LAMBETH: Bishops Have Indaba on Sex
By Hans Zeiger in Canterbury
July 31, 2008
CANTERBURY-Today's theme at the decennial Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion is "Listening to God and Each Other: The Bishop and human sexuality." In a morning press briefing, Prof. Ian Douglas of Episcopal Divinity School and a member of the Lambeth Design Team explained that the aim of the discussions in the morning "Indaba" groups is "to enable listening and understanding in relation to the effect same-sex issues have had on our mission."
Indaba gatherings consist of forty bishops broken into five subgroups. Douglas said the focus questions in the Indaba groups are "How has the Communion's engagement with same-sex issues impacted my diocese's engagement with the church's mission?" "What do I need from my fellow bishops?" "What can I offer to my fellow bishops?"
The resulting discussion, said Douglas, will be "an exercise in communion."
The Rt. Rev. Larry Robertson, Suffragan Bishop of the Arctic, stopped on the sidewalk for a brief interview with VirtueOnline prior to his Indaba group discussion, which he said "should be interesting. It has been interesting right from the beginning. There's enough mixture of different opinions given. People are very sincere."
A self-described conservative bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, Robertson said that human sexuality is "a gift of God, but a gift to be used according to Scripture."
Asked what he hopes to add to the Indaba discussion, Robertson replied, "I think we have been listening. I'm not sure we have moved anyone. I'm not sure what the outcome will be, but we give it our best."
The Most Rev. James Ayong, Archbishop of Papua New Guinea, said that "from a morality point of view," he cannot agree with homosexual ordination. But he does not expect that any solution will be forthcoming from Lambeth. "I don't think there is the answer at this Lambeth, but it is a long process," he said.
Ayong suggested that decisions about Bishop Robinson and homosexual ordination rest with The Episcopal Church. "We take provinces to be autonomous. We respect the decisions of other provinces as well."
Asked whether Bishop Robinson's resignation would help the church to heal its divisions, Ayong replied, "I would have thought so. It's a problem within his own community, but as a whole church, it's an issue."
Of course, many bishops at Lambeth are pushing for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Anglican Communion. The Rt. Rev. Ebeneezer Ntali, Bishop-elect of Grahamstown in South Africa, told VirtueOnline "The church of God is for everybody. I cannot stand at the door and say you belong to such and such sex, or such and such sexuality, you don't belong here."
He added, "There are certain resolutions which are not approving people of this nature. But sometimes things must not be done by yes and no. When the resolution says no and you go beyond it, I will not force [the resolution]."
Bishop-elect Ntali said it is his prayer "that we understand the processes and what went wrong. We will respect the decision of this conference."
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