A u c k l a n d A o t e a r o a N e w Z e a l a n d
a n g l i c a n c h u r c h
Monkey Business at the Primates Meeting
June 8, 2003
Easter 7 Pentecost John 17:11b-19
The primates of the Anglican Communion around the world met in Brazil this past week. As a result they wrote a Pastoral Letter to all bishops, clergy and people of our churches, with the desire that it be read or distributed at public worship on the Feast of Pentecost, 2003.
There was a preamble about areas of growth and hardship in the Anglican world, especially Sudan, the Congo, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Pacific. The agenda was set as theological education, the continuing engagement of the Church with HIV/AIDS, and the nature of communion. The statement outlining the meeting of our global Anglican leaders and their global conversations.to this point seemed a worthwhile document, particularly on a day when we affirm difference and the universal love of God.
It then made a statement about human sexuality, which was where it came unstuck in my opinion. It made this statement: "The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites.
This is distinct from the duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all Christians to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations. As recognised in the booklet "True Union", it is necessary to maintain a breadth of private response to situations of individual pastoral care."
On a day when we recall a momentously inclusive symbol of language and culture affirmation, the effective communication of exciting and relevant messages to people of all sorts and cultures, we read the conservatism of the Primates. No blessing of same sex unions, because there is no consensus on the issue. Heaven forbid the Church might be proactive on an issue like human sexuality and lead by example of openness.
On a day when we honour the adventurous spirit of innovation and courage all we get is stock standard piety and conservatism. In effect, the statement is urging us to a double standard; to hold to a position privately, but not to own it publically. We can do better than this as a communion. We will have to do better than this if the Church is to have a future in an open world.
This Pentecost, I offer you the radical, open, courageous, innovative, surprising, even shocking, life-affirming spirit of God. May your lives this Pentecost find new energy for living and loving and justice seeking in the power of this spirit. May the Church this Pentecost see past its fear of difference to a new energy for proactive, life-affirming, inclusive ministry.