Those portions of Scripture that condemn homosexual behaviour as sinful are not relevant to the mission and ministry of the Church today, the Brazilian House of Bishops said in a Pastoral Letter on Human Sexuality.
Divine revelation is an unfolding process that makes itself known to the community of believers as it is played out across time, the bishops said following their December meeting in Porto Alegre. There is no single truth, they argued, but a process of culturally conditioned truths that reveals itself through a collaborative” process of the church “using its ‘sense of reality’ and ‘good common sense’ formed by faith and by life experience.”
“This principle defines that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world in himself.’ Anything the Bible says that is not related to the essence of such Revelation is secondary, which means it is part of the culture and customs of those who were instruments of God for writing Scriptural texts,” the Brazilian bishops wrote.
“To us, the Bible is the Word of God in the sense of a message from God and not something dictated by God. And that is why, throughout the centuries, the Church discerns what is essential and what is secondary – what is Divine Revelation and what is human mediation, always connected to each time and culture.” Because this “discernment is not simply done through the opinions of individuals or groups,” the decision by Brazilian evangelicals in the Diocese of Recife to withdraw from the Brazilian Church over the majority view of scriptural interpretation was un-Anglican, they argued.
The Brazilian bishops condemned those “among us schismatic and disaggregating elements that cannot admit that there are in the Anglican Communion streams that diverge from their way of thinking.” While they respected the courage of their convictions, the “virtue of tolerance” and “full inclusion” could not permit dissent from these mandates, they argued. Because the question of human sexuality had not been conclusively settled, they believed, the church must foster a “respect for differences of opinion related to questions that are not essential” to the life of the Church.
In a second letter released following the House of Bishops meeting, Archbishop MaurÃcio de Andrade stated that he had told the Primate of the Southern Cone, Bishop Gregory Venables, that he was willing to establish a “conversation” with Recife Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti in order to reconcile the breakaway diocese. However, “nothing happened,” the Brazilian archbishop said. When queried by The Church of England Newspaper, Bishop Venables confirmed that he had spoken with Archbishop de Andrade about the Brazilian schism during the Dar es Salaam primates meeting, but the Brazilian church had so far declined to engage with Dr. Cavalcanti.
–This article appears on page 6 of the March 14, 2008 edition of the Church of England Newspaper