Let us clarify the ostensible question in dispute: Should people in non-celibate non-marital relationships be considered wholesome examples who can be ordained as Christian leaders? Notice the focus is on behavior and on Christian leadership.
It is exhausting beyond measure to hear the debate summarized as those for and against gay ordination or people. All are welcome in our parishes and in the ordination process too. We all struggle and we all need compassion and pastoral care. The question is should the standard for sexual behavior be changed, and we argue that it should not.
Under the surface, though, conservatives believe the real issues are deeper. The authority and interpretation of Scripture, the doctrine of marriage, the nature of the church—who makes decisions and how these are made—and even the gospel message itself are really in dispute. It is for these reasons above all that we are profoundly concerned.
We believe the Windsor Report is a big compromise. There are all kinds of extremely important issues which remain unaddressed in the report’s recommendations. It is, however, a unanimous report by some Anglicans throughout the world, which has been viewed as the positive way forward by many Anglican leaders and groups. We take this very seriously as a minimum step to create the space necessary for any healing for a Communion that has been severely damaged by conflict.
The election of Nevada Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori as the church’s new presiding bishop is a big disappointment to conservatives, but not a surprise. Our primary concern is her theology, which is strongly in favor of the new theology and practice which the Episcopal Church has embraced in contradiction to the teaching of the Anglican Communion. We find it highly significant that her whole diocese, just a few days before the primates meeting in October of 2003, moved ahead to allow same-sex blessings to occur for those who desired them.
Very simply, we need to say that what we did was wrong in the sense the Windsor Report intends. The Anglican Communion has a mind on this issue. There is such a thing as Anglican teaching and practice in the area of human sexuality, namely the language of Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10. We went against this mind and did something which the large majority of the Anglican Communion believes is a departure from apostolic teaching and practice. We did it, despite the fact that we were repeatedly warned not to do so. As a result, we have torn the Anglican Communion at its deepest level.
We therefore need to say more than that we are sorry others are hurt by what we have done, we need to say that a life of interdependence in the communion matters to us and we are sorry that we went against the mind of the whole church in an area which we believe the whole church should decide on. It is what we have done and the consequences of what we have done which are it issue.
Next, we need to undertake the two specific requests to us with utmost seriousness. First, a moratorium needs to be placed on the election or consecration to the episcopate of any person living in a non-celibate same-gender relationship until and unless a new consensus emerges. Second, we need to place a moratorium on the blessing of non-celibate same-sex relationships in the same time frame.
Conservatives are for love—which takes specific pleas seriously. Conservatives are for space—which is the only way any possible future could emerge. Conservatives are for reconciliation—which only comes from an acknowledgement of the depth of the problem. Conservatives are for communion—and we are grieved beyond measure that the third largest Christian family in the world could break up over this if we do not act clearly and honestly.
Pray for us conservatives, too, would you? We are hurting, we are being caricatured and misrepresented, and in a church which claims the mantle of inclusion, we are being excluded to the point where there are less of us all the time.