Chicago Consultation releases homosexuality study guide

July 7, 2009

Bringing its support for full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians to General Convention, the group called the Chicago Consultation released on July 7 a study guide designed to help people in the pew face tough questions about homosexuality -- and come up with their own answers.

But leaders of the 18-month-old group made clear that the 34-page booklet, Christian Holiness & Human Sexuality: A Study Guide for Episcopalians, presents a perspective in support of same-sex blessings and the ordination of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Episcopalians.

"In parishes everywhere there are members of the church who are struggling with misconceptions about human sexuality in the context of scripture, tradition and liturgy," said the Rev. Ruth Meyers, co-editor of the new publication. "We're trying to reconcile that with this study guide by providing information that can help people to make up their own minds."

The booklet's five essays, written by eminent Episcopal and Anglican theologians, review human sexuality within the context of scripture, tradition, ethics and liturgy, followed by eight pages of discussion questions. The publication, however, does not pretend to be an objective presentation of different opinions.

"Presenting disparate views on the issue is not the purpose of this study guide," Meyers said. "The purpose is to show why we believe GLBT persons are a part of God's gift to us."

Such is the message the group hopes to spread over the course of General Convention. While hoping for the adoption of same-sex blessings and the exclusion of any restrictions on gay or lesbian bishops, the group has no organized strategy for affecting legislation except to invite candid conversation.

"We can't predict what will happen here at convention," said Meyers of Church Divinity School of the Pacific. "Our hope is – and I believe it's possible – that we can take a step forward toward full inclusion of all the baptized."

The consultation also released this week a DVD titled Voices of Witness in Africa, which features gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Africans telling personal stories about their lives under the threat of not just discrimination, but also imprisonment and even death.

The video and an accompanying study guide is intended to help overcome misconceptions that stifle relationships across Anglican Communion borders, said the Very Rev. Gary R. Hall, co-editor of the booklet and co-convener of the consultation with Meyers. Hall, dean of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., co-convenes the consultation with Meyers, who until recently was professor of liturgics at Seabury-Western. She now teaches at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

"I don't know what's going to happen [during convention]," he said. "We're not really involved in the legislative strategy kind of stuff at all really. The consultation was started in a way that said there's a group of people in the Episcopal Church who value both the gay and lesbian community and international Anglican relationships."

He said the four meetings of the consultation so far have included speakers from across the Anglican Communion "to show the church that there are third-world Anglicans who agree with us."

During a reception at convention on July 7, the group welcomed Archbishop Philip Aspinall, Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia; the Most Rev. Dr. Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, who has recently retired as Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church; the Most Rev. Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, Primate of The Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Communion in Japan), and Bishop of Hokkaido; the Rt. Rev. Solomon Jongmo Yoon, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Korea and Bishop of Busan.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who also attended the reception, said regardless of the consultation's agenda, the group is a good model for any group within the church.

"Their primary value is being a gathering of people who are helping to educate the larger church," she said. "I don't know all the details of what they're doing. But I'm supportive of education and information and transparency. The piece they did on the voices of Africa I thought was very helpful education."

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