Almost a year after a very public row between the Canadian Primate and a Church of England bishop over the role sexuality will play at Lambeth, the gap between the prelates' positions appears to have narrowed.
In recent interviews, Archbishop Michael Peers and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali each professed respect for the other and a wish for their churches to continue the dialogue on sexuality. Their disagreement, it seemed, was more a matter of style than substance.
"My relations with Michael (Peers) have always been excellent," said Bishop Nazir-Ali, who met with Archbishop Peers in England in January. The two discussed ways of dealing with issues of sexuality, both within the Anglican Communion generally and next year at the Lambeth Conference of bishops.
"I don't think Michael's position and mine are that different, actually, in terms of the public teaching of the church and accommodating people," said Bishop Nazir-Ali. "My own view would be that, of course, there is a variety of opinion in the church in this area, as well as in many others, but that the public teaching of the church remains the same and that the discipline of the church naturally has to follow its public teaching."
The flap, which flared in print last year in the Church of England Newspaper, arose over an article by Bishop Nazir-Ali entitled A Warning to the American Church. Responding to a U.S. church court ruling in the Bishop Righter `heresy' case, he said: "The Anglican Communion ... is looking to the Episcopal Church ... to uphold the traditional teaching of the Church in the areas of sexuality ... A failure to do so will certainly influence the course of the next Lambeth Conference.
"Many in the other provinces will be concerned that a North American agenda should not, once again, dominate a worldwide conference which has many other important matters to consider."
Archbishop Peers responded with a letter in a subsequent issue, saying that "neither the issue of homosexuals in the church nor the range of theological opinion on the subject is our private North American property."
The Primate also objected to the tone of Bishop Nazir-Ali's article. "It sounds," he said, "like the England we have known since colonial days, telling us what we must say and how we must say it."
The point of his letter, the Primate said recently, "was not the substance of the debate around sexuality, but that if the debate is characterized as `North American' . …