The following article by the Anglican Lord Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, the Rt Rev Dr Alfred Reid, was published in the September edition of The Anglican newsletter. Bishop Reid, who participated along with other bishops of the church at the 2008 Lambeth Conference in England, seeks to clarify the purpose of the meeting and what actually took place. His comments also come in the wake of recent articles in The Gleaner, critical of the handling of the controversy over an openly gay bishop serving in the American Episcopal Church.
As I return to the diocese from the recently concluded 2008 Lambeth Conference, I need to share with you the most prominent theme, repeatedly emphasised in the conference under the title, 'The Micah Challenge', based on the well-known text from Micah 6 v 8: God "had showed, you O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy (kindness) and to walk humbly with your God."
It is important to understand what it is that the conference set out to achieve and evaluate the outcome accordingly.
Jamaican Anglican leaders join bishops from all around the world in a march through central London on Friday, July 25, calling on world leaders to keep their promises to deliver the millennium development goals by 2015. - AP
There seems to be some unauthorised persons who arrogated to themselves the role of deciding what the agenda of Lambeth should have been and, as in 1998, used the press to create the impression that the conference was being assembled for the purpose of discussing the morality of homosexual practice and, specifically, that the Anglican Communion would punish or even expel the United States Episcopal Church because of the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, and also the Canadian Church because of the blessing of same sex unions in certain places.
The fact that this was not the agenda nor the outcome led to outrage and some vulgar abuse by at least one disappointed commentator.
Let me say, frankly, that it is not up to outsiders to dictate what we should or should not discuss. When you consider that, in spite of the absence of up to 200, we had about 670 bishops from all over the world, including some of the hot spots and challenging contexts, you will understand why 'The Micah Challenge' had to be paramount.
Think of the bishops representing the Middle East, including Iraq, where St George's, Baghdad, is the most vibrant church in that troubled city, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt. Think of the bishops of Zimbabwe whose comments were being monitored by Harare. Think of the bishops (full attendance) from the Sudan with the shame of Darfur. Think of the continuing struggles of South Africa.
Think of the bishops of Burma, devastated by a powerful typhoon where the Government would not allow foreign aid agencies or the media for weeks after the catastrophe.
Think of the five bishops from Kenya and the one from Rwanda who had to defy local authority in order to join with us. Think of the bishops of Pakistan and Bangladesh, caught between the rock of terrorist activity and the hard place of flooding. Think of Haiti and Cuba in our own front yard of Jamaica itself, of worldwide poverty, injustice, inequality, disease, death from war and criminal violence, famine and natural disasters.
Think on these things and tell me why all these bishops from all these places should give priority attention to the bedroom behaviour of a minority, whether in the United States or anywhere else, as against the urgency of 'The Micah Challenge' - to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
The Anglican Church is not a little sect built around one issue. As Archbishop Williams said at the closing service - "The global horizon of the Church matters because churches are always in danger of slowly surrendering to the culture around them and of losing sight of their calling to challenge that culture."
Furthermore, if we are to have a serious discussion about sex by responsible Christian leaders worldwide, there are huge issues involved, including paedophilia and child pornography, which is a major worldwide disaster perpetuated mainly by heterosexuals for monetary profit.
There is spousal abuse, as part of a larger problem of the oppression of women in some cases with religious affirmation, human trafficking and slavery, incest, abortion on demand and the spread of deadly disease through wanton and irresponsible promiscuity.
In the face of all this and more we would indeed be wimps of the most pathetic variety if we surrendered to the bully pulpit of a hostile press and pandered to an adolescent preoccupation with the salacious and sensational.
It is certainly not true to say or imply that this church has not dealt up front with the question of homosexuality at the level of the Lambeth Conference.
At the Lambeth Conference of 1998, the bishops passed a Resolution - 1:10, which, says inter alia:
b) " In view of the teaching of Scripture (the conference) upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those not called to marriage."
d) "While rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all, irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex, and
e) Cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining of those involved in same gender unions."
That is the last word on the subject by the Lambeth Conference and there was never any suggestion from even one of the 670 bishops at this conference to revisit, or revise much less to repudiate anything in Resolution 1:10.
So - what is the agenda of agenda of Lambeth and what did it achieve? The Archbishop of Canterbury invited us together in Canterbury "for purposeful discussion to consider the two themes of 'Equipping bishops for mission and strengthening Anglican identity'.
It is important for bishops who are labouring in isolated and difficult situations to experience, first-hand, the solidarity and prayerful support of the worldwide communion. It is good for people working in different parts of the world to share their ideas and experiences and to stimulate each other in the work of evangelism and justice. Above all, in a world of suspicion, hostility and divisiveness, we need to strengthen the ties that bind and to work together for reconciliation and unity even between the US and Nigeria.
It may suit our detractors to pretend that we are resolved to continue discussing sex indefinitely. But what we, in fact, resolved to do was to continue the dialogue for as long as it takes to achieve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace which is our Lord's desire.
The bedrock of the Conference was sustained by serious Bible study every day, corporate worship and prayer together and face-to-face encounter in small groups. At the end, the Archbishop said, and I concur, "It seems that this has been a time when many have felt God to have been at work" and for this reason he said, "I believe the conference succeeded in doing this to a remarkable degree - more than most people expected. At the end of our time together, many people, especially some of the newer bishops said they were surprised by the amount of convergence they had seen".
And I say, Amen. Thanks be to God.