Anglicans Fully Open Human Sexuality Talks

The Anglican Communion has fully opened discussions and study on human sexuality on Tuesday when it made individual reports from member churches across the globe available on the Internet.

Called "The Listening Process," a 1998 mandate has led to the culmination of months of work on drawing upon public statements and research into the controversial issue of homosexuality. Each of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces have released summaries on the matter for the entire Communion to study.

"In the cultures of Central Africa homosexuality is not something talked about. It is known in the prisons and cases are reported to those in authority. It is also known in the community, but it is often not acknowledged or named and when it is named, it is named negatively," stated the report by the Church of the Province of Central Africa.

The African province indicated that it is beginning to consider how it might enter into a listening process to the experience of homosexuals and other Anglican churches and that it should not be a hurried process.

Archbishop the Most Rev. Dr. B. A. Malango made the church's position clear, stating that the listening process is vital "not because we want to compromise our position rather hoping that we will reach a point to understand one another for the sake of witnessing a redemptive wrought in the Anglican Communion."

Controversy in the Anglican Communion heightened when the Episcopal Church - the U.S. wing of Anglicanism - consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2003. Conservative Anglican leaders, particularly from the African continent, have called for "true repentance" from the U.S. church in response to a 2004 moratorium on consecrating gays and blessing same-sex unions. While the moratorium was reaffirmed last month at a global meeting in Tanzania, Episcopal leaders have continuously expressed their support for the "full inclusion" of homosexual persons.

As the Episcopal Church faces a Sept. 30 deadline to respond to what reports indicate as an ultimatum - which calls the U.S. body to halt its march toward full acceptance of gays or risk a much-reduced role in the Anglican family - U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori believes the Episcopalians have a "gift" to change other people's understandings of gays and lesbians.

Dialogue on human sexuality in the Communion has gone on for decades as the Anglican churches seek understanding amid increasing acceptance of gay lifestyles in societies. In 1998, the Lambeth Conference made a commitment to "listen to the experience of homosexual persons."

While calling Anglican people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation, the listening process does not mean that the Anglican churches accept the position of those they are listening to, the Communion clarifies.

"However, it does mean that we seek to hear God speaking to us and discover his will. It does require that we offer respect and, perhaps change the way in which we speak."

Wanting to give homosexual persons, conservatives, liberals, and those uncertain a "safe place" to voice their experiences, the Anglican Communion chose the Internet as its venue for wide response from Anglicans all over the world.

Summaries of every Anglican province's stance are now available online and available across the Communion for study and reflection. A Study Guide on "The Process of Listening to Gay and Lesbian people and Mutual Listening on Human Sexuality" is being prepared for next year's decennial Lambeth Conference.

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