The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality - Introduction


This book seeks to help you and fellow Anglicans around the Communion as we continue to explore together the complex mystery of human sexuality and the shape of faithful Christian discipleship in this area. Its purpose is to offer clear and accurate resources to bishops, clergy and lay people from men and women across the Communion with a wide variety of experience and expertise. The hope is that these resources will help us listen to one another - as individual Christians, within local churches and across the Communion as a whole - and listen to God. This introduction provides an orientation both to the subject of sexuality within the Communion and to this book - its purpose, its theological basis, its process of composition and its structure. It is hoped that it will enable you to get the most from the book whether you read it through from beginning to end or, perhaps more likely and more helpful, focus on specific chapters of interest to you in your context.

Anglicans and Sexuality

The current teaching of the Anglican Communion on sexuality is expressed in the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10. This states that the Conference 'in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage' and describes homosexual practice as 'incompatible with Scripture'. This resolution has been regularly reaffirmed by the other Instruments of Communion since 1998 and the full text appears at the end of this introduction. The focus of this book is particularly related to two aspects of that resolution of the bishops:

  • 'We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons'.
  • This conference 'requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us'.

These commitments to listen and to share statements and resources were made alongside the statement of the teaching of the Communion on sexuality and are important because of:

  • the ongoing discussion on this subject in many societies, the Anglican Communion, and the wider Church.
  • the diversity of views within and between different Anglican provinces,  and
  • the need for 'all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation' and to assure homosexual persons 'that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ'.

The discussions - as this book makes clear - cover a wide range of issues. On all of these there is a spectrum of views within the Communion. Any attempt to summarize the nature and importance of these complex questions is difficult. However, the following description of what is being discussed and why it is important may provide a helpful sense of the 'big picture' and guide you as you approach the more detailed studies that follow:

There are a number of people who identify themselves with those whom the bishops called 'homosexual persons' at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. They are people of great diversity, but they have in common that they are attracted to people of their own sex. Many of them, in so far as they know themselves, their loves, their sexual desires and their intimate relationships, also believe that they are not fitted for marriage to someone of the opposite sex. Some have embraced marriage or remained single but have known, or still know, same-sex attraction. Others are in some form of same-sex relationship.

In many places, as through much of human history, such matters are still not openly spoken about and those with this experience find it difficult or impossible to speak. However, in Western (and increasingly in non-Western) societies, some of these people now identify themselves publicly as 'gay' or 'lesbian'.

All these people, including those who are Christians, are asking for more understanding and an end to what they experience as exclusion and oppression. Some are asking for pastoral care and friendship as they seek to live in conformity to traditional church teaching. Others conscientiously believe they will flourish best and will grow in love of God and neighbour if they commit themselves to share their life with someone of the same sex in some form of special, loving, covenantal, sexual relationship similar to marriage. Some are asking for such relationships to be blessed by the Church especially in those countries where there is now the possibility of legal recognition for such relationships in civil partnerships or same-sex marriage.

The Church, for the sake of its pastoral ministry and its mission, has to work out a faithful Christian response to this new situation and to the people most affected by it. Those concerned are not only those who are described as homosexual persons but also their families, their friends and their brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has voiced one of the major questions this raises in the following terms:

This is not and should never be a question about the contribution of gay and lesbian people as such to the Church of God and its ministry, about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people. Instead it is a question, agonizingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a Church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against - and so it is a question about how we make decisions corporately with other Christians, looking together for the mind of Christ as we share the study of the Scriptures.

These resources aim to help us as Anglicans, together with other churches, make such decisions and seek together the mind of Christ. It is an official book of the Anglican Communion. As explained below, it has been called for and supported by all four Instruments of Communion. It is designed to enable dialogue and discussion as we move together in mission and ministry. It is not an official statement or authoritative document of the Communion and makes no claim to any such authority. It is, however, set in the context both of decisions already made by the Communion on these matters, notably Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10, and of repeated statements on the need for ongoing study and discussion from all the Instruments.

The Lambeth Conference

The initial call for the sort of work you will find in this book came from the 1978 Lambeth Conference. In Resolution 10 the bishops called for 'theological study of sexuality' and specifically for 'deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality, which would take seriously the teaching of Scripture and the results of scientific and medical research'. This resolution was reaffirmed in Resolution 64 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference when the conference added that it 'urges such study and reflection to take account of biological, genetic and psychological research being undertaken by other agencies, and the socio-cultural factors that lead to the different attitudes in the provinces of our Communion'. A minority of provinces have undertaken such studies but this is the first response on a Communion level.

The bishops present at the 1998 Lambeth Conference not only clearly reaffirmed traditional church teaching but also called for there to be a monitoring process. They asked that the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement be recognized (it is also reproduced at the end of this chapter) and for concerns raised about the authority of Scripture to be included in that process.

The Anglican Consultative Council

The Windsor Report in 2004 urged 'all provinces that are engaged in processes of discernment regarding the blessing of same-sex unions to engage the Communion in continuing study of biblical and theological rationale for and against such unions' noting that 'this call for continuing study does not imply approval of such proposals' (para 145). It also reminded (para 146), 'all in the Communion that Lambeth Resolution 1.10 calls for an ongoing process of listening and discernment, and that Christians of good will need to be prepared to engage honestly and frankly with each other on issues relating to human sexuality. It is vital that the Communion establish processes and structures to facilitate ongoing discussion'. In 2005, ACC-13 responded in Resolution 12:

In response to the request of the bishops attending the Lambeth Conference in 1998 in Resolution 1.10 to establish 'a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion' and to honour the process of mutual listening, including 'listening to the experience of homosexual persons' and the experience of local churches around the world in reflecting on these matters in the light of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, the Anglican Consultative Council encourages such listening in each Province and requests the Secretary General:

  1. to collate relevant research studies, statements, resolutions and other material on these matters from the various Provinces and other interested bodies within those Provinces;
  2. to make such material available for study, discussion and reflection within each member Church of the Communion;
  3. to identify and allocate adequate resources for this work, and to report progress on it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the next Lambeth Conference and the next meeting of this Council, and to copy such reports to the Provinces.

As a result of this, the post of a facilitator was created to work within the Anglican Communion Office. Following his appointment to that post Canon Phil Groves collected information and saw the need for a book to enable the mutual listening which ACC-13 had envisaged. The Standing Committee of the ACC (which meets jointly with the Standing Committee of the Primates) received the draft proposal for this book and gave their support. The proposal included a theological basis, as well as an outline of the structure.

The Primates' Meeting

The same proposal was taken to the Primates Meeting a few days later in Dar in February 2007. They discussed it at length and unanimously supported it. The Primates were clear in their charge to Canon Groves. They wanted high-quality materials to enable understanding of 'the experience of homosexual people'. They were especially keen to receive a comprehensive summary of what science was saying about homosexuality. They wanted a reflection on Bible and tradition and a consideration of culture. They also looked forward to some materials on methods of listening so that practical action could be enabled around the Communion. They approved the theological basis of the proposal.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Primates made some minor recommendations informally and these were incorporated into a revised proposal which was presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury who endorsed the proposal.

The Book's Purpose

The aim of this book is to enable you to begin or to continue listening to those identified as 'homosexual persons' and to discover and engage with the diversity of responses found among Anglicans. It seeks to give you resources for these tasks. It is hoped these will help you gain a deeper clarity and understanding of your own position, encourage you to speak for yourself, and enable you to understand the opinion of others.

The book is not seeking to be a document around which we can agree a common statement. It does not attempt to 'solve' the theological disagreements over homosexuality or the divisions these have created within the Communion. Although the book includes a large amount of material it does not make any claim to be complete, final or definitive. All you will find in each chapter is a brief summary of the subject matter.

Each reader will come to the book in a different context. As you read, remember that what you are reading will be being read and used across the globe by fellow Anglicans whose backgrounds, experiences and levels of knowledge about sexuality are quite different from yours. For some, many of the ideas here will be new. For others, much will be familiar. The hope is that you will find:

  • your questions being asked and explored;
  • your own answers being given accurately and positively;
  • the answers you disagree with being explained in a way that deepens and clarifies your understanding so you are better equipped for ongoing dialogue with Christians who hold these views.

The intention is to encourage you in thinking, listening and speaking. Despite the size of the book, much is left unsaid and there will be times when you think it fails to reach its goals. If you find blanks or failings then you can respond in various ways:

  • If there are questions you do not find being asked here, then ask them.
  • If you believe a point has been made badly, then make it yourself or find someone you know and respect to make it.
  • If you don't understand how someone can take a view expressed, try to seek out people who can help you learn more.

This book is neither an end nor a beginning when it comes to fulfilling the commitments we have made as Anglicans to listen, study and learn about sexuality. It is another step on the way which seeks to enable us to learn and work together as we serve the mission of God.

The hope is that you will want to engage further, read more, ask more questions, perhaps write or speak to help others and, above all, continue listening to God and to fellow disciples of Jesus.

The book will be supported with an internet site where you can pose questions, clarify understandings and enter into dialogue. The site will be supported for one year after publication of this book. You can contact the Facilitator for the Listening Process by email
Further details will be available from the Anglican Communion Website

The Book's Theological Basis

ACC-3 meeting in 1976 spoke about the Communion in these words:

As in the first century, we can expect the Holy Spirit to press us to listen to each other, to state new insights frankly, and to accept implications of the Gospel new to us, whether painful or exhilarating.

Throughout the following 30 years of our Communion we have often found new insights to be both painful and exhilarating. In the 1980s and 1990s the churches in places where Anglican Christianity was comfortably part of their culture were greatly challenged by the dynamic churches of Africa and Asia to move from ministry to mission. At first they often found the call to engage in evangelism hard to hear. It was painful to accept their failure to live out mission. However, when they responded and took mission in their own context seriously, these churches have been rejuvenated. The developments of 'Fresh Expressions of Church' and the desire to break the bonds of extreme poverty have enabled churches in Europe and America to reconnect with the Mission of God. This is exhilarating!

The issue of how to respond to new understandings of human sexuality leads us once again into cross-cultural challenges. The prime task for all of us is to hear and obey what God is saying to us. We can only do this by listening to each other. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has quoted with approval: 'Only the whole Church knows the whole truth.

The Church of Uganda has asked to be listened to in this manner. In its Position Paper published for ACC-13 they say: 'We also believe the Church of Uganda has a mission to the Anglican Communion to share the treasure of the Scriptures and to call other parts of the Communion to recognize and to submit to the Authority of Scripture as the place of transformation into abundant life. This is an uncomfortable message for some, but a reminder from a Church - which has faced political violence and oppression with love and forgiveness and borne the brunt of AIDS/HIV with loving service - that its witness was founded on living out what it read in the Bible.

The Episcopal Church of the USA has also called for the kind of uncomfortable listening envisioned at ACC-3. Also at ACC-13 they offered To Set Our Hope on Christ.In this report they sought to explain why in good faith and in loving obedience to the saving Word of God, many Christians in the Episcopal Church have come to a new mind about same-sex affection, and of how this has led us to affirm the eligibility for ordination of those in covenanted same-sex unions. ihey too believe that their insight is 'in loving obedience to the saving Word of God'. This too is painful for many to hear.

ACC-3 also reflected on partnership in the Church of the New Testament. They said:

Christian partnership did not then mean that the partners, although united in their missionary goals, were always in accord on how they were to carry out this mission - witness the disagreement between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2. Rather they were asked to face each other, and the roots of their disagreement and agreement, so openly that both could go forward in mutual love and respect into further creative activity.

Significant missiological thinkers have argued that this is the biblical way. Andrew Walls has described our time as an 'Ephesian Moment'. We are at a point in time when the Western guardians of 'standard' Christianity have encountered new expressions of Christianity from Africa, Asia, America and beyond. The original 'Ephesian Moment' was a brief time in history when Jewish Christians came together with Gentile Christians under the guidance of Paul who insisted that 'In union with him [Christ] you too are being built together with all the others to a place where God lives through his Spirit (Ephesians 2.22). Walls argues that the Church must be diverse because humanity is diverse; it must be one because Christ is one. The original 'Ephesian Moment' came to an end as the gentile church dominated the Jewish minority which was forced to conform to gentile Christianity or to find its Jewish identity outside the church. In the present age we see the Church as more diverse than it has ever been with not only people of every nation and ethnic group, but also women and the poor taking roles that were previously the preserve of white men with university education.

Francis Bridger, a founding member of the British Evangelical Anglican group Fulcrum echoes this perspective. He reflects on the nature of Trinitarian theology and says:

The theological method of the Evangelical centre is marked by a faithfulness to Scripture and the historic creeds on one hand and an openness to the breadth of Christian traditions on the other. This does not require that we assign equal validity to all theological perspectives (for all, including Evangelicalism, must stand under the scrutiny of Scripture). However, it does demand that we listen with respect to voices other than our own. Fundamental to this is a recognition that theology arises out of communities of faith which possess their own historical trajectories and which have found themselves having to address their own particular problems: it is not a system of ahistorical propositions that stand independent of the contexts which have produced them. Theological truth does not drop out of the sky: it is always and everywhere the outcome of community struggle and reflection.

If the Trinity is central to all theology, then it follows that relationality lies at the heart of a Trinitarian theological method and that this in turn demands a willingness to enter into, and a desire to sustain, relationships with others who name the name of Christ and are seekers after truth even if we profoundly disagree with them.

The Evangelical centre, therefore, finds itself committed, as a matter of fundamental principle, to encouraging dialogue even across heated differences. Moreover, it believes that the discernment of truth and the mind of God is more likely to arise out of a process of mutual respect and charitable assumption than out of polarization and demonization. However wrong-headed we may think Christian brothers or sisters, they are not Amalekites to be smitten hip and thigh.

Being biblical is about how we walk and talk together. Sometimes this will mean shocking one another, but we should always be ready to speak and to listen rather than simply defend formulas and structures.

Desmond Tutu has articulated these same concepts under the title of Ubuntu:

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks to the very essence of being human. When you want to give high praise to someone we say, 'Yu, u Nobuntu'; he or she has Ubuntu. This means that they are generous, hospitable, friendly, caring and compassionate. They share what they have. It also means that my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in theirs. We belong in a bundle of life. We say, 'a person is a person through other people' (in Xhosa Ubuntu ungamntu ngabanye abantu and in Zulu Umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye). I am human because I belong, I participate, and I share. A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good; for he or she has a proper selfassurance that comes with knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.

In a debate which has become intensely polarized the form of the materials we seek to offer will attempt to follow biblical patterns enabling us to listen to one another with love and mutual respect. This is Scriptural, our Anglican tradition and the only reasonable way forwards.

The Book's Composition

The work of Canon Phil Groves as Facilitator for the Listening Process has made clear to him that good process in listening is vitally important. He has identified four practical elements which he brought into the composition of this book: common ground, safe space, the acknowledging of shared vulnerability and good human resources.

1. Common Ground in Mission

The foundation for dialogue is common ground. ACC-3 talked of common ground as being our common mission. This remains the basis for our shared life today and as a Communion is stated in the Five Marks of Mission.

Our mission is to all people. The first four marks are relevant to how our mission is carried out including mission to gay and lesbian people, their families, their friends and those with whom they work. All the Churches of our Communion are agreed on the need to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, to teach, baptize and nurture new believers, to respond to human need by loving service and to seek to transform unjust structures of society.

Our mission is also, and has always been, even when we did not know it, with gay and lesbian Christians who are our partners in the gospel. This acknowledgement does not require acceptance of same-sex partnerships or partnered gay clergy. Most of the gay and lesbian people who have served the Church in mission and ministry, both lay and ordained, have not accepted such partnerships for themselves nor seen them as valid expressions of a holy life for others. The open acceptance of same-sex partnerships as moral in more and more cultures within our Communion demands however that we engage with lesbian and gay people in a new way. Our commitment to listen emphatically does not require that we must end up accepting the position of those to whom we are listening. It does mean that we seek to hear God speaking to us and discover his way. It does require that we respect those with whom we disagree and be open to learning new ways to speak to and about them. It is on this common ground of mission that we begin our conversations.

2. Safe Space - Allowing All to be Heard

Some voices are easy for us to hear. But Jesus valued the voices of the quiet, those considered insignificant in the eyes of the world in which he lived. For him it was women, children, the disabled, the poor and those who were labelled as 'sinful'. The challenge has been to hear those voices, the voices of those who are often not heard. Today this may be due to their ethnicity, their gender, their lack of education or because they are regarded as 'sinful'. That does not mean that we ignore those who are educated, church leaders and men, but it does mean they are not to be heard to the exclusion of others.

The Lambeth Conference made a commitment to 'listen to the experience of homosexual persons'. Such people have a huge range of experiences and many have responded to the Good News of the Kingdom with joy and follow God with commitment. For such people to be heard we need to create safe ground where they will not be open to ridicule, abuse or emotional and even physical violence. Such violence is the experience of gay and lesbian people in every culture and the Instruments of Communion have consistently committed themselves to opposing it.

No voice has been consciously edited out in the process of writing this book. The voices of 'conservatives' from around the world were actively sought, even if it will mean pain for those who are 'liberal' in their outlook. The voices of 'liberals' were actively sought, even if that is likely to cause pain to those who are 'conservative'. Among those identified by Lambeth Conferences as 'homosexual' there are a great variety of identifiers and different views. The most common terms in English are 'gay' and 'lesbian'. 'Gay' can be an identifier for both men and women and where it is used this way within the text we hope it is clear. 'Homosexual persons' would also include bisexual men and women, many of whom live in faithful monogamous relationships, either straight or gay. Transgender people and those who are intersexed are not gay or lesbian but some do recognize themselves as also being identified by the texts of the Communion as 'homosexual persons'. A common shorthand for this group of diverse individuals is LGBT Others find these labels to be a political act and the claiming of an identity which they reject. They often describe themselves simply as experiencing same-sex attraction (SSA). They may speak of being 'ex-gay' or 'post-gay' or refuse all such labels. In compiling this book we have sought out all these voices.

All shades of opinion have therefore been sought. Following Jesus, we have especially sought to hear the voices of those who would otherwise be silenced and not just the loud voices that can sometimes dominate in the media.

3. Vulnerability

The polarized arguments over the issues surrounding human sexuality have made us all feel vulnerable. Some fear the ending of the faith as we know it. Others fear not being accepted. Some fear being split in two with conflicting loyalties. Some fear to ask questions and some fear to answer them. These fears can only be answered by trusting in God to care for our Church and for all who come to him. However, we need to admit our own vulnerability and accept the vulnerability of others. It is important to do this while reading. We ask you not to seek arguments you can defeat but to allow God to inform you so you are strengthened in your walk with him. Again the Bible gives us the ultimate model. Jesus accepted the vulnerability of being human. His fears in Gethsemane were answered by his trust in God who rescued him from despair and death. We need to accept that all are vulnerable and trust God who can bring reconciliation in any context.

4. Human Resources

The process leading to this book was convened by Canon Groves who has been entrusted with the task on behalf of the Instruments of Communion as described earlier. The contributors were chosen in order to present the spectrum of views held in the Communion. Taken together, therefore, the hope is they present the spectrum of opinions. They were not asked to represent particular parties or viewpoints. In many ways the authors are ordinary Christians and it is not claimed that they are the greatest experts in their field in the Communion. What they have brought are the skills to understand and present the expertise of scholars and the experience of real people.

As you will soon discover, each chapter is very different from all the others. This reflects the diversity of the contributors and the range of material being covered. As a group of women and men the authors reflect the geographic diversity of the Communion as well as its theological diversity. There are bishops, clergy and lay people within the group. There is a mix of expertise. For example, some would describe themselves as theologians but several would not. The voices of homosexual people are also present in the text although they may not always be specifically identified as such.

One common thread that runs through the book is that the contributors for each chapter worked in pairs. Given the huge distances between most of them it was a significant logistical task to bring them together. It was, however, accomplished in most cases although writing a unified text was impossible for some who could not physically be brought together and had to communicate electronically. For some writers, joint writing was a joy. For others, there were significant challenges to be overcome in the writing process itself and a cross-cultural struggle is present in the result.

Finally, the Christian literature on human sexuality is huge and growing but we hope we have engaged with the most significant texts in what follows. However, many of the standard books are from a Western point of reference. One of the distinctive contributions of these resources is that reflections from across the Communion have been actively sought out and included. The book also contains submissions in various forms - more academic texts, personal testimonies, practicalguidance for listening processes, dialogue between the contributors - based on the authors' own research and conversations together and their decision about how best to present the fruit of this to the wider Communion.

The Book's Structure and Content

The book's eight chapters are presented in four parts. Obviously it is possible to read the book from start to finish, as one would read a novel. However, there is no need to do this and it is expected that most readers will dip into different chapters at different times. The book is therefore designed in such a way that each chapter makes sense when read on its own. It is, however, helpful to understand the structure and rationale of the book as a whole, the connection between its different sections, and the variety of its styles and diversity of its authors. The book opens with the two related issues which we have already seen provide the common ground and particular focus for the whole book and for the Listening Process of which it is part - mission and listening. In relation to mission, two perspectives are offered - one from Ian Douglas in the US and one from Michael Poon from Singapore. Each author then responds to the other, giving an example of respectful dialogue across differences in cultural and theological perspective. The chapter on listening is quite different from any other in the book. Much more than presenting an argument or a set of viewpoints, it provides you with a hands-on practical 'how-to' guide. This is jointly authored by two very experienced facilitators from quite different contexts, one from Canada (Janet Marshall) and one from Zambia (Charley Thomas).

To be authentically Anglican, both our mission and our listening need to be directed by the authorities of Scripture, tradition and reason. These three areas therefore provide the structure and focus of the resources in the second section. In many ways these introduce us to the theological heart of the current debates. Those holding the views on sexuality expressed in the Communion's current teaching need to be able to show how that teaching is authorized by these sources. Those calling for the Church to modify this stance need to explain 'from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection how and why they have reached that different understanding.

Among these three sources Anglicans have held to the primacy of Scripture and any changes would need to persuade the Communion that they are compatible with Scripture. The Bible is examined therefore first and at greatest length. The editor, Phil Groves, provides an introduction to the subject of the place of Scripture, seeking common ground in the Anglican understanding of the nature and authority of Scripture which is explored through reference to the Thirty-Nine Articles.

The book of Jude then guides a reflection on false teaching before two different perspectives on sexuality present their understanding of biblical teaching. The final sections look at some of the challenges faced in interpreting the Bible and how the Bible helps us when we have to consider whether a development in Christian thought and practice is faithful to Scripture. In the light of this overview focused more on method, a West Indian bishop, John Holder, and a lay biblical scholar from England, Paula Gooder, provide extensive resources on biblical texts. They help us engage with the specific teaching of the Old Testament and the New Testament in relation to sexuality as a whole and with particular reference to homosexuality.

The chapter on the witness of tradition captures the international and non-Western perspective of the resources more than any other chapter. It brought together Jaci Maraschin from Brazil and Samson Fan from Hong Kong, for both of whom English is not their first language. They set our current sexuality discussions in a broader historical and theological context by highlighting the distinction between tradition and traditions and helping us think through the relationship of tradition to both Scripture and reason. We are then enabled to consider current debates about the validity of blessing same-sex unions by looking at other areas where Anglicans have embraced and/or resisted changes to our traditions in recent decades.

The fifth chapter introduces one aspect of the work of reason by setting sexuality in the context of wider culture (another aspect of reason, that of science, is the focus in the final chapter). One of the major challenges in the Communion is undoubtedly the quite different cultures which Anglicans serve and the very varied understandings of sexuality and sexual ethics found within these. Our guides here are a bishop from Melanesia (Terry Brown) and a Ghanaian theologian (Victor Atta-Baffoe) with some additional material provided by Griphus Gakuru, a Ugandan priest working in England and John Kevern of the Episcopal Church in the USA. They begin by introducing us to different models of how Christians have understood the relationship of Christ to culture. These models are then made more concrete as we are provided with a taste of cross-cultural experience through introductions to the cultures of Uganda, North American Indigenous Peoples, South Africa and England and also to Anglican responses within them. The insights of anthropology and the different uses to which these have been put in Christian mission are then sketched before this approach is applied more directly to recent controversies. That application takes the form of highlighting some central features of Western culture and how these mould both 'liberal' and 'conservative' Western stances on sexuality. An African perspective on these deeper Western cultural forces and world views is then provided in order to shed light on some of the tensions over sexuality. Finally, the authors introduce the great variety of forms of homosexuality found within and across the cultures represented in the Communion.

Following the more academic contributions of Part Two, the next two chapters comprising Part Three have a different focus and so a different format and tone. The learning resources on Scripture, tradition and reason are provided to facilitate and give theological tools for wise listening and discriminating dialogue. It is such listening and dialogue that are displayed, exemplified and encouraged in chapters six and seven. As noted above, Lambeth 1.10 called on us to 'listen to the experience of homosexual persons'. Some readers will already have done this but many will have no experience and perhaps no opportunity to do so in their context. Sue Burns (from Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) and Janet Trisk (of Southern Africa) have engaged in that listening task and their contribution enables us to listen in on what they have heard and in particular to deepen our understanding of how questions of identity relate to sexuality. They provide extensive quotations from the wide range of people they listened to and in guiding us as we read they model how we can listen thoughtfully and prayerfully to often challenging and disturbing testimonies.

Challenging, disturbing, thoughtful and prayerful dialogue across cultural and theological difference was the experience of Joseph Galgalo, a Kenyan theologian committed to the Communion's teaching on sexuality, and Debbie Royals, an indigenous woman theologian whose partner is also a woman priest in the Episcopal Church. They were brought together to contribute resources on the relationship of sexuality and spirituality. The fruit of their week together is shared in yet another different style as we are invited to listen in on a dialogue between the two of them covering a wide range of subjects which they had explored in their time together.

The final section contains a single chapter, which is probably the most technical of all the material in the book, that covers areas less familiar to most readers. As noted above, successive Lambeth Conferences have asked for scientific study to assist Christian thinking and the Primates particularly requested these resources. Biologist David de Pomerai and psychiatrist Glynn Harrison each produced very significant accounts of the scientific research and literature. These focus on the fields of biological and genetic factors in relation to homosexuality and possible interventions in the forms of counselling or therapy. For those who would find the scientific detail of their work too complex, they have provided helpful executive summaries of their work.


These resources were neither commissioned as an academic exercise, nor as an attempt to reach a consensus within the Anglican Communion. They are not intended to be the last word in the debate on human sexuality in the Christian tradition. Their aims are both more modest and more far-reaching:

  • to give voice to the widest possible  range of perspectives, positions  and responses;
  • to allow deeply dissenting and divided views to dialogue with, and to interrogate one another within a safe space;
  • to listen to voices from across the many cultures in the Communion without privileging any specific voice;
  • to listen to voices which are often silenced by the narrow rules of Western academic discourse.

The varied formats and styles of the book may prove frustrating to some. This variety is intended to echo our ongoing conversation, in which the variety of responses is not tidied up in the interests of literary or academic excellence. We are committed to listening with respect, however softly spoken or stammering some of the contributions may seem.

In short, this book is not meant to provide readers with ready answers, or with a sense of satisfaction that their perspective has been vindicated. The essays are tools, which aim to give readers a sense of godly dissatisfaction that more needs to be said. The debate cannot end here. Our koinonia demands further listening, deeper respect and the willingness to continue on this journey of exploration and encounter with the other to whom we so often choose not to listen.


Anglican Conversations on Homosexuality

The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today

Primates Meeting Press Briefing 16 February 2007

ACC – 3 Trinidad 1976 (Official Report page 55)

Partnership means mutual involvement, sharing, by two or more individuals, often in an activity beyond themselves.  It has been an important concept in the Christian Church since the New Testament times when it was called koinonia.  Christian partnership did not then mean that the partners, although United in their missionary goals, were always in accord on how they were to carry out his mission - witness the disagreement between Peter and Paul in Galatians 2.  Rather they were asked to face each other, and the roots of their disagreement and agreement, so openly that both could go forward in mutual love and respect into further creative activity.

This quality of partnership is possible in the Gospel to-day, between individuals, national churches, world-wide denominations.  It involves sharing monies and persons and more – the sharing in depth of ideas between the partners, including the nature of their partnership.  As in the first century, we can expect the Holy Spirit to press us to listen to each other, to state new insights frankly, and to accept implications of the Gospel new to us, whether painful or exhilarating.

ACC – 13 Resolution 12

Church of Uganda Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality May 2005

Andrew Walls The Ephesian Moment

Frances Bridger -  Revisioning the Evangelical Centre