As we enter the season of Epiphany we rejoice in the splendour of the light that has dawned upon us in the appearance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Yet it is a great sadness that before the New Year has hardly begun, the life of the Anglican Communion has yet again been clouded by compromise with the secular preoccupations of the West.
The decision by the Church of England’s House of Bishops, just announced, that clergy in Civil Partnerships can be eligible to serve as bishops will create further confusion about Anglican moral teaching and make restoring unity to the Communion an even greater challenge.
The provisions of the UK’s Civil Partnership legislation mimic marriage for same sex couples and are clearly designed on the assumption that such couples are sexually active. While it is true that the House of Bishops require bishops with Civil Partners to be celibate, this proviso is clearly unworkable. It is common knowledge that active homosexuality on the part of Church of England clergy is invariably overlooked and in such circumstances it is very difficult to imagine anyone being brought to book.
However, the heart of the matter is not enforceability, but that bishops have a particular responsibility to be examples of godly living. It cannot be right that they are able to enter into legally recognised relationships which institutionalise and condone behaviour that is completely contrary to the clear and historic teaching of Scripture, as reaffirmed for Anglicans by the 1998 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 1.10.
The weight of this moral teaching cannot be supported by a flimsy proviso. In his teaching about marriage, Jesus reaffirms that marriage is the coming together of a man and a woman in accordance with the pattern of creation itself when he says ”˜from the beginning of creation God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). For the health and well being of both church and society we must promote this great God given gift of marriage without compromise and ambiguity.
The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman, GAFCON Primates Council.