Page last updated at 21:25 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 22:25 UK

Anglican rift: Conservative v Liberal

The Anglican Communion is closer than ever before to a major split, as conservative bishops gather in Jerusalem to discuss their vision for the future.

Most of those attending the Jerusalem conference (Gafcon) will be boycotting July's Lambeth Conference - held once every 10 years.

A range of views exists within both the conservative and liberal wings of the church.

Here a conservative and a liberal - Paul Eddy, of the Conservative Anglican network in the UK and Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal diocese of California - spell out their views on six key points of disagreement.

Neither is a spokesman for Gafcon or the Lambeth Conference; they are writing in a personal capacity.

ATTITUDE TOWARDS ACTIVE HOMOSEXUALITY

Paul Eddy: The Bible is clear that sex is a gift from God and is intended for a life-long committed relationship of marriage between a man and a woman. Any sex outside marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual is therefore against God's plan for his children and his will.

Bishop Andrus: When we talk about human sexuality we are actually talking about questions of the goodness of the body, and the goodness of creation. Sexuality is part of a person's being. People are called to be in relationships, sometimes sexual relationships, and that's how we understand the goodness of creation. We are emerging from 1700 years in the West of a deeply distrustful stance toward creation and everything that creation contains, including the human body and sexual relationships (even those traditionally called "marriage"). A dominant view of the Church in that time period has been that a celibate life is closer to the angelic life than the married life, and that marriage was for those who could not successfully aspire to the celibate life. Such an attitude is based on a profound unease, or dis-ease, about creation. So ideas about "active homosexuality" - even framing the question that way - betray a view that is still being shaped by an uncertainty about whether the creation and the body are in fact good or not.

ORDAINING GAY PRIESTS AND BISHOPS

Paul Eddy: Ordinands who believe they have sexual desires towards people of the same sex are able to be ordained priests so long as they maintain the Biblical standard of no sex outside marriage, just like single heterosexual priests. They may openly declare that they believe they are gay, but must remain celibate.

The issue of celibacy also applies to bishops. In the case of the openly gay bishop who admits to having sex with his partner, this is unbiblical, divisive and is against both scripture and the historic teachings of the church. Those who are gay bishops and those who took part in their ordination have already separated themselves from the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Andrus: It is important for the Church to look for and support the same things in all relationships: fidelity, mutuality, honesty, love. And it is incumbent on the Church to seek to support couples - be they heterosexual or same-sex - in the cultivation of these virtues in their relationships. When it is true that candidates for ordination are in relationships then the same criteria should be used by the Church regardless of sexual orientation, so we would be looking at all ordination candidates in the same way. Are the virtues of fidelity, mutuality, honesty and love in evidence in this person's life with respect to his or her committed relationship? That is more important than the gender of the person who is in the committed relationship with the ordinand.

THE NEED FOR A SHARED UNIVERSAL DOCTRINE

Paul Eddy: All Christians are followers of Jesus Christ and take the Bible as the word of God. The Anglican Communion, in its provinces have churches/Christians who, of course, hold different views about the interpretation of scripture. Being "Anglican" means that whilst we hold tensions within our churches, no church/province within that Communion/fellowship is at liberty to make unilateral decisions that will break the fellowship apart, or create division within the church. Whilst the Communion does not have a united Statement of Faith, the Instruments of Communion and the Lambeth Conference and their resolutions have provided the Church with a consensus view on the Communions teachings and doctrine.

Bishop Andrus: While most Christian denominations have moved towards the enshrinement of their beliefs in doctrines, Anglicans have continued to hold to a traditional way of believing that derives their moral guidance from their active worship life. So rather than needing to share a universal doctrine, the Anglican Communion needs to continue to worship together, to share the sacraments together, to be shaped and instructed by Christ in the context of worship. If the Communion undertakes the discipline of common worship the need for universal doctrine is obviated.

THE OBLIGATION TO FOLLOW A UNIVERSAL DOCTRINE

Paul Eddy: National churches are at liberty to reflect on, debate, and discuss theological issues and doctrine, but if they wish to remain in the Communion, the widest possible consultation must happen in advance of a decision by which they themselves may rule themselves out of communion by virtue of that change of policy/doctrine. Therefore, consensus and unity in the church have always been the way in which the historic Apostolic Faith as been decided upon.

Bishop Andrus: Constituent members of the communion, as they make decisions that may have ramifications for the larger Church, must simply bear in mind the good of the whole. This is a very simple idea but if each member of the communion followed it, it would advance the good of the Communion.

ORDINATION OF FEMALE BISHOPS

Paul Eddy: Some parts of the evangelical wings of the Church and certainly the Anglo-Catholic wings would have problems here, although this is generally felt to be a second order issue. There will be diocese/Provinces at Gafcon and Lambeth who will and will not appoint women Bishops.

Bishop Andrus: The ordination of women as priests and bishops is consonant with the doctrine of the incarnation [that humankind is made in the image of God, male and female, Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2] and has greatly enriched the life of the church over the last three decades.

THE NEED TO CONVERT PEOPLE OF OTHER FAITHS

Paul Eddy: The Great Commission [Jesus's instruction to the disciples to spread his teaching] remains as relevant in 2008, whatever the political and religious tensions, as it did 2,000 years ago. The Church in Africa is experiencing huge growth - in Muslim countries among others. It is a Biblical mandate which orthodox churches believe in.

Bishop Andrus: The only need is that which St Paul expressed, that each of us should be ready to give witness to the faith that is within us. St Paul saw no need to seek to convert, but simply to make clear the origins and the dimensions of one's own faith. God leads each of us in the spiritual path that leads to communion with the Divine.





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