay people.

Is the report good news for LGBT Anglicans?
My answer – no if you live in a country which has already granted near-equality to LGBT people – yes if you live in a country where gay people are criminalised and live in secrecy and fear.

The continuing Indaba and mutual listening project offers the possibility of real meeting and listening across difference with LGBT people in Provinces where little or no work has yet been undertaken. The process will be slow and demand almost infinite patience and trust, but it holds out the possibility of real change on all sides.

There’s nothing here for members of Changing Attitude or Integrity who are planning a wedding or Civil Partnership in the next year and want a blessing in church, nor for those partnered priests who are just waiting for that letter from Downing Street confirming their Episcopal ambition.