Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 09:38 UK

Lambeth Conference: Anglican voices

Church ceiling

Homosexuality and the ordination of women bishops are two of the key issues dividing Anglicans as the communion gathers for the 10-yearly Lambeth Conference.

Here six Anglicans from across the world discuss the key topics facing the Church.

Michelle LaMontagne
Maryland, US

William Aku
Abuja, Nigeria

Bob MacDonald
Victoria, Canada
Stephen
Colchester, UK

Roger Jones
Birmingham, UK

Tonye Osifo
Port Harcourt, Nigeria

MICHELLE LAMONTAGNE, 31, IT CONSULTANT, MARYLAND, US

Michelle LaMontagne
Although I am politically conservative, I go to a liberal church led by a gay priest whose partner is a cantor in the choir.

I think women and gay men should be allowed to be vicars.

People are entitled to their views. Perhaps those who disagree with the ordination of women bishops and gay vicars are more strictly religious. On the other hand, the Bible is quite vague on these points and there is room for personal interpretation.

I don't think a split in the Church would be a bad thing. However, I think our differences can be overcome if individual churches make their own decisions and don't try to impose them on the Anglican Communion as a whole.

The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to adjust to the times. The Anglican Church should stay up to date to remain relevant. Look at The Catholic Church - their views on contraception are so far behind the times.

Acceptance is one of the facets of Christianity and I'm glad that I belong to the branch that embraces it.

WILLIAM AKU, 46, CIVIL SERVANT, NIGERIA

The Church should not be seen as an item of fashion that has to dance with the mood of the times
The main problem facing the Church today is the issue of homosexuality.

I believe that homosexuality is a matter of choice and one's lifestyle. It should not be allowed to interfere with the teachings of Christ.

Once the Church starts to ordain gay people as priests and tries to show them up as models to be emulated by the congregation, then something is wrong. I would not attend a church if I knew the vicar was gay.

I think it was a very bold and commendable decision by the Dr Rowan Williams not to invite the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference. His arrival will only increase the tension which his earlier action generated.

Generally I believe that the Archbishop's leadership is being held hostage by some powerful forces in the US and Canada.

He should put his foot down and allow the Bible to guide him in the direction of Church affairs.

The Church should not be seen as an item of fashion that has to dance with the mood of the times. It should be a beacon or a lightning rod for the measurement of man's adherence to the moral principles ordained by God.

My local church discusses this matter and prays about it daily.

BOB MACDONALD, 62, SOFTWARE DEVELOPER, VICTORIA, CANADA

Bob MacDonald
Anglicans have had the ability to embrace differences in the past.

Perhaps they do not recognise their past strengths at the moment. Problems arise because our Bible has to be read and understood in all its contradictory beauty.

If two people come to me saying they have given their lives to Christ, and that they are gay, I will trust Jesus to teach them his way.

Their love is not unequal or exploiting or violent. So I do not condemn them. They and I may yet have many things to learn together.

The Church needs to find better ways of understanding Christ's acceptance of those that are on first view unacceptable. So it was in the days of Jesus when he said that thieves and prostitutes will enter the kingdom before the religious of his time.

But I think it was a shrewd move not to invite the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson to the conference. The gate remains open for all as it should. The lack of invitation sends a note to those who are troubled by the more liberal camp.

As for the ordination of women bishops, I accept learning and teaching from men and women alike. Just as I have learned from all ages.

The Anglican Church must recognise that there is no 'original autograph' of the texts of the Bibles that we read and we must learn to love the one Lord to whom they point. We must rework the authority structures that oversimplify the complex truth.

STEPHEN, 49, ORGANIST, COLCHESTER, UK

Stephen Hogger
I would be delighted if those Anglicans who are making this fuss broke away.

I am tired of listening to their whingeing about an unimportant subject like homosexuality whilst people in their own countries are starving and dying of Aids.

It's nobody's business but their own who they go to bed with.

I am gay myself, so this might colour my opinion. But I feel that it's simply not a big issue. It is not mentioned frequently in the Bible. Jesus was concerned with healing the sick and feeding the hungry.

I don't feel excluded in my own parish. Not everybody knows I'm gay, but not everyone has to know.

But non-Christians sometimes ask me how I can belong to a faith that objects to my sexuality. And if I sat and thought about what many Anglican leaders have to say on the gay issue, then maybe I would re-consider going to church.

I think it was wrong that the openly gay Gene Robinson was not invited to the conference. He is a Bishop legally consecrated in the Episcopal Church. But he does not do himself justice by "gate crashing" the conference. It would have been better if he had stayed away to remain above this petty bickering.

ROGER JONES, 60, COMPOSER OF CHRISTIAN MUSIC, BIRMINGHAM, UK

Roger Jones
I am very much in favour of the ordination of women.

I don't think that Christ makes a distinction between men and women.

However, we should accept each other's interpretations of scripture and some people think that the Bible argues against women clergy.

The most important thing is that everyone accepts the authority of scripture, even if their interpretations differ.

I am appalled by some of the North American Episcopal activity. Some of my colleagues in Canada who refuse to bless same-sex marriages are being marginalised because of their beliefs.

The result of this is that many of them are leaving the Anglican Communion. They are losing confidence in their leadership.

Gene Robinson's current position is untenable and his presence in the UK at this time is provoking further divisions.

However, I thought the interruption by a heckler during his sermon was unacceptable. It is desperately bad publicity for the Church.

I want to support our Archbishop and stay loyal but we are waiting for clear leadership. I think Rowan Williams should be bold. This would probably mean taking a more conservative stance.

TONYE OSIFO, 37, HUMAN RESOURCES, PORT HARCOURT, NIGERIA

If we need direction, the Bible is very clear
I am a member of the Anglican Church in Nigeria and I stand by the traditionalist Anglican bishops.

There is nothing in the Bible saying that women can't lead the congregation, but the Bible tells us that God created Adam and Eve.

If he wanted homosexual partnerships, he would have created two Adams and two Eves and asked us to pair up as we pleased.

If we need direction, the Bible is very clear. I expect the clergy to live by the teachings of the Bible and to be above reproach.

I get the impression that the Archbishop of Canterbury doesn't do much praying. He should go back to the one he represents, and say to him: "Father, I don't want to lose my flock, what should I do?"

When you are bringing up a child you shouldn't bring them up as a friend. If you want to give proper direction you need to be firm.

There is so much permissiveness in our society because no one wants to give orders. The Church is trying to please too many people.


Your comments:

Change is inevitable in any society. However, it must be understood that the church, and thus religion, is one of the institutions that serve as a repository for the ideational culture of society. It by so doing ensures that changes ocurring the society do not lead to social decline. If pleasure seekers of today now want the church to bear the torch of the sensate culture, then it tells us the extent to which society is fast decaying. Perhaps we may need a different kind of institution or force to bring it back from the brink of total collapse.
Samuel Bekoe, Winneba, Ghana

I think that one thing that's being forgotten or just plain dismissed is that the Scriptures do indeed tell us to love one another. And Christ said, too, Love the sinner, NOT the sin. That relations outside the bonds of marriage were wrong, that we were to be truly repentant and try and turn round. Not go and re-translate until it says what we want it to.
Teri, Dover, USA

I spent a year in Jerusalem and attended every imaginable service including the Greek Ceremony of The Holy fire and Christmas in Bethlehem. I came to believe that the priest at Communion represented Christ and therefore should be male. A woman can take all other services.
Kenneth Haselock, Beauly Inverness-shire

Mmm, these are good comments which have been made. I feel that it's important to hear the different voices. And also to see that there are many ways to be Christian. Perhaps we're a totality of plurality! But unity is important. How it's arrived at time will tell. I wrote myself to Archbishop Rowan Williams who stands at the head of the Communion. He has a job on his hands I reckon; and good luck to him.
Alan Jennings, Tayport, Fife, UK

I agree with Tonye. Why aren't our church leaders reading the Bible, the inspired Word of God and doing what is printed in it? God's Word is plain and simple; just as simple as having eternal life
Vickie, USA

The great story of the Bible is that of God's love for all creation including humanity; Jesus never spoke about homosexuality at all but urged all to care deeply for justice. In the world we live in there are terrible injustices and cruelties and to focus on sexuality or whether women can be priests or bishops seems deplorably to miss the calling to serve the world in the name of God's love.
Carol Stone, Berkeley, California USA

I joined the Anglican Church because it seemed to be a church which was open to change. Individual churches and parishes who close their doors to individuals for any reason - gender, sexuality, - do so at their peril. If the communion splits over the gay issue, then so be it. I do not want to be associated with a church frozen in time and ideology.
Allan Rutherford, New Germany Nova Scotia Canada

Sometimes I just get amused when people in the western world try to defend what is not right unhealthy and against all religious norms.
Ikiroma-Owiye, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

As an outsider, I find it incomprehensible how the Anglican Church can *not* embrace gay people. Christ was very clear in his message about love and tolerance. The Old Testament has a few passages condemning homosexuality, but then it also has passages condoning slavery, stoning and other things that the Anglican Church does not condone.
Lars Clausen, Århus, Denmark

As a Christian we are to embrace homosexuals or any sector that are social outcasts. However voting them into leadership seems strange. We are not here to judge that is for God alone but we are to attempt to live by his word.
A.Baker, Hamilton, Bermuda

I am a Christian but not an Anglican and in the eyes of many other denominations the Anglican church is a joke. It's trying to be two churches at one time - and is failing. They should just split, time will tell which one got it right. What they have now isn't unity - the only thing that unites them is that they share the same battlefield.
Nicholas Bye, United Kingdom





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