By David W. Virtue
CANTERBURY (July 22)--Sixty bishops broke ranks over homosexuality last night in a closed section meeting on the Call to a Full Humanity here at Lambeth.
More than 40 bishops from around the world refused to hear a presentation from a British Gay organization called Changing Attitudes on homosexuality. This organization is transdenominational and is headed by Colin Coward a former Anglican priest.
One bishop compared homosexual acts to bestiality. Another South African bishop said they might as well talk about child abuse. Another questioned why people who have been healed could not speak to the group.
A conservative American bishop, speaking off the record, said that a motion to have a speaker from the organization was denied. "If homosexuals can speak, then why not have those who have been healed from homosexuality or those homosexuals who live celibately, speak to the group."
The section which was headed by the Bishop of Johannesburg Duncan Buchanan described himself as "shell shocked by the ferocity and emotion of the African and Asian bishops who oppose homosexuality."
He is considered a liberal bishop on sexual issues.
The Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries said a distinction should be made between homosexual orientation and behavior. This same bishop has also gone on record to lower the age of consent for homosexuals to 16 from 18.
The revisionist bishop of Newark, NJ John Spong who was present, said about 60 bishops were present and two thirds of them voted down the presentation. "It was cancelled." Spong said that one African bishop described homosexuality as "the white disease" though this could not be confirmed.
An unofficial meeting might be held later to have the views of the gays expressed, said Spong.
Spong said a minority report is being prepared and had the signatures of at least 88 bishops.
This is the first sign of a split among the 739 bishops here at Lambeth and bodes ill in the days ahead.
Bishops Cancel Gay Event
The Independent Newspaper (July 22nd)
By Clare Garner at Lambeth
A presentation by a group of ordained lesbian, gay and bi-sexual Christians to the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, scheduled for today, has been cancelled at the last minute in the face of fierce opposition from senior clergy.
The decision to repress the presentation was taken at a section meeting on Tuesday night which took place behind closed doors. One bishop asked why, if they were discussing homosexuality, they were not discussing bestiality and child abuse, too.
The Bishop of Johannesburg, the Rt Rev Duncan Buchanan, who had arranged the presentation, was said to be "shell shocked" by the extreme reaction.
The Rev Colin Coward, an openly gay priest who runs Changing Attitudes, the organisation invited to do the presentation, said yesterday: "The meeting last night was so traumatic that it was decided by Duncan Buchanan that the presentation wouldn't work.
"He was deeply emotionally affected by the strength and ferocity of feelings and the dynamic of the group." The presentation was to have been by 20 ordained gay and lesbian Christians, seven of whom were going to speak of their personal experiences. Afterwards there was going to be up to 45 minutes of questioning.
However, Bishops at the section meeting voted two-thirds in favour of cancelling today's presentation.
The Rt Rev John Spong, the ultra-liberal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, said it was a discouraging meeting. "Sixty bishops voted Duncan Buchanan down and they don't even want to talk to gays. One African bishop said 'Why don't we discuss bestiality and child abuse if we're going to discuss homosexuality?'
"They impugned the integrity of Duncan Buchanan."
A Conservative American bishop said: "Several bishops said that if there were to be homosexuals speaking we should also have people who live a celibate lifestyle, or have been healed of homosexuality."