The Listening Process

Reports from the Provinces - Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil.

The bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil (IEAB) issued a pastoral letter in 1999 setting out a considered reflection on the Lambeth Conference of 1998.

The Pastoral letter declared sexuality as a great gift of God which could be misused through promiscuity both straight and gay. The bishops were careful to stress that the welcome of the church was for all regardless of race, culture, social class or sexual orientation. The witness of the Word made flesh and the Holy Spirit leads the church especially to welcome the outcasts of society as well as to affirm the holiness of men and women in holy matrimony.

The bishops also saw how sexuality is an integral part of human life and is linked to affection in mutual relationships. This biblical standards as love and justice are integral to a Christian understanding of life in community. The bishops did not see that the Lambeth Conference had eliminated the confusions about human sexuality and recognised that some provinces saw all same sex relationships as sinful while others adopted a more contextualised attitude. They said “Studies of the factors that contribute to different understandings in relation to homosexuality continue, and as bishops we recommend dialogue, common sense, and pastoral concern for persons of homosexual orientation in the community”. They understood that the Communion was still pondering the matter of homosexuality.

The Bible was seen as condemning certain homosexual acts but the bishops called for  a sophisticated hermeneutic making allowance for cultural assumptions.

The pastoral letter concluded with a call for an educational and pastoral program of study for guidance about human sexuality taking account of Scripture, science and the experience of the Anglican tradition.

This was followed up by two consultations. These were both held in Rio  in 2002 and 2004. The group gathered from 5 of the 9 dioceses of Brazil entered into the wide ranging program envisaged by the Bishop’s Pastoral letter. They exchanged testimonies as well as entering to study of the scriptures and science. They reflected no only upon the resolution of Lambeth 1998 but also of the two previous Lambeth Conferences. Gay voices were heard within the consultation.

They came to this conclusion:

From the biblical and theological point of view, human sexuality is a gift of God for all people. The liberation of all people is the main theological focus of the process of exodus, and of Jesus' ministry. God loves us unconditionally as we are, with all our differences and imperfections. This love is manifested in Jesus Christ, and it leads us to love and care for all his creation. To love God is to love our neighbour (I Jo. 4.20-21), therefore, any kind of exclusion contains worms of death. Love is inclusion and life in its fullness (Jo.10.10).

They call for further study in the dioceses and made this observation about the calling of the IEAB:

It is fundamental that the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil exercise its inclusive vocation letting itself embrace with love and entirely those people rejected and aborted by the society. For this reason, we assume the pastoral ethic of grace and blessing of God, while rejecting the principle of exclusion implicit in the ethic of sin and impurity which causes division amongst human beings.

The second consultation involved people of different perspectives, theological postures and pastoral and life experiences. They affirmed that human sexuality is a gift from God and that they were proud to be a church which emphasised the inclusivity of the Kingdom of God. They called for unity. They affirmed: “that any and all public exposure of the sexual orientation of any person as a prerequisite for membership or to serve in ordained or lay ministries is a serious violation of this privacy”. And concluded with these words:

In the name of Christ who freed all of us, poor and rich, clergypersons and laypersons, men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, we sign this letter in the hope that it may symbolize new horizons for our Church and make it more human, more in solidarity, and more inclusive and loving.