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Statement from 37 Anglican leaders on gay crisis

October 17, 2003

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams answers questions from the press on homosexuality (AFP) LONDON — Excerpts from Thursday's statement from an emergency meeting of 37 church leaders in the international Anglican Communion. The leaders, called primates, met to respond to the U.S. Episcopal Church's confirmation of an openly gay bishop living in with a partner and authorization by Canada's New Westminster (Vancouver) diocese of ceremonies for same-sex couples.

...We affirm our pride in the Anglican inheritance of faith and order and our firm desire to remain part of a Communion, where what we hold in common is much greater than that which divides us...

These actions threaten the unity of our own Communion as well as our relationships with other parts of Christ's Church, our mission and witness, and our relations with other faiths...

We reaffirm our common understanding of the centrality and authority of Scripture in determining the basis of our faith.

Whilst we acknowledge a legitimate diversity of interpretation that arises in the church, this diversity does not mean that some of us take the authority of Scripture more lightly than others.

Nevertheless, each province needs to be aware of the possible effects of its interpretation of Scripture on the life of other provinces in the Communion. We commit ourselves afresh to mutual respect...

We also reaffirm the resolutions made by the bishops of the Anglican Communion gathered at the Lambeth Conference in 1998 on issues of human sexuality as having moral force and commanding the respect of the Communion as its present position on these issues.

We commend the report of that conference in its entirety to all members of the Anglican Communion, valuing especially its emphasis on the need "to listen to the experience of homosexual persons, and to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ" ...

As a body we deeply regret the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Episcopal Church (USA) which appear to a number of provinces to have short-circuited that process, and could be perceived to alter unilaterally the teaching of the Anglican Communion on this issue. They do not. Whilst we recognize the juridical autonomy of each province in our Communion, the mutual interdependence of the provinces means that none has authority unilaterally to substitute an alternative teaching as if it were the teaching of the entire Anglican Communion. ...

We have a particular concern for those who in all conscience feel bound to dissent from the teaching and practice of their province in such matters. Whilst we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own, we call on the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities...

It is not for us to pass judgment on the constitutional processes of another province. We recognize the sensitive balance between provincial autonomy and the expression of critical opinion by others on the internal actions of a province. Nevertheless, many primates have pointed to the grave difficulties that this election has raised and will continue to raise. In most of our provinces the election of Canon Gene Robinson would not have been possible. ...

If his consecration proceeds, we recognize that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the communion itself will be put in jeopardy. In this case, the ministry of this one bishop will not be recognized by most of the Anglican world, and many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level...

Similar considerations apply to the situation pertaining in the Diocese of New Westminster. ...

We urge our provinces not to act precipitately on these wider questions, but take time to share in this process of reflection and to consider their own constitutional requirements as individual provinces face up to potential realignments. ...
–Sapa-AP /fws

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