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Will the Anglican Church split over gay clergy and same-sex unions?
by Graeme J. Davidson
21 June, 2008

Those who oppose gay unions and ordinations quote Scripture condemning homosexuality and see gay clergy and gay Christian unions as symptomatic of liberal secular values undermining the Church and its offer of a new lifestyle in Christ. Those who are pro gay point to Jesus loving and accepting marginalised people and how biblical ethics reflect changing community experiences and attitudes.

....Vicki Imogene (Gene) Robinson said, “I always wanted to be a June bride”. Two weeks ago, he got the June part of his wish when he and Mark Andrew, his partner of 20 years, were joined in a civil union ceremony followed by a church blessing. Robinson, who’s a father and a grandfather, says he doesn’t regret marrying his former wife, Boo, and that they even talked about his gay leanings before they wed. He came out in the late 1980s and for the past five years he’s been at the centre of a row that’s dividing the 77 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion and creating hot debate in other churches.
....Gene Robinson is bishop of New Hampshire and the only openly gay Anglican bishop. He says Church authorities dishonestly ignore clergy who are more discreet because the Church of England would collapse if it got rid of its gay clergy. That’s an exaggeration. According to some estimates, around 10 percent of Protestant and a third of Catholic clergy are closet gays, many remaining celibate. Polls show that most Christians oppose gay church unions and ordinations and a Barna Group survey in the USA found 12 percent of gays were even against ordaining their own.
....That puts pressure on the Church to respond with a heavy hand whenever front-page publicity replaces discretion. When John Jefferies, who’s in a long-term celibate relationship with a male partner, was chosen Bishop of Reading in 2005, vociferous opposition forced him to withdraw and accept the position of Dean of St Alban’s instead.
....Anglican dioceses in Brazil, Mexico, Scotland, South Africa and USA have allowed the ordination of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. And in New Westminster, Canada, parishes can choose to bless same sex unions. A few Anglican communities, especially the 18 million-strong Nigerian Church, declare homosexuality to be evil and “a perversion of human dignity”.
....The May 31 blessing service in London for Reverend Peter Cowell, a London hospital chaplain, and Reverend David Lord, a priest from Waikato Diocese, was a grand wedding-style affair with 300 guests, including senior clergy. Press coverage of the event gave David Lord’s bishop, Archbishop David Moxon, little choice: he cancelled his priest’s licence. The timing of the blessing service – so close to the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem next week – was provocative. Many of the 280 bishops attending that Conference intend to snub the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference for bishops, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, next month.
....In 1998, bishops at the Lambeth summit voted “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” and urged sexual abstinence for all “who are not called to marriage”. After the US Church defiantly ordained Bishop Gene Robinson, the Archbishop of Canterbury set up a commission that produced the Windsor Report, which asked for a moratorium on consecrating active homosexual bishops and on blessings of same-sex unions - and for the US Church to repent.
....That hasn’t happened and conservative Central African dioceses have disassociated themselves from the US Church. They have been joined by disaffected parishes and dioceses in America, despite the Windsor Report advising against radical action. In an effort to prevent schism, the 75 percent of Anglican Bishops who aren’t boycotting Lambeth next month will work on finalising the St Andrew’s Covenant to maintain biblical standards. Although he’s not invited, Bishop Gene Robinson plans to gatecrash.
....Those who oppose gay unions and ordinations quote Scripture condemning homosexuality and see gay clergy and gay Christian unions as symptomatic of liberal secular values undermining the Church and its offer of a new lifestyle in Christ. Those who are pro gay point to Jesus loving and accepting marginalised people and how biblical ethics reflect changing community experiences and attitudes.
....Whether the liberal-conservative division will move beyond an Anglican family row and separation to a divorce is too close to call. But, according to US polls, conservative Christians expect gay legal unions to be a key issue during the presidential election campaign.



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