Sunday, November 15, 1998

How Resolution I.10 Came to Be

How Resolution I.10 Came to Be

By Stephen Noll

THE pre-Lambeth report, Called to Full Humanity, appeared in April 1998 and sounded the same pluralistic and evolutionary trumpets we have heard in the American "dialogue." Homosexuality is treated as one of a package of issues on which "there are deep divisions within and between our cultures," and which "have been examined many times at Lambeth Conferences in the past and doubtless will occupy generations to come."

The Report suggested "three ways" of Christian sexuality. Way 1 was faithful monogamous marriage and celibacy; Way 2 was various forms of promiscuity; Way 3 was various forms of "faithful" homosexual and heterosexual cohabitation and polygamy.

According to the Didache, that earliest post-apostolic document, Way 1 is the way of life and Way 2 the way of death. Throughout Christian history the acts associated with Way 3 were simply considered fornication and hence part of Way 2.

To avoid this problem, the report tried to abstract two Christian virtues of "loving-kindness/faithfulness" and "righteousness/justice" common to Ways 1 and 3. To do this, it had to minimize any connection between God’s order of the sexes in creation and His explicit commands and treat them as being merely part of the "cultural context" of Scripture. Such a move is Gnostic in its impulse.

The Report made much of the anomalies of "traditional" African practices of premarital unions and polygamy. What it neglected to mention was that the African Church rejects both these practices for Christians, permits polygamous marriages only for converts, and refuses leadership roles to polygamists. African Anglicans, in other words, are acting consistently with classic Christian moral doctrine.

By the end of a week’s intense discussion, the Human Sexuality group had dropped the three ways typology and substituted opinion poll for moral rule. "We confess we are not of one mind about homosexuality," they said, listing four views held by Anglican bishops, including the view that the Church should bless gay unions and ordinations. They admitted that the majority were "not prepared to bless same-sex unions or to ordain active homosexuals."

The following Tuesday, the section published its Resolution, which "upholds marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that chastity is right for those who are not called to marriage." Then, less than 24 hours before the debate, the Conference’s Steering Committee reverted to a more liberal Resolution that had not even been approved by the sections. Bishops who had spent two weeks working on the issue were livid.

Archbishop Carey intervened in the process and at his insistence, the debate was framed so that the will of the majority could be expressed. So in the end, the bishops gave the strongest affirmation of traditional sexual morality since the Conference of 1920.

"How Resolution I.10 Came to Be" appeared in the "After Lambeth" issue of Trinity’s journal Mission & Ministry in 1998.

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