The Lambeth Commission released the long awaited Windsor Report on homosexuality in the Anglican Church on Monday, October 18, 2004. The report, which fell short of excommunicating the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) from the worldwide Anglican Communion, called on the 50 US Anglican bishops who consecrated an openly gay man last year to repent and apologize for their actions or consider withdrawing their seats.
The Lambeth Commission was established last year, following the consecration of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson in the States, as a means to maintain unity within the 77-million-member Anglican Communion. Since Robinson¡¯s controversial ordination, 22 of the 38 international Anglican provinces broke ties with its American counterpart, and have urged the U.S. branch to repent, apologize and immediately turn from its ¡®unanglican¡¯ ways. The majority of the African Anglican leaders, whom have been most avid in their call against homosexuality in the church leadership, have even rejected ECUSA missionaries and offerings.
Despite the international havoc it wreaked over the last year, the ECUSA repeatedly failed to recognize its mistakes and refused to apologize. Going further, last month, the head of the ECUSA, Frank Griswold, called on Anglicans worldwide to consider becoming a more ¡®open¡¯ church. Griswold has yet to comment on the report.
In essence, the Lambeth Commission¡¯s primary goal was to maintain ¡°the unity of the church, the communion of all its members with one another and the radical holiness to which all of Christ¡¯s people are called.¡±
According to Robin Eames, the commission chairman and Irish Anglican leader, the first and second points were the most important.
"There remains a very real danger that we will not choose to walk together,¡± he said.
Therefore, to maintain unity and communion, the report called on the ECUSA to apologize for its actions as well as place a moratorium on the consecration of all gay candidates.
It demanded an explanation from the ECUSA as to "how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ".
¡°Scripture must be used to back up the explanation,¡± it added.
With the exception of a few ¡°progressive¡± and radically liberalized denominations, the Christian church holds onto the consensus that homosexuality is a sin against the creation of God and that the homosexual lifestyle is incompatible to the scripture. Numerous verses in the bible point to homosexuality as a sin and a result of mankind¡¯s sinful nature, and the church historically held onto the scriptural mandated position.
However, at the peak of the ¡°free-sex¡± movement of the 1960s and 70s, the homosexual movement lit its flame within the church walls, causing confusion over what behavior is acceptable and holy in the eyes of God.
Dr Eames, in releasing the report, acknowledged this debate on homosexuality that has raged on for decades.
"Since the 1970s, controversies over issues of human sexuality have become increasingly divisive and destructive throughout Christendom,¡± said Eames.
Specifically, Eames said the ordination of Robinson and the blessing of same-sex unions in Canada had uncovered ¡°"major divisions throughout the Anglican Communion".
"There has been talk of crisis, schism and realignment. Voices and declarations have portrayed a communion in crisis,¡± said Eames.
Ultimately, the report urged the U.S. bishops to apologize for their actions, which has been the root of the schism, but did not say the bishops should be expelled.
In consecrating Bishop Robinson, the report said, the Episcopal bishops had "acted in the full knowledge that very many people in the Anglican Communion could neither recognize nor receive the ministry as a bishop in the church of God of a person in an openly acknowledged same-gender union".
Thus, the report invited the Episcopal Church as a whole "to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached" in appointing Robinson.
Until there was an apology, the Commission added, those who took part should consider whether to withdraw themselves from functions of the Anglican Communion.
This call to apology and repentance fall short of what some of the conservative Anglican denomination had been calling for: the full suspension of the US church. Nonetheless, it marks an effort on the part of the Anglican Communion to remain biblically orthodox and true to its own declarations; in 1998, a conference of Anglican bishops declared gay practices ¡°incompatible with Scripture" and opposed gay ordinations and same-sex blessings in a 526-70 vote with 45 abstentions.
Meanwhile, the report also called on the conservative bishops to ¡°desist¡± from suspending the ECUSA, and try wholeheartedly to walk together on a path of reconciliation with its American counterpart. It further encouraged those archbishops and bishops who have taken ¡°oversight¡± over conservative Episcopal churches to seek an accommodation with the Episcopal bishop or bishops involved with those congregations.
Said Eames: ¡°It is part of a pilgrimage towards healing and reconciliation."
The 17-member Lambeth Commission consists of senior church figures and theologians headed by Eames. To view the full text of the report, please visit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3751544.stm