I was saddened to read in The Guardian newspaper of 17th November a front page article headed "Archbishops threaten split over gay clergy".
The article noted that a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury was posted on conservative evangelical websites and was being read around the world before he had had an opportunity to read it himself. It is most regrettable, and in no way helpful to the Church's mission, that a personal letter, which should have been confidential, was broadcast in this way.
My concerns go further than that. As one whose name has been associated with the letter, without my permission, I believe I need to make my position clear. I attended the Global South Encounter in Egypt with some reluctance, but felt that it was appropriate to be there because the meeting was taking place in the Province of which I am President Bishop. I wished, further, to be supportive of my colleague, the Bishop in Egypt, who was the host of the Encounter. I was not able to be present for the whole of the programme, arriving after the early sessions and leaving before the end. While I saw a first draft of the letter, I was not involved in any subsequent discussion of it. Several other Primates shared my unease. In no way did I give permission for my name to be associated with the letter.
The Archbishop of Canterbury came very graciously to a meeting to which in a sense he could not have looked forward. He gave a sensitive and searching Bible Study, related to the Conference theme of the Church as "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic". He then answered clearly and straightforwardly questions put by the Conference. We witnessed a man of God responding in a clear and pastoral way with a desire for understanding and reconciliation. The only appropriate response, not least in the current ongoing process in the whole Anglican Communion, should surely have been one of gracious gratitude to the Archbishop for his clarity, and pastoral concern.
The process established by the Windsor Report needs to be affirmed and followed. This calls for dialogue between persons on all sides of the debate which recognises the integrity of those from whom we differ. No one party has a monopoly of the truth. All treat scripture seriously and it is essential that we are open to sharing our insights. Undergirding it all must be prayer for one another that we may come to know yet more of the ways of God who is greater than the sum of us all.
In a world riven by conflict, the Church has a message or reconciliation to proclaim. That message will not be heard unless it is embodied in a reconciled messenger.
THE MOST REVEREND CLIVE HANDFORD
President Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf