Anglican communion’s ‘bitter divide’ over gay rights


This week could mark the last rites for the Anglican communion as a truly global Church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called the 38 Primates or leaders from the global communion to a make-or-break meeting in Canterbury, where the bitter divides over gay rights and same-sex marriage are expected to dominate discussions.

The main question ahead of the meeting is not whether but when church leaders from up to six African countries may choose to leave the summit.

The communion itself has been likened to a lengthy marriage that is now coming to an end, with many wondering whether this is the time to move into separate bedrooms, and tell the children, or to decide to file for a divorce – and whether that split can be managed amicably.

Gay priests

One Church of England source has termed it 80% likely that some will walk out of the meeting after the agenda has been agreed, as those who – on Biblical grounds – are firmly against accepting homosexuality want an apology and repentance from the liberals within the US Church for appointing openly gay priests and bishops.

After years of sniping and sometimes open warfare, the Most Reverend Justin Welby is keen to move the Anglican Church – and the more than 80 million followers that it claims around the world – beyond the issue of sexuality to focus on what he and others see as the real challenges – global violence in the name of religion, climate change and poverty.

In the face of such intractable differences over Christians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, Lambeth Palace may well suggest that the communion reshapes itself into a loose confederation of churches, which can be joined by those who wish to do so, rather than trying to shoehorn radically different world views into one grouping led by Canterbury.

‘Open depravity’

The current disagreement boiled over into open hostilities when the Episcopal Church in the US consecrated the openly gay (and non-celibate) priest Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Bishop Gene Robinson
The consecration of openly gay American Bishop Gene Robinson proved controversial

That split the Church openly in the US, with the breaking away of the traditionalist Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

Its Archbishop, Foley Beach, who termed that consecration “open depravity” and “sin”, has also been invited to parts of the meeting in Canterbury, although ACNA is not an official part of the Anglican communion, to the dismay of some liberals.

Anglican Communion

The key meeting will take place in Canterbury
  • Made up of 38 autonomous national and regional Churches plus six Extra Provincial Churches and dioceses
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Communion’s spiritual head
  • There is no Anglican central authority such as a pope. Each Church makes its own decisions, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • In 1968 those gathered at the Lambeth Conference decided the individual churches needed more regular contact than a once-a-decade conference of bishops. The Anglican Consultative Council, which features laity, priests and deacons, met for the first time the following year
  • The Primates’ Meeting was established in 1978 by Archbishop Donald Coggan (101st Archbishop of Canterbury) as an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation” and has met regularly since

Archbishop Beach’s views are likely to find an ally in Archbishop Stanley Ntagali – the leader of the Anglican church in Uganda – where active homosexuality is a criminal offence.

Last week, Archbishop Ntagali warned on his website that he would walk out of the meeting of Primates if “discipline and Godly order” were not restored to the communion.

Likewise, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya has warned against the global “ambitions of a secular culture”, calling for a return to Gospel beliefs.

the anglican communion

Both are members of the group of conservative Anglican churches known as GAFCON (Global Anglican Future), whose General Secretary Peter Jensen has said that “truth matters even more than institutional unity”.

GAFCON’s members see themselves as “authentic” Anglicans who follow Gospel values, and the group could ultimately form the leadership of those conservative churches if this meeting leads to a formal schism – although that would be a lengthy bureaucratic process, needing agreement from church members in the relevant Anglican province.

Given the fractious Primates’ meetings of the past, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has done well simply in persuading all 38 Primates to meet around one table this week, using much of the personal capital he built up during his visits to every single Anglican province around the globe.

Anguished discussion

Whatever happens at the meeting itself, he has done all he can to make the relationship work, although it is increasingly clear that the current institutional arrangement is no longer fit for purpose, given such deep disagreements over a fundamental issue.

The more liberal provinces that are open to changing Church doctrine on marriage in order to allow for same-sex unions include Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, South India, South Africa, the US and Wales.

Archbishop Foley Beach
Traditionalist Archbishop Foley Beach will be at Canterbury

However, England is one of the countries where that bitter divide over sexuality is already at the heart of much anguished discussion and debate.

With equal marriage now part of civil law in England, the Church’s insistence that it should not form part of Canon law is increasingly contested by some of its own clergy and members of its congregation.

The strength of feeling over the issue in England was made clear in a heartfelt open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Sunday, which called on the Church to repent over its treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Christians as “second class citizens” over issues of sexuality.

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‘Repent’ call to Church over gay Christian treatment

'Repent' call to Church over gay Christian treatment


More than 100 senior Anglicans have urged the Church of England to repent for “discriminating” against lesbian and gay Christians.

The demand is made in a letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York ahead of a meeting of 39 primates from the global Anglican Communion.

They say the Church must acknowledge members around the world have been treated as “second-class citizens”.

The Church of England says the letter will be discussed at their meeting.

The Bishop of Buckingham and several cathedral deans are among the 105 signatories.

‘Interpreting scriptures’

The letter asks the two archbishops “to take an unequivocal message” to the meeting.

It urges them to tell the other leaders that the Anglican Church needs to acknowledge it “failed in our duty of care” to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians and “apologise for our part in perpetuating rather than challenging ill-informed beliefs”.

It adds: “We understand that the primates come from a variety of contexts with differing ways of interpreting the scriptures, but we urge you to be prophetic in your action.”

The Anglican communion in Canterbury from Monday is scheduled to last a week.

But BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt said there were fears disagreements over issues of sexuality could lead to a walk out by conservative Church leaders from nations such as Uganda and Kenya.

The rift in Anglican Church over sexuality is even greater than that over women priests and bishops and those against homosexuality on biblical grounds want the liberal wing of the Church to repent over consecrating openly gay bishops and clergy, she said.

The letter was organised by Jayne Ozanne, former director of the Accepting Evangelicals group which campaigns for the rights of gay, bisexual and transgender Christians.


She told BBC News a “line” had been reached.

“It was time to stand tall and actually call the Church back to its roots to reminding them about the fact that we are there to welcome and serve all,” she said.

“We have not treated the gay community as equal members. We’ve actually vilified them.”

The Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines said he had not been asked to sign the letter, but added: “There should be no place for homophobia in the Church or anywhere else.”

He told BBC News that “change isn’t necessarily a terribly bad thing”.

However, Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said he does not agree with the argument that there can be “different interpretations of scripture” on the issue.

“The Bible is clear on many things, including its teaching on human sexuality and the Church has upheld that teaching for 2,000 years,” he said.

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Over 200 Members of German Choir Were Abused, Investigator Says


Pope Benedict XVI with the Regensburg choir in Bavaria in 2006. The former pope’s brother conducted the choir from 1964 to 1994, a period that coincides with accusations of abuse.
Pope Benedict XVI with the Regensburg choir in Bavaria in 2006. The former pope’s brother conducted the choir from 1964 to 1994, a period that coincides with accusations of abuse.

At least 231 children who sang in a boys’ choir led for 30 years by the brother of former Pope Benedict XVI were abused over a period of almost four decades, a lawyer investigating reports of wrongdoing said Friday.

The lawyer, Ulrich Weber, who was commissioned by the choir to look into accusations of beatings, torture or sexual abuse, said he thought that the actual abuse was even more widespread.

At a news conference in Regensburg, Bavaria, where the choir traces its roots to the year 975, Mr. Weber estimated that from 1953 to 1992, every third member of the choir and an attached school suffered some kind of physical abuse.

He attributed the beatings and other mistreatment mostly to Johann Meier, director of a lower school attached to the choir from 1953 until his retirement in 1992. Mr. Meier died suddenly later that year, Mr. Weber said. A 1987 investigation of reported abuse did not prompt the choir’s leaders to remove Mr. Meier or take other action, the lawyer said.

Asked whether Benedict’s brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, who conducted the Regensburg choir from 1964 to 1994, had known of the abuse, Mr. Weber said, “After my research, I must assume so.”


Ulrich Weber is investigating accusations that children who sang in a German choir led by Georg Ratzinger were abused.

Father Ratzinger, who turns 92 this month, is the older brother of Joseph Ratzinger, who served as pope from April 2005 until he stepped down on Feb. 28, 2013, saying he was too frail to fulfill the full range of his duties. Now known as the pope emeritus, he still lives in the Vatican; his brother resides in Regensburg.

Mr. Weber noted that, as conductor of the choir, Father Georg Ratzinger sat on a three-person supervisory body, along with the directors of the high school and the boarding school attached to the choir, that was supposed to oversee the lower school where Mr. Meier worked.

Mr. Ratzinger, the brother of the former pope, Benedict XVI.

Mr. Weber started investigating the Regensburger Domspatzen, as the choir is known, in 2015 and said he had interviewed dozens of victims and figures in charge. He said at least 40 of the 231 abuse cases also involved sexual violence, “from fondling to rapes.” Most cases are too old for legal action now, he said.

The choir has been run since 1994 by Ronald Buchner, who is not associated with the Roman Catholic Church.

The first accusations of physical punishments and sexual abuse in the choir surfaced in 2010, in connection with other reported abuses in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, Belgium and Austria. The Diocese of Regensburg last year spoke of 72 victims and offered about $2,700 in compensation.

Mr. Weber said that after his report Friday, at least eight people who had not previously come forward with accusations of abuse had contacted him.

Complete Article HERE!