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Archbishop calls for Anglican Unity

Posted on: June 19, 2002 10:13 AM
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has appealed to Anglicans in a Canadian diocese to continue to work together over a dispute involving the blessing of same-sex unions.

Dr Carey was responding to an appeal from the Revd Dr Trevor Walters, a priest on the Anglican diocese of New Westminster, following a decision by his diocese to provide a liturgical form for the blessing of same-sex unions.

Some clergy opposed to this move walked out of the Synod meeting and have called on Dr Carey and other Anglican Primates to intervene.

In his open letter of reply, Dr Carey acknowledges the pain and distress involved - but counsels them against breaking away, urging them to stay involved in the debate. He also states his intention of raising the matter with the Anglican Consultative Council in September and with the Primates' standing committee.

The full text of Dr Carey's letter:

Open letter in reply to

The Revd Trevor Walters
Vancouver, BC

Dear Trevor,

Thank you for your letter, sent to me ahead of the Synod meeting at the weekend. I did not judge it right that I should comment on it prior to the debate.

As I understand it, the Synod's decision has been to introduce a liturgical form for blessing same-sex unions, for use in those parishes where this forms an important part of their ministry; and a system of extended episcopal oversight to provide for those clergy who in all conscience fundamentally reject this development in the life of the diocese.

My own position in relation to same-sex relationships is well known. I stand firmly by the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference. For this, I have been criticised as homophobic. I am not. But I do not accept that homosexual relationships can be treated as being on a par with the man-woman ideal portrayed in Holy Scripture.

It saddens me deeply that any diocese should be following a course at odds with the Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10(e); and I fully understand the dismay this causes to those in the diocese who disapprove of this departure from the Anglican moral tradition and the views of the majority of their fellow believers throughout the Anglican Communion.

At the same time, I am sorry to learn that some walked out of the Synod debate following the result and I am alarmed by the statements of those who appear to be determined to look elsewhere for episcopal oversight in place of the extended episcopal support which Bishop Ingham has offered.

As I understand it, there is much detail still to be worked out in relation to the arrangements outlined in last weekend's resolutions. For example, the extent and limitations of the pastoral care that is being offered is far from clear; as is the timetable for implementing these proposals. There is a need for certainty about what these proposals amount to, both constitutionally and liturgically.

Let us make no mistake, these are difficult and painful issues - both for those who hold strong views on each side of the argument, and for those who remain undecided. I believe firmly that we should 'speak the truth in love' to each other, on these and many other issues - but I believe that we do so most effectively by standing our ground in continuing dialogue and ongoing fellowship with each other, not by walking away.

As you indicate in your letter, this matter has implications far beyond the boundaries of the Diocese of New Westminster. I have no doubt that the unity of the Communion is threatened by your Synod's decision. You ask me to intervene, in accordance with Resolution 3.6(b) of the Lambeth Conference 1998. Although I have my doubts as to whether that resolution is directly relevant to the problems you face, I shall seek to ensure that the matter is brought up at the forthcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting and the Primates' Standing Committee.

With prayers and best wishes at this time,

Yours in Christ

+George Cantuar

Notes for editors:

The resolutions of the Lambeth Conference 1998 cited above read as follows:

1.10 (e)

[This conference] cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.

3.6 (b)

[This conference] asks that the Primates' Meeting, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, include among its responsibilities positive encouragement to mission, intervention in cases of exceptional emergency which are incapable of internal resolution in provinces, and giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies.