After much fighting, bishops attending the Anglican Communion’s once-a-decade Lambeth conference in Canterbury, England, rejected gay sex as “incompatible with the scripture” and said only celibate gays can be priests.
The 526-70 vote (with 45 abstentions) on the non-binding resolution was a victory for conservative African, Asian and American bishops who say homosexuality is an abomination. It was a loss for some First World bishops who want to ordain open gays and bless gay relationships.
Both groups described the other group’s position as “evangelical suicide.”
Church leader the Most Rev. George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury, supported the outcome.
“I stand wholeheartedly with traditional Anglican orthodoxy, [and] see no room in the Holy Scripture or the entire Christian tradition for any sexual activity outside of matrimony,” he said.
The 70-million-member Anglican Communion includes the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and the U.S. Protestant Episcopal Church. Anglicanism was created in the 16th Century by England’s King Henry VIII after Pope Clement VII refused to let him divorce his wife.
The text of the resolution states, in part, that the church:
- in view of the teaching of the scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in life-long union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called for marriage.
- recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the church and are seeking pastoral care, the moral direction of the church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experiences of homosexual people. We wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing, faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the body of Christ.
- while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with the scripture, calls on all our people to administer pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn an irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.
- cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions or ordaining of those involved in same sex unions.