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Statement of the Bishops of the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia On the Confirmation of the Revd Canon Dr. Gene Robinson as Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church USA
13TH AUGUST 2003
It is with grave concern and deep sadness that, we in the Province of the Anglican Church in South East Asia received the news of the confirmation by the House of Bishops of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United State of America (ECUSA) of the election of the Revd Canon Dr Gene Robinson as Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. This is the first known practising homosexual person to be elected Bishop in the Church of God, in spite of the sincere godly counsel and advice made by many, not least the Archbishop of Canterbury himself and many Primates of the Provinces of the Communion.
It is most disheartening that the House of Bishops of the ECUSA, though knowing the gravity of the matter, did not deem it necessary to seriously seek and consult the wider body of the Communion. While the principle of autonomous local governance in provincial and diocesan life and mission is well understood and respected, the issue at hand is clearly more than "local" in nature in an absolute independent sense. We surmise that the ECUSA was fully conscious that their act of endorsing the said election of Gene Robinson could in all probability result in severely impairing and causing irreparable damage in communion. Notwithstanding that, the ECUSA sadly and appallingly went ahead to test this resolve in its callous process of non consultation.
The said confirmation therefore seriously raises the question of
ECUSA's genuine commitment to our corporate responsibility as members of the church catholic to uphold and promote only the Apostolic Faith and Order inherited. A natural, holistic and consistent reading of the Scriptures clearly show that it is against the practice of homosexuality. In the context of orthodox and classical Christianity, the canonical authority of the Scriptures is taken to be recognised and received by the community of faith and not subject to majority, culturally relevant or even theological voting.
This act of the ECUSA cannot but be seen as arrogant, with total
disregard and contempt for the sacramental unity of the Communion. This is especially so when seen in light of the following:
(a) the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality of 1997; (b) the overwhelming endorsement of Resolution I.10 of the Lambeth Conference in 1998; (c) the unanimous endorsement of all the Anglican Primates present, including that of the ECUSA, of the Pastoral Letter issued at the end of their recent meeting in May 2003 in Brazil against approving liturgy for same sex union; (d) the considered withdrawal of the Revd Canon Dr Jeffrey John of his appointment as the Suffragan Bishop of Oxford only this last month for the welfare and unity of the Communion.
It is further hurtful, even insulting, when certain Bishops in the
ECUSA, as well as some Primates in other Provinces, frivolously espouse the view that the issue at stake in the said endorsement is not so serious as to warrant a breakdown or schism in communion relationship. There appears to be a misplaced confidence that this grievous matter will simply tide over in due course given the Anglican genius in holding contradictions together.
As such, we believe that consistency, integrity and honour, premised on our conviction of the Spirit-inspired, and tradition-tested interpretation of the, biblical and Apostolic faith and life, requires us to honestly and courageously accept that by this said act of endorsement, the ECUSA has initiated and caused a real breach in communion. The ECUSA should therefore honourably exclude itself from continuing in sacramental communion with the rest of the Communion. We realize that this is painful both to us and to ECUSA.
While we share deep grief and pain, we also give thanks to the Lord for the courage and faithfulness of those who voted against the said election in the various Houses of the recent Convention of the ECUSA in order to keep faith with the Communion by upholding the sacramental unity and witness of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We shall continue to be in full communion with them and other faithful Christians in the ECUSA by affirming them in their courageous witness to the truth and grace of the faith once delivered. We shall do all that is appropriate and necessary to support them in their ecclesiastical life and mission within the USA.
We, the Bishops, on behalf of the clergy and people of the Province of Anglican Church in South East Asia, resolve to strengthen our pastoral care with biblical sensitivity to those who are facing genuine struggles in human sexuality. We submit ourselves to God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit for renewal and strength to truly help those who are in such struggles so that by the grace of God, they are enabled to experience real freedom and fulfillment which can only be found in Christ alone.
It is our sincere prayer that the ECUSA will even at this late stage
seriously reconsider to amend and reverse their decision of endorsement for the welfare of the sacramental union and mission of the Communion thereby making it possible to begin the restoration of our full fellowship together.
The Most Rev. Datuk Yong Ping Chung - Bishop of Sabah, Primate SEA;
The Rt. Rev. Datuk Made Katib - Bishop of Kuching;
The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Chew - Bishop of Singapore;
The Rt. Rev. Tan Sri Dr. Lim Cheng Ean - Bishop of West Malaysia;
The Rt. Rev. Yong Cheng Fah - Asst. Bishop of Sabah;
The Rt. Rev. Bolly Lapok - Asst. Bishop of Kuching;
The Rt. Rev. Moses Ponniah - Asst. Bishop of West Malaysia