Category Archives: GLBT

The Scarlet Letter “A”

IMG_0038The news of the past couple of days regarding children of same-sex partners reminds me of a lecture I heard years ago in a Church History class as a student at Brigham Young University back in 1993 or 1994, taught by a fairly prominent Mormon Church historian.

The lecture was about the Word of Wisdom, the Mormon law prohibiting the use of alcohol, tobacco and “hot drinks.” It was given as just that, a word of wisdom (you’d be wise to follow it) and not a commandment. In the early church, it was considered a “higher law”. One could choose to live the Word of Wisdom, and in some cases more prominent figures were called to live it. The same was true for polygamy and the Law of Consecration. No one was required, but some were called by Joseph Smith and, later, Brigham Young to live a higher calling by following one or more of those laws.

Some lived the Word of Wisdom, others did not. In 1933, when it came time to vote on repealing Prohibition, the President of the Church counseled that Utahns should vote in favor of keeping Prohibition. Utah was the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition. Shortly thereafter, the Word of Wisdom became a requirement to receive a temple recommend. In my professor’s words, more or less (it was over 20 years ago, but I distinctly remember the sentiment and tone of her voice), “He said, ‘Fine. Because you didn’t vote the way I told you to vote, you’ll have to follow the Word of Wisdom from now on if you want to go to the temple.’ And that’s how the Word of Wisdom became a commandment.”

My Mormon BYU-student mind was blown! The very idea that a “word of wisdom” became a commandment not through revelation from God but by what I could only see as spite astounded me.

I was reminded of this because I see direct parallels between this and the new policy about children with gay parents. Because the external fight to keep the law of the land on their side was unsuccessful, it is now focusing internally. In both cases, they tried to influence state and federal statutes to support their theology. In both cases, they lost. And now, in both cases, they doubled-down internally.

I can only guess that the leadership thinks they are doing this with the best intentions. They say they are doing it to protect the children and prevent discord in families with gay parents. However, labeling active homosexuals as “apostates” is a pretty dramatic thing in Mormon-dom. You might as well slap a scarlet letter “A” on them. “Apostate” is about as bad as it can get.

The children of gay parents (or as the new policy says, “a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship”, which to me is clearly different from a child being raised by a gay couple) are already excluded by association. The question among some now is, “At what point will my association and support of my gay son/daughter/brother/sister/uncle/aunt/friend exclude me?” “Will attending a gay friend’s wedding constitute support or advocacy of apostates?”


Despite what some consider the best of intentions, for others it has created fear–fear that their eternal salvation may be jeopardized by their association, love and support for their gay family members and friends. And worse, fear that they will be excluded and labeled “apostate” themselves. This is especially true for Mormon youth and young adults struggling to reconcile their gay feelings with their church’s teachings. I can tell you from personal experience that the internal struggle alone is enough to drive one to contemplate suicide. Possibly being labeled “apostate” only exacerbates the anxiety.

That, in my opinion, is an egregious abuse of power.


What a difference a day makes

Yesterday afternoon when I read the news about ++Williams not inviting +Robinson and +Minns to Lambeth 2008, I was, to put it mildly, disturbed. There was a lot of anger towards ++Rowan for doing this, and I struggled to differentiate between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church. I had to keep reminding myself that nothing has changed in the Episcopal Church as a result of ++Rowan’s decision…at least not yet.

Today, I’m giving the man a little credit and trying to look at the strategy behind it. Maybe he’s trying to force an end to the debate. Maybe he’s tired of all the bickering and threats of leaving the Communion, and is ready for someone to actually make good on their threats. (Frankly, I am too, but that’s just my opinion.)

Maybe he is just concerned about preserving the Communion, and saw no other way to get the important players together in discussion. After all, we all know that ++Akinola would never show up knowing that he’d actually have to enter into discussion with a gay man! Heaven forbid that in discussing homosexuality in the Anglican Communion that you might actually have to talk to a couple of us.

Time Magazine posted a good analysis on their website yesterday
. It seems, though, that it was posted before ++Akinola’s “reaction”. He has already said that no one from Nigeria will be attending Lambeth 2008 unless +Minns (who they are calling a Nigerian bishop, which I suppose is “technically” true) is invited.

So, now we’re back to square one. Nothing really has been resolved, and a lot of feelings have been hurt.

Here’s my prediction: No matter what happens, ++Akinola will refuse to go unless the Episcopal Church either removes +Robinson (which won’t happen), or the entire House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church is disinvited. He’s already said that there is no point in discussing it any further. I see two possibilities–he will not go to Lambeth (at which time we’ll see just how much of the Global South sticks by him), or he will refuse to go until the last minute when he realizes he’ll lose whatever power he’s assumed in the Anglican Communion. Then he’ll show up and continue to make a big stink.

Either way, I see a smaller Anglican Communion in the next year or so, but it will be nice to put an end to this and concentrate on what’s really important in the world–like, oh, social injustice, equality, things like that.

Integrity Outraged At Canterbury’s Choice Of Bigotry And Discrimination Rther Than Inclusion Of Bishop Gene Robinson

620 Park Avenue #311 Rochester, NY 14607-2943

May 22, 2007

“Integrity is outraged and appalled,” said Integrity President Susan Russell. “This is not only a snub of Bishop Gene Robinson but an affront to the entire U.S. Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury has allowed himself to be blackmailed by forces promoting bigotry and exclusion in the Anglican Communion. This action shows a disgraceful lack of leadership on Williams’ part.”

“Integrity calls on all the bishops and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference. It is purported to be a conference representing bishops from the whole Anglican Communion. That can’t happen when Rowan Williams aligns himself with those in the Communion such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who violate human rights while explicitly excluding gay and lesbian voices from their midst,” Russell said. “Our bishops must ask themselves this question: ‘Is complicity in discrimination a price they are willing to pay for a two-week trip to Canterbury?'”

Integrity is currently contacting the leadership of the Episcopal Church and consulting with our progressive allies about this situation. We expect to make an additional statement in the near future.


The Rev. Susan Russell, President
714-356-5718 (mobile)
626-583-2741 (office)

Mr. John Gibson, Director of Communications
917-518-1120 (mobile)

Bishop Gene Robinson not invited to Lambeth Conference!! :(

Decision on Lambeth Conference invitations draws reaction

[Episcopal News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to withhold a small number of invitations to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops drew reaction as soon as the announcement was made public May 22.The once-a-decade gathering of Anglican Communion bishops is due to be held July 16-August 4 at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. About 880 invitations are being sent out from the Archbishop, Dr. Rowan Williams.

The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, confirmed to Episcopal News Service that Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and Martyn Minns, bishop of the Church of Nigeria-founded Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) are among the “small number of bishops” who have not been invited to the 2008 conference.

Robinson is one of the few duly elected bishops who did not receive an invitation, Kearon said. Williams “intends to explore how Robinson might be present as a guest to the conference,” but he is not contemplating inviting Minns at all, Kearon added.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori sent a short e-mail message to the House of Bishops urging “a calm approach to today’s announcement regarding 2008 Lambeth Conference invitations, a subject on which I plan to make no formal statement at this time. It is possible that aspects of this matter may change in the next 14 months, and the House of Bishops’ September meeting offers us a forum for further discussion.”

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson also issued a short statement saying that “the Episcopal Church elects bishops and consents to the election of bishops in a democratic and participatory manner. The process is carried out within our Constitution and Canons, both at the General Convention and in our dioceses. The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson is a duly elected and consecrated bishop of this Church. Not inviting him to the Lambeth Conference causes serious concern to The Episcopal Church.”

The House of Deputies in 2003 consented (Resolution C045) to Robinson’s election, as did the House of Bishops.

In a statement issued on the New Hampshire diocese’s website, Robinson said he felt “great disappointment” at not being invited.

“At a time when the Anglican Communion is calling for a ‘listening process’ on the issue of homosexuality, it makes no sense to exclude gay and lesbian people from that conversation,” he said. “It is time that the Bishops of the Anglican Communion stop talking about gay and lesbian people and start talking with us.”

In 2005, the Primates acknowledged that Robinson had been duly elected according to the canons and constitutions of the Episcopal Church, Kearon told ENS.

However, he explained that Williams could not ignore the “widespread objection to Robinson’s ministry in many parts of the Communion” or ignore the advice given in the Windsor Report (paragraph 133), that calls on the Archbishop of Canterbury “to exercise very considerable caution in inviting or admitting [Robinson] to the councils of the Communion.”

“So the Archbishop has not issued Gene Robinson with an invitation, but he intends to explore how he might be present as a guest to the conference,” Kearon said, noting that the details of what it would mean for a bishop to be a guest at the Lambeth Conference have yet to be worked out.

Robinson said he appreciated the acknowledgement that he is a duly elected and consecrated bishop of the Church, but added that “the refusal to include me among all the other duly elected and consecrated Bishops of the Church is an affront to the entire Episcopal Church.”

“This is not about Gene Robinson, nor the Diocese of New Hampshire,” he said. “It is about the American Church and its relationship to the Communion. It is for The Episcopal Church to respond to this challenge, and in due time, I assume we will do so. In the meantime, I will pray for Archbishop Rowan and our beloved Anglican Communion.”

Minns also issued a statement via the CANA website saying that “a great deal can and will happen before next July.”

“While the immediate attention is focused on the invitation list, it should be remembered that this crisis in the Anglican Communion is not about a few individual bishops but about a worldwide Communion that is torn at its deepest level,” he said. “This point was made repeatedly at the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam. Depending on the response of The Episcopal Church to the Primates’ Communiqué by September 30, the situation may become even more complex.”

Meanwhile, according to a posting on the website Anglican Mainstream, Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, said that withholding an invitation to Minns “will be viewed as withholding invitation to the entire House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria.”

He did note that “since only the first set of invitations had been sent, it is premature to conclude who will be present or absent at the conference.”

Akinola also said that his church is committed to the “Road to Lambeth” report commissioned in 2006 by the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). That report said that the Anglican Communion faced “a crisis of doctrine and a crisis of leadership, in which the failure of the ‘Instruments’ of the Communion to exercise discipline has called into question the viability of the Anglican Communion as a united Christian body under a common foundation of faith.”

In the report, the CAPA Primates said “we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened.”

“There is no point, in our view, in meeting and meeting and not resolving the fundamental crisis of Anglican identity,” the report said. “We will definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of the Lambeth Resolution are also invited as participants or observers.”

Akinola’s comments were not immediately available on the Church of Nigeria’s website.

Minns was elected for his post in North America by the Nigerian House of Bishops and consecrated August 20, 2006 at the National Christian Centre (formerly National Ecumenical Centre) in Abuja, Nigeria, with three other bishops-elect. Akinola traveled to Virginia on May 5 to install Minns in his post, despite objections from Jefferts Schori and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Kearon said that breakaway groups such as the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) and CANA had been grouped together. Neither the AMiA nor CANA is officially recognized as a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, Kearon explained.

“In 2000, when the consecrations took place in Singapore on behalf of AMiA, at that time Archbishop George Carey said in a letter that he could not accept the consecrations as regular and that he would not regard himself as being in Communion with the bishops consecrated,” he said. “The Primates, meeting in Oporto in 2000, also distanced themselves from these consecrations and affirmed the content of Carey’s letter.”

The AMiA’s Council of Bishops is listed here. Minns is listed on CANA’s website as the organization’s founding bishop. Retired Diocese of Albany Bishop David Bena is listed as a suffragan bishop while three other Anglican bishops are assigned various titles.

Kearon also confirmed that there are a small number of bishops who have not been invited to the Lambeth Conference whose status is still under scrutiny in their own diocese or province and that “those represent local issues and have nothing to do with the Windsor Report.”

Asked whether Nolbert Kunonga, the controversial Bishop of Harare, Zimbabwe, had been invited, Kearon said that there has been a lot of speculation about that, but “it is not far wrong.”

Kunonga has been criticized for his open support for Zimbawean President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party. Zimbabwe is reeling under an economic meltdown with the official inflation rate above 1,700 percent, high unemployment and the majority of the 13 million population unable to afford to properly feed themselves.

Kunonga met with Williams and Central Africa Archbishop Bernard Malango March 7 during which they urged him to develop “an independent voice for the church in response to these challenges.”

The Rev. Susan Russell, the president of IntegrityUSA, said that her organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Episcopalians and their supporters, is “outraged and appalled” at Williams’ decision not to invite Robinson. She suggested that the Episcopal Church’s bishops ought “to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference.”

“This is not only a snub of Bishop Gene Robinson but an affront to the entire U.S. Episcopal Church,” Russell said in part. “The Archbishop of Canterbury has allowed himself to be blackmailed by forces promoting bigotry and exclusion in the Anglican Communion. This action shows a disgraceful lack of leadership on Williams’ part.”

The complete IntegrityUSA statement is available here.

The Anglican Communion Office sent an electronic version of Williams’ letter of invitation May 22 to those bishops for whom the office has e-mail addresses. The letter will be sent by mail over the next week or two, Kearon said.

Letters of invitation will soon be sent out to ecumenical guests and to bishops’ spouses, who are invited to participate in a program — led by Williams’ wife, Jane — which will run parallel to the Lambeth Conference.

— Matthew Davies is editor of Episcopal Life Online and international correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.