Bible isn’t a rule book and can’t be taken at face value, says Morgan
THE Archbishop of Wales yesterday won the applause of gay rights activists and dismayed conservatives when he rejected a plan intended to stop the Anglican communion splitting.
Today he and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams are flying to New Orleans where they will meet American bishops at the heart of the controversy over homosexuality.
Conservatives around the world were outraged in 2003 when the US church elected Gene Robinson – who had divorced his wife and was in a relationship with another man – as a bishop.
The controversial “Anglican Covenant” – a peace plan to keep disparate elements of the Anglican church united – is seen as one way in which trust between Anglicans the world over might be renewed and common identity and inheritance asserted.
Critics say it could limit the freedom of individual branches to take decisions about doctrine.
A draft report has been circulated to Anglican Provinces for them to comment by the end of 2007.
The final version of the Covenant will be sent to the Provinces after the Lambeth Conference 2008 for formal debate and response.
But before jetting off to the US, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, told the Governing Body of the Church in Wales at a meeting in Lampeter yesterday that the covenant could leave Anglicans with different views on homosexuality no option but to leave the communion.
Dr Morgan said, “The original intention of a covenant to affirm the bonds of affection, was good. The indications now are that many see it as a contract, a means of ensuring a uniform view on human sexuality enforceable by the threat of exclusion from the Communion if one does not conform. I certainly do not want to sign up to that kind of covenant.”
He added, “The Lambeth quadrilateral of scripture, creeds, sacraments and historic episcopate are no longer sufficient credentials for being an Anglican. A particular view of human sexuality is also required.
“That devalues scripture by restricting its moral values simply to what it might be saying about sexual relationships and turns the Bible into a kind of rule book where texts can be wrestled out of context.”
Dr Morgan denied that the Bible could be taken at face value.
He said, “There is a difference between taking scripture seriously and taking it literally or as being inerrant or infallible. The books of the Bible are the inspired response to revelation, but the responses are fallible, and responses are not identical with the revelation for the ‘word of God comes to us through the words of men’ to quote one theologian.”
The Rev George Curry, the chairman of the conservative evangelical Church Society, said that if the Archbishop did not accept the authority of the Bible he should “do the honourable thing and step down and resign”.
He said, “We are right in the middle of a debate which is, are we going to be ruled by the Bible or not? For 2,000 years the Church has made it clear that same sex relationships are wrong.”
Meanwhile the Rev Richard Kirker, the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, applauded Dr Morgan’s stand. He said, “The covenant is fatally flawed. We must learn to live with differences and not have different classes of Anglicans.”
Mr Kirker said the church had changed its opinion on issues relating to gender and ethnicity without rupturing in the past and could do so again.
At this week’s New Orleans conference bishops from around the world will discuss the future of the 77 million member communion. Increasing numbers of American conservative Anglican churches have chosen to place themselves under the authority of African bishops opposed to homosexuality.