After two weeks of discussions behind closed doors, the bishops in the section dealing with sexuality have produced a report which owns up to the divisions within the Church on homosexuality.
The bishops fall into four main categories, according to the report. They are: "Those who believe homosexual orientation is a disorder, but that through the grace of Christ people can be changed, although not without pain and struggle; those who believe that relationships between people of the same gender should not include genital expression, that this is the clear teaching of the Bible and of the Church universal, and that such activity (if unrepented of) is a barrier to the Kingdom of God;
"Those who believe that committed homosexual relationships fall short of the biblical norm, but are to be preferred to relationships that are anonymous and transient; and those who believe that the Church should accept and support or bless monogamous covenant relationships between homosexual people and that they may be ordained."
The report, which will be put before all 750 bishops at the Lambeth Conference next week, underlines the depth of division on homosexuality. Some would say it is a miracle it was discussed at all, given the extreme sentiments involved. African bishops threatened to walk out of the conference when asked to sit through a presentation by gay, lesbian and bi-sexual Christians. In the event, the presentation was cancelled.
One African bishop asked why, if they were discussing homosexuality, they were not also considering bestiality and child abuse. However, his views did not prevail, and homosexuality was not included in a list of "expressions of sexuality" the Church deems "inherently contrary to the Christian way" and "sinful." Such expressions were listed as including: "Promiscuity, incest, pornography, paedophilia, predatory sexual behaviour, sadomasochism (all of which may be heterosexual and homosexual), adultery, violence against wives, and female circumcision."
Despite some African bishops' insistence that homosexuality is "a white man's disease", the report acknowledges "there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation" without further qualification. Indeed, the report welcomes such people into the Church. "We wish to assure them that they are loved by God, and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ."