The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, sent the following letter to deputies and alternate deputies concerning the actions taken by the Primates Meeting to impose consequences on the church for its actions on same-sex marriage.
January 15, 2016
Dear Deputies and Alternate Deputies:
Many of you have received the news that the meeting of Anglican primates that has just concluded in Canterbury has voted to issue what it calls “consequences” to the Episcopal Church for our full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in our common life.
This news may be painful for some of us, particularly for LGBT people who have been excluded too often and for too long by families, churches, schools, and other institutions mired in homophobia. It may also be hurtful or unsettling to those of us who value our mission relationships with Anglicans across the Communion.
I want to assure you that nothing about what the primates have said will change the actions of General Convention that have, over the past four decades, moved us toward full inclusion and equal marriage. And regardless of the primates’ vote, we Episcopalians will continue working with Anglicans across the globe to feed the hungry, care for the sick, educate children, and heal the world. Nothing that happens at a primates’ meeting will change our love for one another or our commitment to serving God together. I commend to you Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’spowerful statement on just this theme.
The practical consequences of the primates’ action will be that, for three years, Episcopalians will not be invited to serve on certain committees, or will be excluded from voting while they are there. However, the primates do not have authority over the Anglican Consultative Council, the worldwide body of bishops, clergy and lay people that facilitates the cooperative work of the churches of the Anglican Communion. I serve as a representative to that body, along with Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut, a four-time deputy before his election as bishop, and six-time Deputy Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine of the Virgin Islands, and I am planning to travel to Zambia for our scheduled meeting in April and to participate fully.
The people most likely to suffer from this news are faithful LGBTI Anglicans and their allies, especially in Africa. I count many of them as my friends and colleagues, and today I am especially praying that this new message of exclusion does not fuel more hatred and homophobia and make them even more vulnerable to violence and discrimination than they already are. In their communiqué, the primates: “condemned homophobic prejudice and violence” and “reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.” I was heartened to read these words, but mindful that I have read a similar statement from a previous primates meeting. I hope that this time, the primates mean what they have said.
Please join me in renewing our commitment to General Convention Resolution A051 which calls us to use resources developed by African Anglicans working to curb anti-gay and anti-transgender violence and discrimination; to build relationships with and learn from African Anglican scholars whose biblical interpretations affirm the dignity and humanity of LGBTI people; and “to pray for the safety of our LGBTI sisters and brothers, their families and communities, and for the scholars and activists who tirelessly work on their behalf.”
Three times in the last five years, I have traveled to Africa to study and pray with Anglican Africans and African LGBTI activists. These consultations, held in South Africa in 2011, Kenya in 2013, and Ghana in 2015, have given me the gift of friends and colleagues across Anglican Africa who are deeply committed to our communion, to the dignity and inclusion of LGBTI people in the church, and to justice for all of God’s people. Today, as we adjust to the news that our stand for God’s all-inclusive love will have some consequences, I am mindful of the statement that my colleagues and I released at the end of our time together in Ghana a few months ago. In it, we pledged “to make safe the road from Jericho to Jerusalem that is walked by everyone who strives for just and fair societies and full inclusion in the Body of Christ.” Today we are walking the road from Jericho to Jerusalem together, and we are doing so in the company of Christ.
Gay Clark Jennings