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NAIROBI: Archbishop Welby Wants Unity, Won't Condemn Gays

NAIROBI: Archbishop Welby Wants Unity, Won't Condemn Gays

By Michael Heidt in Nairobi
VOL Special Correspondent
October 23, 2013

In a video address to the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Nairobi, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called for unity but stressed that this did not necessarily mean agreement. "The Gospel has to be proclaimed by a church in unity," said the Most Rev. Justin Welby, but this "does not mean unanimity."

Instead of this, the leader of worldwide Anglicanism recommended love. It is through "love for one another," stated the Archbishop, that the world will "know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." However, Welby claimed that he was pleased that the GAFCON movement was clear about its identity. This is unashamedly traditionalist and opposed to gay marriage.

Earlier in his address, Justin Welby referred to "issues of sexuality" as contextual. In the same way that different churches have to respond to war or corruption, so too do they have to adapt to changing attitudes towards homosexual sex and gay marriage, which is enthusiastically endorsed in England.

"We all live in different contexts," said Anglicanism's top prelate, "and have to deal with rapid changes in the culture. The issue of sexuality is a major part of that." The Archbishop did not condemn gay marriage but went on to say that "churches respond in different ways" to their various contexts, stating that some have to deal "with war" and others with "governments that are corrupt."

Welby's comments stand in stark contrast to a luncheon address made by retired Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, to GAFCON's primates, at which Archbishop Welby was present. "Sex," said Jensen, "needs to appear within the context of marriage." Anything else, he stated, amounted to "unholy matrimony."

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a flying visit to Nairobi to preach at All Saint's Cathedral on the day before GAFCON got underway. However, the Archbishop did not stay at the Nairobi event, which represents the majority of the Anglican Communion, excusing himself on the grounds of a longstanding ecumenical engagement with pro-gay Lutheran state churches and a Royal baptism.

Earlier that week, Welby met with gay rights activist and famous American homosexual champion, Bishop Gene Robinson, who visited the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace in London. Welby faces considerable pressure in England to endorse homosexuality, where the country's Prime Minister, David Cameron, has proposed that foreign aid should be made contingent on recipient countries allowing gay marriage.

The Anglican Communion officially teaches that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman, regardless of cultural context. However, provinces which enthusiastically endorse homosexuality, such as the Episcopal Church (TEC) in America, have not been disciplined. These are strongly opposed by the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GFCA) and the GAFCON movement, which makes up the majority of the Communion.

While Justin Welby has addressed GAFCON, calling for church unity through love, he has so far failed to stand clearly against aggressively gay behavior which has caused deep divisions within his Communion. Statements of love notwithstanding, it is by no means guaranteed that equivocation will promote the unity the Archbishop of Canterbury seeks.

You can watch the Archbishop's video speech here: http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5163/archbishops-message-to-gafcon-2013-seek-holiness-and-unity

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