The outgoing leader of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong has used the opportunity provided by a retirement address to urge dialogue rather than division on issues of sexuality currently raging across the 77 million strong worldwide Anglican Communion.
"Anglicanism is inclusive”, 70-year-old Chinese Primate Peter Kwong, who retired on 1 January 2007, stressed, emphasizing the deep historic ad theological roots to its unity-in-diversity.
He continued: “There is high church and there is a low church. Anglicans can co-exist and even hold different interpretations of faith… So why shouldn't we find a common ground on homosexuality?"
Kwong has long tried to maintain a central position in the disputes which have followed the election and consecration of an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, to be Bishop of New Hampshire in the USA, and moves towards the blessing of same-sex unions.
In England, 51 clergy have registered civil partnerships under UK legislation which the Church of England, as an established church, has reluctantly been obliged to work with, to the consternation of some conservatives.
Back in 2003, the Most Rev Peter Kwong Kong-Kit told a Hong Kong Island Diocesan conference that the Church had a duty of care and concern towards homosexual persons, whatever their differences of opinion – over which, he declared, there was no simple “right or wrong” answer.
He also ventured the opinion that the Anglican Communion could honestly face differences of opinion internally, while maintaining pastoral and ecclesial unity as Christians sharing a common tradition.
“Therefore we can use the term ‘divided but not broken’ to describe the present situation”, he concluded at the time. This is the message he has reiterated upon his retirement this week.
Concern for the damaging impact of divisions within Anglicanism are also reported to have been expressed by the recently deceased US President Gerald Ford, an Episcopalian, at the memorial service held for him at Washington National Cathedral.
Preaching at the service, the Rev Robert Certain, who was the Ford's minister at their home church at St Margaret's Episcopal Church in Palm Springs, California, told the gathered dignitaries and the watching world that Ford worried over a possible split in the Episcopal Church in the United States over issues of human sexuality and the role of women.