Remarks by Bishop Michael Ingham
At the Windsor Continuation Group Hearing
July 29, 2008
I came to this conference hoping to take back to the Diocese I serve something of value with respect to the difficulties facing our Communion. Unfortunately, the document handed out today is a non-starter where I live.
Let me give four reasons.
1. The Windsor Report is just that – a report. It is not yet an agreed policy within the Communion. It is not yet a doctrine. Some of our Provinces have responded to it, some have not, and many of the responses raise critical questions that have not so far been addressed. And yet the Windsor Report is being introduced today as an agreed benchmark from which it is assumed we can move forward. This is not so.
2. The document we have today is punitive in tone, setting out penalties and the like, instead of inviting us into deeper communion with one another through mutual understanding in the Body of Christ. Furthermore, it entrenches the principle of outside interventions. The suggestion of a Pastoral Forum in fact institutionalizes external incursions into the life of our churches.
3. It seeks to impose a singular uniformity upon the complex diversity of our Communion. I quite understand that in some parts of the Anglican Communion homosexuality is subject to criminal law and cultural prohibition. However, I live in a country where homosexual people enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law as every other citizen. To discriminate against homosexual people, as this document suggests, is no more acceptable in than to discriminate against women, black people or Jews. If this becomes the position of the Communion, it will put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of having to support and defend irrational prejudice and bigotry in the eyes of our nation.
We already live with a good deal of diverse practice across the Anglican Communion – in the ordination of women, the re-marriage of divorced persons, and the admission of the baptized and unconfirmed to Communion. Why can we not live with a similar diversity in this matter too?
4. It ignores reality. Whatever this document says, illegal incursions will continue. We have heard already how they continue to happen even in places that maintain the traditional position of the Church on homosexuality. And furthermore, gay and lesbian people will not go away, nor will they be healed, because they are not sick. It is the church that is suffering from blindness and prejudice, and it is we who need to repent and be healed.
To conclude, this document will not invite us into mutual dialogue and a search for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is an old-world institutional response to a new-world reality in which people are being set free from hatred and violence. It will not do to impose a rigid uniformity on a body so diverse as this Communion. The document will further divide us if it attempts to do so