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Schori lifts the lid on the Primates' Meeting

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William Crawley | 13:41 UK time, Sunday, 25 February 2007

Katherine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, briefing some New York church officials on Friday about the Primates' Meeting in Tanzania, said the low point of the meeting was when one primate compared homosexuality to paedophilia and another questioned whether the church even needed to study homosexuality "if it doesn't need to study murder".

On today's Sunday Sequence, I asked the new Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper, if that was the low point of the meeting for him too. He replied, "It wasn't one of the high points", then remarked that those views were not shared by many other primates at the meeting. When I suggested that the comments were "disgraceful comparisons", he repeated the claim that they weren't widely shared in the meeting.

I had the impression that Archbishop Harper was surprised that I was able to quote comments made in a private session. Frankly, I'm a little surprised myself; but our source was also in the room. Perhaps Bishop Jefferts Schori will now face some criticism for speaking in public about conversations that took place in confidence.

Alan Harper wouldn't identify the primates making these comments, but the extreme views expressed would not be out of step with the public stance of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. The Nigerian government is planning to outlaw same-sex relationships. They propose a prison sentence of up to five years for open displays of same-sex affection; and their plan is being supported by the Christian Association of Nigeria. I know there is some debate abroad about the definition of homophobia, but presumably few would deny that legislation removing a gay couple's freedom to express affection for one another is as clear an example of homophobia as one could hope to find.

Northern Ireland decriminalised homosexuality twenty-five years ago. It will be interesting to see how many Irish churches take the trouble, in this anniversary year, to add their voice to the many others now being raised in opposition to the Nigerian government's proposal. Might we even expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to assert his moral authority and call on his Nigerian brother bishops to prophetically challenge their government's plans rather than offering the state religious support for an abuse of human rights?


  • 1.
  • At 09:13 PM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • frankie wrote:

i wouldnt hold my breath Will. the church only ever talks about homosexuality when it wants to beat up gay people. it's a disgrace that any archbishop in 2007 should be claling for gays to be imprisoned. richard dawkins is starting to make sense after all.

  • 2.
  • At 10:17 PM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Theo wrote:

Perhaps Bishop Jefferts Schori will now face some criticism for speaking in public about conversations that took place in confidence.

And perhaps its high time that these christian gentlemen be revealed to the world for what they truly are, hypocrites of the highest order.

As a man who once identified as being "gay" or homosexual and now spends a good part of time counseling men desiring to come out of that lifestyle, the way we speak is very important. Our words are important. Loudly calling someone a sinner will not lead them to Christ. Loudly discrediting their behavior won't either. Sometimes I am at a loss to find the "right words" and simply have to ask the Lord's guidance. Blessing nor condoning sinful behavior won't cause people to turn from their behavior and repent either. And much of what homosexual men and women think has nothing to do with knowledge but with their feelings. And we all know how fickle feelings are. Sometimes I don't FEEL forgiven, but am I supposed to rely on my feelings or on what Jesus Christ has promised?

There is an aspect of this "battle" that has not been discussed much here or elsewhere.... many, if not most, in the gay community have been waging a war for recognition and social acceptance for decades. In many cases it has meant isolation and loss of family. Just so, those of us who have been in the dialog process listening and debating and fighting battles with liberal clergy and bishops have been steeped in a war that has now taken us into the courts. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the fight, we don't remember what it is like without it. I remember for several of us on staff of St. James, Newport Beach, that immediately after our disassociation from ECUSA....when we were finally free and we thought the war was over.......we had to look around and wonder what to do next. We had been battling for so long and with so much energy, it had become part of us. What would gay & lesbian people do without the fight? Sometimes I believe it is all they have....and if we believe that God has written His Law upon all our hearts, then we know that until they surrender their will to His, the battle will never be over for them.

It seems rather disingenuous and dangerous for our children to condemn homosexual behavior on one hand and at the same time be an advocate for their civil rights. In many cases they have greater protection than an average citizen, and since marriage was established by God for one man and one woman, I cannot think of any civil right not bestowed upon them.

First they need to be brought to a place where they acknowledge they need a Savior. They need to hear God's moral law and fall on their knees in repentance, so they can be lifted by the hand and given the Good News of the Gospel Jesus Christ. For decades now the church has been proclaiming God's love. People simply nod in agreement and go on with their unchanged lives. They haven't met the Lord because He changes lives, and if He can change mine, He can change anyone's...if we are willing to be made willing. The arrogant prideful attitude to "accept me the way I am" has to give way to a sincere desire to be born anew and changed. My "nightmare" is having our Lord return and having my friends, gay or straight, say, "You knew...but you didn't tell me." It is not real love if we don't say anything out of fear....fear we will offend or alienate. Real love calls us to speak out in faith and boldly proclaim the transforming and sanctifiying power of God's Spirit.

  • 4.
  • At 04:45 PM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Nancy wrote:

Daniel, it is fine and dandy with me if you no longer identify yourself as a gay person, or for that matter, if you wish to even jump species. I am a lesbian. I do not feel I have an arrogant prideful attitude, as you put it. Indeed, take a look in the mirror...it is you who does. Do not presume to judge everyone else, as to where we stand in the eyes of God. I happen to believe that God would tell you to shape up and leave the judgement up to Him. I do not need YOUR brand of "real love."

On the issue of Bishop Katharine revealing what was said - I am so grateful that she did! Shine a big old light on that room full of bishops and tell us all that was said. What is there for them to be afraid of, when they are so outwardly self-righteous? Let them march right on out of the Episcopal church and in the front doors of the Roman Catholic church where they seem to belong. Goodbye and good luck, I say.

  • 5.
  • At 04:54 PM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Fr. Malcolm French wrote:

The proposed legislation in Nigeria goes well beyond restricting the rights of homosexuals to express affection. (Homosexual acts themselves are already criminal offenses in Nigeria.)

The legislation would also make it a criminal offence to advocate for the civil rights of homosexuals. In effect, it would be a criminal offence to say, "I don't believe homosexual acts should be a criminal offence."

The Primate of Nigeria committed himself, as part of Resolution 1:10 at the 1998 Lambeth, to participate in a process of listening to the experiences of homosexual persons, and to providing such persons with "a safe place" in which to share their experiences. I have difficulty seeing how this legislation which he so strongly supports will allow him to fulfill that commitment.

That presumes, of course, that the Primate of Nigeria sees himself as in any way bound by Lambeth 1:10. The evidence suggests that he sees the resolution as absolutely binding on the Presideing Bishop of the USA (who was not present at Lambeth 1998) but not binding on himself at all.

Likewise, it appears that the Primate of Nigeria sees the Windsor Report as absolutely binding on his sister Primate. She must permit neither the ordination of another non-celibate gay bishop nor the blessing of same sex unions. Yet the final communique from the Primate's meeting expressly sets aside that other part of the Windsor Report which called for an end to interference in the internal affairs of other provinces. Not to mention the unanimous encyclical of Lambeth 1878 which expressly forbids such interference.

Given this double standard, is it a wonder I have trouble finding any integrity in the position of the so-called "Global South" bishops?

Rowan Williams has now established himself as "secundus inter pares," having ceded the moral authority of his office to the Primate of Nigeria.

Daniel, many in the gay community have been fighting a battle for recognition and acceptance because of the discrimination that they have suffered at the hands of the church, and obviously the battle isn’t over yet.
If you are so adamant about the bibles position on homosexuality maybe you could let us have your opinion on some of the other laws from the bible.
This is a letter that has appeared on many humanist web sites that highlights the fact that Christians can be very picky about what they choose to believe.

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted fan,

  • 7.
  • At 01:32 PM on 28 Feb 2007,
  • pb wrote:

David Powell

If you read through the book of Galations it demonstrates that the old testament law is not for the church. This has never been an obscure secret.

Therefore the book of leviticus does not apply to the church. However the NT has numerous refs to homosexuality in its own right.

The books of romans and hebrew might also be worth a read on the relationship between hebrew law and grace.


  • 8.
  • At 09:39 PM on 28 Feb 2007,
  • dp wrote:

i'd be interested to see some of the new testament references to homosexuality.
If old testament law is not for the church does this mean we can completely disregard the old testament for moral guidance?

  • 9.
  • At 10:26 AM on 01 Mar 2007,
  • pb wrote:


There are quite a few references

but for starters you could read Romans chapter 1 and 1 Cor 6.

A strict answer to your question about the OT could be understood by reading Galations, Hebrew and Romans in that order.

My summary is this; the sections of the OT dealing with law are clearly state law for the theocratic state of Israel. The New Testament is a new dispensation clearly aimed at the Jews and Gentiles, ie global; it is not aiming to set up an earthly kingdom but a kingdom of people all over earth with loyalty first to heaven.
These people are required to live with this loyalty whatever the political system or culture they find themselves in.

My understanding is that the new dispensation was always intended to be phase two of the first (ie OT) so it is in fact an echo of it, ie the moral guidance is a continuation but in grace, not law.

There are of course many who could explain this better but you can not do better than reading those three new testament books for yourself. Then you know the primary sources for yourself and arent taking my word for it.

I would say if you lived only by the NT you would never go wrong but the OT has plenty of history and character studies and also lessons from the law, even though it is not for the church.


  • 10.
  • At 02:02 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Hi David

I hope this gets through, have been trying to respond for days but no joy!

check out Romans 1 and 1 Cor 6 to be getting on with. There is more, but perhaps more signifant is the teaching on relationships and marriage which are explicity heterosexual eg Ephesians.

Apart from laws, the OT also has much history, prophecy, poetry that is of great value.
Even the laws can be informative, though not binding, eg on health and diet.

If you only had the NT for guidance you would be 100% fine.

To put the OT in context read Galatians, Hebrews and Romans quickly in a modern translation or paraphrase and you will get a good flavour.

I somehow get the feeling this oft repeated debate is perhaps missing the real heart of God on this topic.

I am getting a sense that his main agenda is his overflowing love for all concerned in this debate.

That does not in any way contradict his written word, please note. I just understand that gay folk have experienced so much rejection and pain and inner conflict that God's perfect Father love is the first proper response to this.


  • 11.
  • At 07:27 PM on 02 Mar 2007,
  • paul wrote:

DP #8
There is a common misunderstanding after Jesus the MORAL teaching of the Old Testament was superseded by something a bit less exacting. Jesus addressed exactly this point in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). On a number of occasions he uses the construction “you have heard it said (i.e in the Mosaic law)……by I tell you”. He compares his teaching with the accepted teaching on murder (ch5 v21), adultery (5:27), divorce (5:31), truth telling (5:33), revenge (5:38) and the treatment of enemies (5:43). I challenge you to read these passages and answer the following simple MCQ –
In comparison to the Old Testament law, the teaching of Jesus on moral issues is:
a. anything goes
b. less strict
c. no difference
d. more exacting
e.raised to such a level that no-one can achieve it
I can say that based on the Mosaic law I have never committed murder or adultery, I do not know that I can say the same using Jesus’ definitions!

  • 12.
  • At 12:32 PM on 03 Mar 2007,
  • pb wrote:

I am not saying I have this all down pat, the thrust of Paul's point is correct.

But the NT is based on grace, not law, and Peter was told by Gold to eat foods which were forbidden under OT law.



My apologies for not responding to your question sooner. This is not a site I frequent.

The simple answer is that many of the laws in Leviticus are social laws which applied to Jews only to keep them separate as God's chosen people. God's moral laws, which apply to everyone, do not change.


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