Bishop calls on church to embrace gays at “make or break” conference

Tony Grew July 21, 2008
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The Bishop of Colombo has called on the Anglican Communion to be inclusive of gay and lesbian people.

Duleep de Chickera was giving the sermon at yesterday’s Eucharist attended by the 650 bishops and archbishops assembled for the Lambeth Conference, their spouses and ecumenical participants.

“Here my dear sisters and brothers is an insight of what the Church is called to be: an inclusive communion, where there is space equally for everyone and anyone, regardless of colour, gender, ability, sexual orientation,” he told the church leaders assembled in Canterbury Cathedral.

“Unity in diversity is a cherished Anglican tradition – a spirituality if you like, which we must reinforce in all humility for the sake of Christ and Christ’s Gospel.”

Bishop de Chickera stressed the social justice responsibilities of the Church and their duty to the poor.

“The Anglican Communion must speak on their behalf – whether it is the crisis in Sri Lanka,
whether it is the crisis in Zimbabwe, or Sudan, or Afghanistan or Iraq.

“The voiceless must be given a voice through the leadership of the Anglican Communion.

“The second strand that goes with a voice for the voiceless, is the calling into accountability of those who abuse power:authoritarian regimes who oppress and suppress the people. The prophetic voice will ask poignant, relevant questions: “why”, and sometimes, “how dare you?””

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, spoke frankly to his fellow bishops, describing the Anglican Communion as “wounded” and the fact that nearly a quarter of bishops did not attend as “an indication all is not well.”

“We need to get beyond the reciprocal impatience that shows itself in the ways in which both liberals and traditionalists are ready – almost eager at times, it appears – to assume that the other is not actually listening to Jesus,” he said.

“We also know that how we think about that unity is itself affected by the urgency of the calls on our compassion and imagination; some sorts of division undoubtedly will seem a luxury in the face of certain challenges, as many Christians in Germany found when confronted by Hitler. We have to think and pray hard about what the essentials really are.”

The Lambeth Conference’s series of study and discussion sessions starts today with Celebrating Common Ground: the bishop and Anglican Identity.

The only openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, has not been invited to Lambeth, while 260 fundamentalist bishops have declined invitations because they are unhappy with the Church’s stance on gay issues.

300 bishops gathered at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) last month.

They approved the formation of a new global network to fight against the preaching of “false gospels” of homosexuality and other “immoral” sexual behaviour.

The group claims to represent 35 million of the 77 million Anglicans worldwide and rejects the acceptance of gay relationships and the ordination of gay clergy and formed the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA).

Critics have called the new group a “church within a church.”

Though the majority of dissenting clergy are from the developing world, some traditionalist English, Australian and American Anglicans have joined the fellowship.

The provinces of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Nigeria are not attending, but some bishops have broken ranks and are in Canterbury for the conference.

Earlier this week The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said that fundamentalists are damaging Anglican unity.

“There used to be a generosity of spirit and diversity in the Anglican Communion,” he said.

“There should be a backlash against this fundamentalism that has been thrust upon us.

“It is contrary to the ministry of Jesus and damaging that in the Church, we’re still fighting battles that have already been won in society.”

Although not invited to the Lambeth Conference, Bishop Gene Robinson is in Canterbury.

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