Thursday, July 17, 2008

Schism vs. Welcoming

Christine Holcomb, our Field and Policy Intern, continues her coverage of the recent developments in the Anglican Church concerning GLBT people...

The Lambeth Conference is the Anglican’s denominational meeting hosted every ten years in Canterbury, England in which all bishops (Archbishops, diocesan, assistant and suffragan bishops) are invited to meet for worship, study and conversation.

Although the conference meets in England, it is an influential meeting for denominations who are intricately connected to the Anglican community in the United States, such as the Episcopal Church. Similar to other denominations’ general assembly’s there is an agenda of issues to discuss, which includes sexuality. Although this conference began on July 16th and goes until August 3rd, precedent has already been set with regards to sexuality.

Gene Robinson [pictured], well known for being the first openly gay ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church in 2004 and featured speaker at the 2007 PFLAG National Convention, has been barred from the conference. It seems contradictory to the idea of community to bar someone from a conference intended to “deepen awareness of how we are responsible to and for each other,” and the confusion beset intensifies when the mission of the conference is considered.

The welcome statements quote Jesus saying “Do not be afraid.” They continue, “These are words which I hope will echo for us each day as we meet and talk here. But they will sound in our hearts only when we have our eyes fixed on the reality of Christ’s unique saving person and on the world-transforming power of his resurrection." In light of these statements, the decision to bar one of their own, a well established and devout Bishop, from the conference seems at best contradictory.

If they are interested in healing any of the schisms they perceive in this world, they are going to want to work hard over the next few weeks to heal the very schism that has already divided their community, even before the conference began. That seems a sad way to begin such a deeply needed and potentially powerful conversation.

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