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NOTTINGHAM: US Anglicans bless 'sacred' gay unions

NOTTINGHAM: US Anglicans bless 'sacred' gay unions

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

NOTTINGHAM (June 22, 2005)--THE Anglican Church of the US gave the first justification yesterday of its decision to consecrate an openly homosexual man to the episcopate, arguing that same-sex unions can be open "to God's blessing and holy purposes" in the same manner as marriage. At a meeting in Nottingham of Anglican leaders from around the world, delegates from the US said the blessing of same-sex unions constitutes a "new reality, a sacred union".

The consecration of Gene Robinson, a divorced father of two who has a male partner, as Bishop of New Hampshire, and the authorisation of same-sex blessings by the New Westminster diocese in Canada, has brought the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion to the brink of schism.

The Church is split between liberals in Britain and North America and orthodox conservatives in the so-called Global South churches of Africa, Asia and the West Indies.

Although neither side wants a formal split, the US presentation made clear that after 40 years of theological development of its position in support of gay relationships, there is no question of turning back the clock. The conservatives are determined to resist what they regard as a colonial-style imposition of Western liberalism.

Bishop Catherine Roskam, president of Integrity, the US equivalent of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, read from the US Church's report on the issue, published yesterday, at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham.

"We know that what we say may seem surprising or unsettling to some of you," she said.

"We would never willingly grieve or hurt you in any way. We wish only to describe something of what . . . we have come to believe that God has been doing among us."

The US primate, Bishop Frank Griswold, said: "We live in a world in which too often we rush to judgment about one another and seldom take time to listen to one another, particularly with the ear of the heart."

He recognised that his Church's actions had "deeply distressed" a number of people. "It is very easy to talk about homosexuality as an issue and forget we are talking about persons," he said.

The US report, To Set Our Hope on Christ, says that "many Christians in the Episcopal Church have come to a new mind about same-sex affection" and that Church members have begun to discern "genuine holiness" in the lives of homosexuals.

"Their holiness stands in stark contrast with many sinful patterns of sexuality in the world," it says.

Addressing the scriptural texts that appear to ban same-sex activity, the report says: "The idea that there is only one correct way to read or interpret Scripture is a rather modern idea." It notes that there was never a time when the entire Christian Church was in agreement on all major matters.

The report argues that when the writers of the key biblical texts were alive it was unlikely that there were any phenomena comparable to that of gay Christians living in same-sex relationships today.

Further, in comparison with the large number of biblical texts on wealth, poverty, greed and possessions, there is comparatively little on homosexuality.

Those biblical texts that do attack it have to be read in the context of the era, as has already happened with other prohibitions.

The US stance failed to convince conservatives. Bishop Gerard Mpango, of Western Tanganyika in Tanzania, criticised it as "one-sided". He said: "They spoke as though that was the mind of all Episcopalians but it is not. There are many, many who are different."


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