Human Sexuality

September 1, 1998

The bishops of the Anglican Communion meeting this past August for the Lambeth Conference tried to embrace diverse articulations of the Gospel in reference to the question of homosexuality. A group of bishops holding widely divergent views succeeded, after two and one-half weeks of intense conversation and study, in putting forward unanimously a resolution that embraced the breadth of their concerns and perspectives. Their capacity to recognize one another's integrity of faith, and to listen to one another's experiences in the light of the Gospel made it possible for each of them to make room for points of view other than those with which they had arrived. "It is a miracle that we have arrived at a resolution we can all support," declared the chair of the subsection. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for the rest of the bishops to enter into that same process of struggle and listening. Therefore, we were reduced to having to deal with the question in a legislative manner.

Amendments were put forward to the resolution that had been so carefully framed by the subsection , and while I voted against the amendment which read "while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture," when faced with the overall resolution which contained another amendment "we commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual people," I found myself torn between what I could not endorse and the commitment to listen and learn which is absolutely essential, considering the cultural and theological diversity of the Anglican Communion's bishops.

The process of listening, and therefore opening one's mind and heart to learn, will be a difficult encounter for many bishops from parts of the world where sexuality, let alone homosexuality, is a forbidden or unacknowledged topic. The resolution clearly states that homosexual persons are full members of the body of Christ in virtue of their baptism. While this is self evident in some parts of the Communion it is, I regret to say, a challenging notion in others.

The agenda for the future in this area is very clear. Rather than settling the matter once and for all, the Lambeth Conference has brought the subject of homosexuality into the public discourse of the Communion, something which would have been impossible at the last Lambeth Conference ten years ago.

The resolution also requests "the Primates and the Anglican Communion Council 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." Listening to the experiences of homosexual people - which include celibacy and abstinence as well as long-term, enduring relationships - becomes, along side the reading and interpreting of Scripture, one of the tasks that lies before us a Communion, a task to which I am committed.

My hope in the work called for by the resolution, and my belief that we continue to be led by the Spirit of Truth, led me not to vote against the final text on the basis of one clause, but to abstain.

The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA