Thinking Anglicans

Anglican archbishops write to Prime Minister

The Church of England has published the text of a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Tony Blair.

Dear Prime Minister,

The Church of England, along with others in the voluntary sector, including other churches and faith communities, have been in discussion with the government for some time over what has become known as the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Those discussions have been conducted in good faith, in mutual respect and with an appropriate level of confidence on all sides.

Last week that changed. Speculation about splits within government, fuelled by public comment from government ministers, appears to have created an atmosphere that threatens to polarise opinions. This does no justice to any of those whose interests are at stake, not least vulnerable children whose life chances could be adversely, and possibly irrevocably, affected by the overriding of reasoned discussion and proper negotiation in an atmosphere of mistrust and political expediency.

The one thing on which all seem able to agree is that these are serious matters requiring the most careful consideration. There is a great deal to gain. It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that much could also be lost, as the letter from Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor makes clear.

Many in the voluntary sector are dedicated to public service because of the dictates of their conscience. In legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups the government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights to have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk.

The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.

On numerous occasions in the past proper consideration has been given to the requirements of consciences alongside other considerations contributing to the common good, such as social need or human rights – the right, for example, of some doctors not to perform abortions, even though employed by the National Health Service.

It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free to argue that members of the government are not fit to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation. This is hardly evidence of a balanced and reasonable public debate.

As you approach the final phase of what has, until very recently, been a careful and respectful consideration of the best way in which to introduce and administer new protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in England and Wales, we hope you, and cabinet colleagues, will do justice to the interests of the much wider grouping of interests within the nation that will be affected. It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest. And that conditions are not inadvertently created which make the claims of conscience an obstacle to, rather than the inspiration for, the invaluable public service rendered by parts of the voluntary sector.

Yours faithfully,

Most Rev and Rt Hon Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

Most Rev and Rt Hon John Sentamu
Archbishop of York

Reference is made above to a letter from Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor. That letter can be read here.

Press coverage
Earlier reports from the Telegraph Jonathan Petre Gay laws would force closures says Cardinal and A bare fist fight.

Later reports from The Times Ruth Gledhill and Greg Hurst Anglicans back right to deny gay adoption and Tony Blair: torn between two loves.

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Göran Koch-Swahnemynsterpreost (=David Rowett)laurenceChristopher Shelljim thornton Recent comment authors
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Richard Lyon
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Richard Lyon

Rowan Williams will not go down in history as a champion of civil rights and inclusiveness.

Weiwen
Guest

The suggestion in Gledhill’s article that Catholic agencies could be mandated to refer same-sex couples to secular agencies seems like a good one that could potentially save face for both sides, and serve the children well by not forcing the Catholic agencies to close. Instead of threatening to close the agencies rather than have them allow same-sex couples to adopt, it seems that people could have saved themselves a lot of accusations of homophobia by saying that no, we will not serve gay couples, but we will refer them to secular agencies. I found out that one American Catholic adoption… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Was that letter about the understated unmentionables?

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest.”

What does this mean? That allowing gay couples to adopt would harm children so adopted? What century are these men living in?

They might be interested to know that in states in the US that do not discriminate against same sex couples adopting that it is often hard to place children whom gay couples choose to adopt.

drdanfee
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drdanfee

All too sadly this puts the churches Roman Catholic and Anglican squarely in public on the side of maintaining unquestioned exclusive straight legacy privileges – based on religion mainly. Can certain Muslims be far behind in this religious rush to exclusive straight privileges? Just how it is, then, can easily be seen by imagining the shoe, pretty much on the other foot. Non-straight people claim a right of conscience to deny straight people services, accommodations, or business which is otherwise wide open to public participation without discrimination, except that of course straight people are so obviously wack that they alone… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

This is just the sort of thing that starts off reverberating so traditionally, like the proper sounding of a really big apostolic gong – whang – yet in the longer run greatly assists people to finally get what the analysis of exclusive straight legacy privileges – aimed categorically against a target people – are all about.

Don’t wait for Sentamu and Williams and O’Connor and the rest to see the light – just keep on following Jesus.

Lord have mercy.

Greg
Guest
Greg

The comments that follow Jonathan Petre’s article reveal quite succinctly what the smooth words of the three Archbishops front up, whether they like it or not. I am fascinated that, despite the evidence, these three men have concluded that under no circumstances could it be in a child’s best interests to be adopted by gay parents. At least Rowan and John have finally acted, so we all know where they stand. The real sense of joy I felt at their appointments has been snuffed out this morning.

Greg
Guest
Greg

I am probably being dull, but having just listened to Archbishop John talking about this on BBC Radio 4, I do not understand how this is a matter of conscience. He compares this adoption issue to that of UK doctors being allowed not to perform abortions if it is against their conscience. I can see that potentially killing someone is a matter of conscience. I do not see how giving a child the best start possible in life, by entertaining the idea that sometimes gay parents might be best for them, is anything other than a practical issue. Evidence, such… Read more »

Rodney
Guest
Rodney

First, the Cardinal’s letter is without doubt the smoothest, most delicately veiled, but clearest and ugliest threat I have ever read. “You must allow us, in good conscience, to act on the basis that homosexual couples are unfit to rear children. No matter how well suited they may be otherwise, the fact that we disapprove of them (I use the word deliberately) and their ‘lifestyle’ must be allowed to prevail. We have no evidence to support our belief – or at least we have chosen not to tell you about it if we do. If you don’t agree, we will… Read more »

Ray McIntyre
Guest

I find both the Cardinals letter and those from the Archbishops to be kind of like honey over a boil. It looks sweet on top but underneath it is full of corruption.

I deplore their letters and the attitudes towards LGBT folk that birthed them. Gay Couples are just as good as potential adoptive parents as Heterosexual couples and they are sometimes much, much better.

Surely the right of a child to a loving, supportive home is more important than the right for churches to legislate for the public who is acceptable to them?

Graham Ward
Guest
Graham Ward

As depressing, and predictable as this all is, I really should have stopped reading the comments made in response to the Petre blog. Bare-faced, ignorant homophobia at it’s worst: “a gay couple…is not the proper environment for a child as far as their affection relation it is not natural” “What right has this deviant community to impose gay/lesbian lifestyle on children? Where is the difference between this and “grooming”?”. These are the opinions of those who support the stance taken by our church’s leadership. To those outside the church, this is how the Church of England appears today; a homophobic… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

I agree with Graham Ward. And, meanwhile, the Most Reverend Archbishop No Mates is still being panned, even for this letter, by the conservatives on the Titus1:9 board. So they’re losing everyone. This bit is particularly rich: “It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free to argue that members of the government are not fit to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation.” Trouble is, people do argue… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Guilt-mongering double-speak!

What’s wrong with this man? When he should speak up he doesn’t, and when he needn’t speak at all he puts his foot in it!

🙁

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Cardinal Murphy-O’Cormac released a letter the church had sent to Downing Street, saying:

“We believe it would be unreasonable, unnecessary and unjust discrimination against Catholics for the government to insist that if they wish to continue to work with local authorities, Catholic adoption agencies must act against the teaching of the church and their own consciences by being obliged in law to provide such a service.”

But surely, it would be only “reasonable, necessary and just” discrimination, as per the new Catechism?

The sum of it: If you don’t comply, you will not be allowed to convert.

Chrsitopher Shell
Guest
Chrsitopher Shell

Hi Rodney You spoke about ‘no evidence’. This is not only untrue, but the very reverse of the truth. Pretty much every scientific study in existence indicates the considerably higher ‘scores’ of homosexuals in matters like STDs, promiscuity, early death, suicide, various other nonsexual but related diseases. [Even (with an alarming ratio) paedophilia – but time has taught me to add the proviso that these are averages and therefore do not apply to every individual. I do, however, suspect that the people to whom I mention this actually are very well aware of what an average is.)] This, on the… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“It will take more than a flashy lenten website and posting sermons on YouTube to attract people to a church that looks like this.” Sadly, no. It will attract the kind of people for whom the Church has never committed acts of violence against gay people, for whom Nigeria should be able to jail us and anyone who tries to support us, who believe we are intrinsically promiscuous and incapable of sexual continence yet demand that we be celebate in order for them to accept us. You will find such people everywhere. Most of these people will be attracted to… Read more »

Tony
Guest
Tony

What is the matter with homosexual couples who wish to adopt going to secular rather than church agencies? It seems that an “opt out” for the churches on conscience would not mean that homosexual couples could not adopt as such, just that they could not adopt from that agency. There seems to be a drive to over-uniformity here, for the sake of political correctness, which I, coming from an anarchist background in politics, take strong exception to. Uniformity leads all to often to a kind of fascism, and that seems to be happening here.

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest
Leonardo Ricardo

Deadly directives directed against parentless children and LGB Christian/other “committed couples” by a cover-up-pedophilia “challenged” RC Bishop and two Anglican Archbishops who betray “truth” while degrading their fellow Anglicans with pintsized falsehoods and murky/dirty “conscience” reasoning reveals a oversized inability to face Gods basic truth in everyday REALITY. Ignoring them both in favor of perpetuating fear, hate and discrimination against LGB couples adopting “needy” children is simply unholy and very damaging to everyone concerned. All three of these ill-speaking clergy cowards are dangerous men when “preaching” to us, or ANY government, their factless and twisted moral wisdom. Denying parenthood to… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I must admit, though, that the archbishops’ letter is terribly well meaning, like the government is, whereas Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor knows how to bend fingers and pull nails. I agree very much with Graham Ward’s last two sentences. The archbishops ought to realise that they do not represent all opinion on this matter, including the before-the-job opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

Kurt
Guest
Kurt

Rowan Williams is a disgrace to the Church and should resign NOW!

Simon Icke
Guest
Simon Icke

The religious hatred currently being shown by many secularist liberals and gay rights supporters and campaigners especially towards Christians is appalling. It’s ironic for a group of people who claim to know what it was like to be persecuted are now the persecutors. Christians have no right to judge anyone as we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. One day we will all be judged for our sins that includes homosexuals and heterosexuals, people of faith and those of no faith. Real Christians believe we are all equal before God. The new Sexual Orientation Regulations… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Simon Icke, I have experienced the media publishing false stories about people here as well. One story published in the Boston Globe last year described in graphic terms events that actually took place three days after the publication of the story and bore no resemblance to what was depicted in the article! It had nothing to do with religion, either. I do not doubt you when you say an aggressive secular media reported misinformation about the “ignorant Christian bigots”. Still, I can’t help but think how you would feel if I, an Anglo-catholic, refused to offer you services because are… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Surely, anti-discrimination laws are not meant to appeal to those that discriminate; they are intended to reduce the ability to practice these attitudes.

Moreover, legislation is directed against the doing, not the being; against the Sin, not the sinner.

Up to now, this has been claimed to be the right thing by those defending hierarchic social policies – why not now?

Ah, the icke-factor!

JCF
Guest
JCF

[Christopher Shell, your above post is *beneath* contempt. Bogus, contentious, irrelevant—if not outright LIES. Shame! >:-(]

I am sick and TIRED of *discriminators* CLAIMING to be *discriminated against*. NO ONE is denying practicing RCs the right to adopt!

The standard is “the best interest of the child”: in a free, pluralistic society, this CANNOT be defined in sectarian terms. Adoption agencies (religious or secular) have NO evidence, prima facie, that same-sex couples are unqualified to be (excellent!) parents. To *invent* a sectarian “must not be gay” qualification, is unacceptable! (as the law RIGHTLY recognizes)

Lord have mercy!

kieran crichton
Guest
kieran crichton

Christopher Shell wrote: “…the practices in question are dubiously natural for three reasons:” Ummm. First, you’ve offered four reasons, not three as claimed – perhaps you need to learn to count. I agree with JCF – this IS beneath contempt. If you’re a god-fearing straight who has never deviated from the missionary position, what EXACTLY do you know about how gay people have sex in order to claim that the “staple diet” is anal sex????????? And since when did any gay person judge the worth of your humanity simply on the strength of how YOU have “intimate relations”???? (and I… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

>Or is it true that liberals are only liberal when you agree with them; anyone who dares to hold a different view or hold different beliefs and values should be treated with the utmost contempt.< Simon Icke It is not even about beliefs and ideas of *some* Christians, but the reality that people are being discriminated against according to that one section of the population affecting these others – and the wider community, represented in parliament, thinks otherwise. So it these private institutions cannot provide these services to all, others should. I’ll defend the right of the National Front people… Read more »

Fr Joseph O&apos;Leary
Guest

Yes, Graham Ward is right to point to the macro-context of vile homophobia (largely a product of Christian education, alas) that can cause our delicate concerns with the autonomy of the Christian conscience to be misunderstood as cloaked discrimination. Moreover, the perception that the Anglican prelates and the Roman Catholic ones are singing from the same hymnsheet will confuse many into thinking that Anglicanism also holds homosexuality to be objectively disordered and homosexual relations to be gravely immoral. This, rather than nuances about conscience and principle, is the bottom line of the RC bishops’ objections, and their Anglican confreres do… Read more »

Rodney
Guest
Rodney

Oh, Christopher Shell! You’re such a tease! Or at least I hope you’re teasing. If not, well, JCF and Kieran said what I would like to have said.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Christopher: those views are irrelevant because being gay and having gay relationships is not illegal, and thus should not be discriminated against on the grounds that you don’t like the sound of what you think is gay sex.

You lost that argument many years ago.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“Cloaked”? There is nothing “cloaked” about this. It’s all too obvious.

A complete disaster.

Only a couple of weeks ago someone somewhere in cyberspace in defence of Dr Williams promised that he had rid himself of the Carey appointees at Lambeth and gotten hold of some really wise and discerning advisors “all is well”. Somehow, I didn’t find this very convincing…

Rarely have I seen a more complete failure than this last minute intervention in defence of a particularly nasty letter.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Really, Christopher! With the exception of the ‘lack of natural fit’ which, having only recently had breakfast, I’d rather not think about (just as I don’t feel like an anatomically explicit description of hetero squelchies), don’t you think your arguments are a tad thin? Particularly the ‘disease’ one (after all, isn’t HIV in Africa largely a heterosexual problem? Were the various great syphilitics of history all batting for the other side’?) and the ‘issue’ one (which is a weakened form of Augustine’s argument against all non-procreative sex). You’ll be telling us next that oral sex causes high winds and birth… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Christopher, Careful. We’re getting a glimpse behind your reasonable appearing exterior here. “1) lack of physical fit;” Beg pardon? Things fit wuite well actually. (2) lack of biological fruit to support its claim to be natural; So if sex isn’t procreative, it isn’t natural? OK, so no more marrying postmenopausal women then. And the argument that there COULD be a conception in such cases if God wills it is pretty lame. God can turn stones into descendants of Abraham, He can make a conception whereever He likes, including in a gay couple, and wouldn’t that be a shocker! (3) constant… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

Christopher Shell, you are off topic, but you might like to look at http://www.igreens.org.uk/bodys_grace.htm where the author said:

“In fact, of course, in a church which accepts the legitimacy of contraception, the absolute condemnation of same-sex relations of intimacy must rely either on an abstract fundamentalist deployment of a number of very ambiguous texts, or on a problematic and non-scriptural theory about natural complementarity, applied narrowly and crudely to physical differentiation without regard to psychological structures.”

The author was Rowan Williams.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Mike- ‘You lost that argument many years ago’: so the criterion of whether an argument is right or wrong is *chrono*logical? And there was me thinking it was logical. There must be laws that you disagree with. So why are you upholding theprinciple of the rule of law? Hi JCF, Kieran, Rodney: The depth of your specific engagement with the points I made takes my breath away. Doctorates of Divinity to you all. ;O) Sigh! Even in 2007 some ppl think that to be unfashionable is to be wrong. They don’t mean the same thing in my dictionary, but… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

It is prcisely the idea that heterosexual sex is ‘disease free’ and the even more bizarre idea that a man having sex with a female virgin will have his AIDS cured that accounts for much of the horrific AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharen Africa. It is depressing so see that level of ignorance on this site. I find it interesting too that this writer – and many others who post to this space with negative attitudes towards gays almost always use male/male examples. Not that I want people to write bizarre speculations about the icky things women do in bed, but… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

Sex is about relationships, erotic contact and release, it is not the equivalent of putting a bulb in a light holder or pushing a plug into a socket in order to turn the power on.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Hello Christopher S., if we are going to go with your hermeneutic approach, then we might add in some additional conclusions, based on your framework or something near enough to it to belong in the same ballpark. First, we must conclude that heterosexuality causes both domestic violence/wife battering and child abuse/neglect – the statistics are clear, just as your inferences are. Second, heterosexuality must help cause HIV/AIDS in Africa but not so much in USA – we don’t know why yet, and I doubt that anybody in particular is researching this striking sexual orientation difference in categorical causes. (Have you… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“hetero males who write anti-gay posts seem to be concerned only with gay men and gay male sexual practices.”

Indeed, Cynthia. I think it quite telling..

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

You lost the argument, Christopher, because you haven’t anything valuable to say which would encouarge any of us to change our minds.Just the same old rhetoric and bogus misuse of statistics along with an unhealthy obsession with bums and willies.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Like I’m going to waste time, Christopher, making “specific engagement with the points” of a *Klansman*, so I can prove black people AREN’T inferior? Or with a Nazi, proving Jews AREN’T degenerate?

You sir, are a BIGOT. Period. I pray God removes this corruption from your soul!

(Lord have mercy on us ALL—I’m done now, Simon)

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Pluralist, have you ever thought of writing a sex manual?:-)))

Bill Carroll
Guest
Bill Carroll

If a white supremicist “church” refused to let black couples adopt white babies or interracial couples adopt at all, should we allow them an exemption on grounds of conscience? There is no moral difference between homophobia and racism. Maybe the Catholic Church should get out of the adoption business altogether. The depth of Canterbury’s complicity with the far right never ceases to amaze me. What happened? He seems to have never escaped some naive assumptions about both Church and world, assumptions that lead him to pander to a pope that has personally sought to silence or discipline almost every great… Read more »

toujoursdan
Guest

Christopher’s arguments just expose the depth of his ignorance about gay people and our lives and isn’t it unny how lesbians are always left out of the arguments – few if any STDs and no anal sex, so we’ll ignore them. They’re inconvenient. At the HEIGHT of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s the CDC estimated that 10% of the entire North American gay male population had the disease. This is in contrast to the 20%-30% or so Africans in Botswana, South Africa and Zambia who have it now. Who is at greater risk? Really Christopher: have you taken the… Read more »

jim thornton
Guest

Having just discovered this blog through the reference to Rowan Williams’ liberal views posted on my website http://www.igreens.org.uk, perhaps I may add another view. The crucial issue is whether the discriminating organisation is private or public. We may deplore private discrimination on grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation, but we should leave it alone. The private employer who hires white people in preference to better qualified black ones cannot long continue in his unattractive ways without being undercut by a more tolerant competitor. He will only be able to hold out if the government gives him special priviledges. By… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Toujoursdan- thinking for myself? As far as I am aware, there are very few people ploughing my statistical furrow: most christians are ploughing the biblical one. If you read my posts carefully, you will see that I am alsways calling for argument and not assertion. That equates to supporting the principle that people should think for themeselves. None of us can attain the facts on this issue by logic alone. We need social-scientific statistical data. It is precisely those who rely on such data, whether or not it squares with their presuppositions, who are being maximally objective and thinking… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

You need to give n a m e s Christopher.

Assertions won’t do.

laurence
Guest
laurence

Christopher Shell you just have to be viscerally nasty ( do you ?). There ARE no reliable general/ global statistics about same sex relationships as the virulent homophobia that is ONLY just beginning to abate has made such research generally impossible. ( I know you are doing your best to maintain hatred. Fair play. But with the high divorce rates and ‘serial monogamy’ I’d say you are on a sticky wicket. Martin Reynolds has published here that he and Chris have been together for many years and raised a child; and elderly mother. Many other couples have been together for… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Average – Median, mode or arithmetical mean??

Trouble is, what are the equivalent hetero figures? ANd how do we correct/compensate for the effect of state support of hetero relationships (it’s harder to get out of a marriage, after all).

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Since we are actually supposed to be discussing adoptions, perhaps it would be helpful to remind those without personal experience in the field of the statistics of adoption. People who adopt are generally not able to breed children themselves. Their infertility (ah! I spoke the word) is cause for much anguish and pain to them, given the prevailing late modern Biologism and fertility cult attitudes. Insensitive questions and all that… Their function as parents after years of pain and inability to accept and adapt to their situation, may be damaged as a result. The result is that a relatively high… Read more »