‘Barbaric’ Anglican schism would not threaten LGBTI progress

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Anglican Church of Uganda (Photo courtesy of Red Pepper)
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Anglican Church of Uganda has said that unless “godly order” is restored (apparently including rejection of homosexuality), he cannot participate in any official meeting of the Anglican Communion. (Photo courtesy of Red Pepper)

Observers and members of the worldwide Anglican Communion, comprising churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England, are watching to see whether the Communion, representing a total of 85 million Christians, will break apart this week over the issue of inclusion or exclusion of LGBTI people.

At this week’s meeting of Anglican leaders, called Primates, some of the leaders of conservative anti-LGBTI Anglican churches in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Rwanda and Congo have threatened to leave the Anglican Communion if its spiritual leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, accepts the presence of gay-friendly churches such as the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Each of those African churches rejects LGBTI people. Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Sudan are among the 76+ countries worldwide with anti-gay laws and their Anglican churches strongly support that legalized repression. Some Anglicans are dismayed at the prospect of a greater breakdown of communication between conservative churches and liberal ones.

But the Rev. Colin Coward takes a different view. The founder of Changing Attitude, which seeks inclusion of LGBTI Christians throughout the church, is optimistic about the future, whether the Anglican Communion breaks apart or not.

In a blog post, he writes about the upcoming Primates meeting in Canterbury, England:

The Rev. Colin Coward (Photo courtesy of The Independent)
The Rev. Colin Coward (Photo courtesy of The Independent)

… Twenty years of involvement with the Communion through my work in Changing Attitude has resulted in a network of friendships that continue to enrich and inspire me every day of my life. The six [conservative] Primates threaten to sever at a stroke the network of friendships and relationships that are the mark of Christian life and fellowship across the Communion.

It would be a barbaric and shockingly destructive act. They will, fail, of course. The grassroots network is strong and robust, as are the various bodies of the Anglican Communion. They are little noticed or reported but they are the life blood of the Communion, doing theology, breaking down barriers, undertaking work which brings deeper understanding across difference to people living on a fragile planet. …

It hurts the conservatives to be told that their negative attitude to LGBTI people is essentially homophobic, but it is. It’s hateful to deny people equality in love and relationships. …

I’ve reached the stage where what [the Primates] decide will make no difference to my faith, my spirituality or my presence with God in creation. I have no need to give Primates authority or control over my life and my relationship with God. I encourage others to have confidence in their relationship with God and to ignore as far as possible the pronouncements of those who have no love or care for our spiritual health and well-being. …

Last year Changing Attitude England formulated a campaign statement:

We are campaigning for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Anglican Church in ministry and relationships

This has to be our goal for the entire Anglican Communion. Every Anglican Province will eventually come to affirm the presence and place of LGBTI people in the Church. Our presence, our gifts and our intimate relationships will be celebrated and blessed.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. (Photo courtesy of Info.Catho.be)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, whose “spiritual leadership” of the Anglican Communion has been challenged by anti-LGBTI church leaders, especially in Africa. (Photo courtesy of Info.Catho.be)

Whatever disruption in the structure of the Communion occurs next week, there will be LGBTI people praying and longing, and in some cases working quietly and effectively, for our full, public, joyful inclusion in the life of the Church. The evolutionary trajectory of God in history makes this outcome inevitable. The [conservative] Primates are trying to reverse a movement which is irreversible.

That’s my dream and it is a dream that I know will be fulfilled. How long it will take I know not. I do know that my grassroot friendships and our global networks are such that we will continue to subvert attempts to suppress us. A transformation of LGBTI presence is taking place in Africa and elsewhere on our planet.

Is the Primates’ meeting a busted flush? Maybe. Maybe the forces of intolerance and prejudice are so great that they result in the break-up of the Primates’ meeting and the Anglican Communion as at present constituted. But the networks and friendship links are so extensive and subversive and filled with Godly faith that they will overcome any temporary disruption to our common life in Christ.

For more information, read the full post “The Primates’ meeting — a busted flush?” in the Unadulterated Love blog.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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