Tuesday, November 04, 2003


InclusiveChurch.Net, the network of Anglicans working for an open church, has whole-heartedly welcomed the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. ‘It is not only the people of New Hampshire who are celebrating this weekend,’ says the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, their chair - who is also Vicar of Putney and Lecturer in Philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford. ‘Inclusivity is at the very heart of the Gospel message. In Christ there is neither black or white, male or female, straight or gay. The consecration of Gene Robinson underlines the Biblical witness of God’s love for all.’

‘It was very important that Gene Robinson’s consecration took place,’ says Fraser. ‘Along with many others, I was very disappointed when Jeffrey John was forced to withdraw after having been appointed Bishop of Reading earlier in the summer. If the consecration of another openly gay priest, duly elected and confirmed, had failed to take place it would have been disastrous for the church.’

The statement from the Primates of the Anglican Communion, following their meeting at Lambeth Palace on 15-16 October, has begun a process that could lead to realignments in the church. But Fraser is of the firm conviction that groups who find it difficult to accept a gay Bishop mustn’t split off. ‘I sincerely hope that people do not leave. The great genius of Anglicanism is that is manages to hold together unity and diversity,’ Fraser continues.

He also believes that the consecration is vital to the mission of the church. ‘In this country, 58 per cent of the population say they are Christians but do not go to church – in no small part because they think the church is judgmental. Gene Robinson’s consecration could hardly send out the message more strongly: the Anglican Church is an inclusive church.’

InclusiveChurch.Net and others are now considering what input they might have into the newly announced Commission to look at life in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which claims 70 million members.

Meanwhile, in a statement regretting the division surrounding Bishop Robinson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams stressed today: 'It is clear that those who have consecrated Gene Robinson have acted in good faith on their understanding of what the constitution of the American church permits. But the effects of this upon the ministry and witness of the overwhelming majority of Anglicans particularly in the non-western world have to be confronted with honesty.

'The autonomy of Anglican provinces is an important principle. But precisely because we rely on relations more than rules, consultation and interdependence are essential for our health.

'The Primates meeting last month expressed its desire to continue as "a communion where what we hold in common is much greater than that which divides us". We need now to work very hard to giving new substance to this, and to pray for wisdom, patience and courage as we move forward.'

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