Thinking Anglicans

Joint Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued this joint statement today.

Joint Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York
Thursday 27th July 2017

A statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Act of Parliament passed in 1967 which decriminalised homosexual acts in our Country

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Act of Parliament passed in 1967 which decriminalised homosexual acts in our Country. The Church of England, led by Archbishop Ramsey, was supportive of the Sexual Offences Act.

In January 2016 the majority of the leading Archbishops of the whole global Anglican Communion – almost 80 million people in 165 countries – confirmed the longstanding view of the Communion that diminishing and criminalising homosexual people is wrong.

The Church, not just the Church of England, but all those who follow Jesus Christ and whose lives are committed to his worship and service, has very often been defined by what it is against. It has condemned many things, and continues to do so, very often correctly, for example when they involve the abuse of the poor, or the weak, or the marginalised.

The Church is called more to be identified by what it loves, most of all by its pointing to Jesus Christ, not merely by what it condemns. Many people who have nothing to do with the institutional church and who seldom, if ever, attend it, nevertheless see in Jesus Christ someone of startling and extraordinary attraction. Many homosexual people follow Christ, drawn to him by his love and his outstretched arms welcoming all those who turn to him.

One of the things he said has been much on our minds recently: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

There is no human being to whom this does not apply. Every single one of us needs to lay our burdens on Jesus. For every single one of us, the burden that is most onerous, most difficult to bear, is the burden of what the Bible calls our sin, our failure to live as we ought, our continued falling short of the mark. It is the universal characteristic of being human that we are sinners.

Sin is not a characteristic of a particular group of people Sin is the same for all of us. And the challenge to take onto ourselves the obligation to be yoked with Christ, to bear the load he gives us, is the same for all of us.

This day of anniversary of the 1967 Act is one when the Church in this land should be conscious of the need to turn away from condemnation of people as its first response. When we rightly celebrate what happened 50 years ago today, we do so best by turning to him and saying, “Yes, we take your yoke on our shoulders with you”.

It is summed up wonderfully in a poem by Ann Lewin, a Christian poet, which has been quoted several times recently:

“The Yoke is easy, but it’s still
A yoke, smooth-shaped for work.
We chafe and struggle,
Longing to be free, yet
Double-yoked with
Christ who takes the strain,
The burden is not less, but light,
Weight redistributed for ease.”

(‘Job share’ in Watching for the Kingfisher: Poems and prayers, Ann Lewin)

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Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

Oh dear, Archbishops linking homosexuality with sin.

Even saying that sin applies to everyone, this is deeply unhelpful in a statement on the decriminalization of homosexuality.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

What a foolish statement. The mistakes here are legion.

I think we’re just going to have to ignore the Archbishops.

Susannah Clark
Guest

In which our dear Archbishops completely gloss over the ‘burden’ the Church itself places on lesbian and gay people.

“Sin is not a characteristic of a particular group of people Sin is the same for all of us.”

Yes, but do you regard sex between two men as a ‘sin’?

If that is what the Church is still to teach, then all your other words are vacuous, patronising, and a side-stepping of your continuing prejudice and vilification of decent LGBT lives.

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

The Archbishops are intriguing. What does it mean to say that “Sin is not a characteristic of a particular group of people Sin is the same for all of us.”? What that means in relation to LGBTI people is not spelt out. Watching the extremely moving film Against the Law last night, with its testimonies from elderly men who suffered greatly in the 1950s and 60s, I was also reminded that some people are more sinned against than sinning. I would like to see the archbishops reflect on this reality as well, and to give us a more explicit and… Read more »

Tim
Guest

At best, weasel-wording.

“Because sin, therefore Jesus” is pathetically poor theology. If everyone has to feel something, preferably the same thing, then make them all feel bad, why not?

It’s not as though the bible’s lacking other themes – maybe exodus, idolatry, tribal violence, care for the earth and wisdom might not be applicable, but… How about using the language of love, joy, dancing and feasting?

Oh wait, they’d actually have to believe that 1967 was worth celebrating, wouldn’t they?

Susannah Clark
Guest

To be honest, the irony of this self-validating claim to welcome gay people (but not their sinful sex lives) – when the Church continues to alienate a whole generation of young people, and the majority of the nation – beggars belief. It side-steps the heart of the matter: that the Bishops and Primates have tried to impose uniformity (based on the premiss that gay sex is sin). Justin Welby was repudiated by the ACC, he was repudiated by Synod, and still he tries to present as if the Church of England is this inclusive institution when it really really isn’t.… Read more »

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

The Archbishops have failed to interpret how the Comfortable Words are played out in practice. “Come unto me all who travail and are heavy laden and I will treat some of you differently because of our exemption from English Equality Law”. Otherwise, this meaningless letter sounds very nice. It will stoke the ire of evangelicals for not condemning ‘sin’; and offend supporters of same-sex marriage for forgetting to mention it.

Fr John Emlyn Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Emlyn Harris-White

Words fail me, but not surprised at the mealy mouth words of the two Archbishops.
They appear to have dug themselves into a deeper pit.
Thank God for folk like the Bishops of Manchester, and Liverpool, and the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral London who speak with genuine christian love to us all.

Fr John Emlyn

Susannah Clark
Guest

The Archbishops believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The Archbishops believe that sex outside of marriage is sinful and wrong. Therefore: the Archbishops believe that gay or lesbian sex is sinful and wrong. And yet… Here they seem to be jumping on the bandwagon of celebrating LGBT+ lives… Except the gay and lesbian people must remain celibate all their lives (because marriage, the only allowed context for sex as a Christian, is banned for same-sex couples. ‘But we want to help you carry this burden…’ the press release seems to be saying. ‘Let’s not… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

Amazing reactions — which probably shows that there are simply irreconcilable understandings of Christian faith and life.

This appears to be an effort to say that the Cross of Christ makes it impossible to leverage more-worthiness vis-a-vis our fellow citizens of the world. Whoever we are. It is a false trail. The Cross flattens all distinctions and lifts us all equally into His death and His new life.

Instead it is heard as accusatory.

I have never found the archbishops particularly profound, but the way in which they are heard here tells us that communication is just on different wavelengths entirely.

Susannah Clark
Guest

You can comment on this on John Sentamu’s Facebook page here (it’s attracting plenty of condemnations of gay sex, and ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ stuff):

https://www.facebook.com/John-Sentamu-25396296321/

Fr Eric Funston
Guest

I admit to being just an ill-informed American Episcopal priest… but I frankly do not understand what the Archbishops are trying to say. Are they really trying to say anything? Or is this just word-salad like our orange-haired pretender to the Oval Office puts out, meaningless verbiage intended merely to look like a statement?

S Cooper
Guest
S Cooper

Susannah- they Care most about churches with large numbers?

Simon R
Guest
Simon R

The usual mindless, ill-thought-out twaddle from our two well-meaning but, ultimately, pastorally and theologically incompetent archbishops. This really is quite embarrassing and just compounds the impression that they simply “Don’t Get It.” Of course, we have to assume this was prepared with more than one eye on the Global South, which means a further erosion of the Church of England’s relationship with the people it is primarily called to serve. I am guessing it was also prepared with an awareness of the fall-out after the York Synod, and the gnashing of teeth among the evangelicals. Either way, this has done… Read more »

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear,archbishops! Did neither of your mothers ever give you the sound advice that when you’re in a hole, the best thing to do is to STOP DIGGING!

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

Are the Archbishops saying that the Church’s condemnation and homosexuality is the same: sin? The ambiguity and grammar alone make this a shallow statement.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

Perhaps the only good thing about this Joint Statement is that it is likely to be ignored by almost all media outlets and everybody else.

We will know that true LGBT+ liberation has come to the Church of England not when same sex marriage is celebrated in our churches, not married gay clergy are not threatened with discipline, not when biblical bullying is consigned to the dustbin but when anybody from the Bench of Bishops can issue a statement about homosexuality without mentioning sin.

Don’t hold your breath.

Fr John E. Harris-White
Guest

Do the Archbishops of York and Canterbury only listen to themselves ? It appears to be true, or else they would have picked up the clear positive change in the voice of the last Synod held in York. Does the synod still agree that the church should still be excempt from the English Equality Laws? These are questions that are pertinent to the daily life of Church of England, and of our nation and its people. If the Archbishops are deaf to the thinking of the synod; are there mechanisms for the Synod to pass a motion of no confidence… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

This archiepiscopal evacuation has put me in mind of the late Denis Thatcher’s oft-used observation (which may or may not have originated with Calvin Coolidge) that it is always better to remain silent and let people think you might be a fool than actually say something and remove all doubt.

DBD
Guest

A reluctant swing and a wide miss. Christe eleison.

Caelius Spinator
Guest
Caelius Spinator

crs–The Cross was not necessary just because of sin, it was necessary to avoid impunity. The forgiveness won by Jesus on the Cross does not result in denying sin and making little reparation for its consequences (Mt. 18:21-35; Lk. 19:1-10). I read the reaction here as a reaction to false reconciliation.

By talking about the Communion’s “longstanding” opposition to criminalization, this statement ignores the Church of England’s firm support of hundreds of years of anti-homosexuality legislation in the UK and in the Empire and the continued support of other member churches of such legislation.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Christopher: ‘This appears to be an effort to say that the Cross of Christ makes it impossible to leverage more-worthiness vis-a-vis our fellow citizens of the world. Whoever we are. It is a false trail. The Cross flattens all distinctions and lifts us all equally into His death and His new life.’ So two men having sex is fine then. The Archbishops are fine with that, because we’re all sinners anyway? We’re not told because they don’t want to be open about their view on gay sex. Like Tim Farron in the election, they are avoiding actually saying that gay… Read more »

John Wallace
Guest
John Wallace

Not sure either. Trying to placate everyone. I’ve always believed that one of the supposed gifts of ordination was fence sitting! Doesn’t work. Clergy and others who are clear in their beliefs and are happy to defend them, make for a clearer exposition of the Gospel – that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. No barriers, all are reconciled. Therefore we preach, uphold, maintain this ministry of reconciliation for gay etc, for straight, for the homeless, the oppressed – we cannot segregate.

John

Charles Clapham
Guest

I suppose this is all part of the effort to ‘change the tone’ on church pronouncements on sexuality. But really it’s meaningless unless you also change the substance. Which they haven’t. So just PR spin really.

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

Would that John Wallace’s view of gospel exposition be true! “No barriers, all are reconciled”.
Tell that to Reform, ACNA, the Bishop of Jesmomd, Anglican Mainstream etc. Their raison d’etre is to erect barriers to keep gay people out.

Anthony Duncalf
Guest
Anthony Duncalf

Is this really a celebration of this landmark in English history (remembering Scotland and N Ireland were 15 years behind), or more by way of grovelling to critics of the recent Synod by restating the official line on original sin? Either way, I doubt the general public will be unduly bothered – they are getting wise to the mealy-mouthed ‘apologetics’ of the CofE hierarchy!

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

I would simply want to endorse everything that Susanah Clark has written. That’s all.

Robert Ellis
Guest
Robert Ellis

What absolute utter nonsense…come on guys get a grip, get real! We want to support you but you don’t make it easy for us….its just becoming embarrassing. I dread to think what tomorrow’s press will make of this. Please stop the silly churchspeak – we are becoming a laughing stock.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“I would simply want to endorse everything that Susanah Clark has written. That’s all.” Usually the best policy, Andrew! I’ll just add that I believe we can reasonably infer that both archbishops consider homosexuality to be sinful: given that Sentamu was willing to die for his beliefs, I can’t believe for a second that he’d be unwilling to risk controversy; as for Welby, he’s clearly torn between wanting to welcome LGBT people, and, well, I doubt it’s just political maneuvering. Given the evangelicalism that brought him to faith, it’s no secret what. I wish they’d just come out and say… Read more »

Steve
Guest
Steve

Why can’t the LGBT community respect the sincerely held views of those who see things differently. We should love and respect one another without condemnation. If anyone has a different view they are labelled homophobic. That closes down the dialogue when we should be getting on with the mandate that Jesus gave us, to be his missional community in a broken world.

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

Just to note that no-one in this thread labelled anyone as homophobic before Steve.

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

Supporters of Reform and Anglican Mainstream should be made to watch Against the Law. It is distressing, shocking, and truly brilliant as a depiction of how gay people have suffered. I have read the Archbishops’ statement, and re-read it, and it still seems to me to be pointless word salad. Anyway people will take no notice.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Steve, your point is a good one, but I should like to suggest that while many people who affirm LGBT+ sexuality and identity are willing to consider a kind of ‘unity in diversity’ that also recognises other Christians with different views, it tends to be some conservative Christians who will have no truck with mutual compromise, mainly because they see these issues of sexuality and marriage as what they call ‘first order’ issues of salvation. They therefore threaten schism, and are unwilling to compromise. I have gone out of my way – even though I am personally in favour of… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

Caelius, “it was necessary to avoid impunity.” I am not sure I understand your point here, so as to agree or disagree with it. I also don’t understand it as related to your hunch about the reactions here. My point was how the work of the Cross appears to be understood — an example of general human suffering. We relate to Christ not as sinners who bring about his death, as humanity at large after Adam, but seamlessly “on his side.” This would help explain the reaction. Susannah, many who regard themselves as Gay also consider sexual activity as not… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Froghole – wasn’t it either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain who first said that, rather than Calvin Coolidge? Personally, I’d opt for Lincoln as the originator.
Unfortunately the present President of the USA fails to heed that sage advice and is constantly twittering thus proving how true the saying actually is.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

The reason, Steve, is that for you it’s a ‘sincerely held opinion’ and for us it’s who we are. It’s quite a difference.

Jo
Guest
Jo

People should be respected. Views deserve no such privilege, particularly harmful and bigoted ones. Homophobic is as homophobic does.

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

The Emperors are desperately trying to pretend they still have clothing. Further evidence that their claim to Christ’s authority is considered irrelevant because it *is*.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I am deeply troubled by this letter. Not for the churchy debate about sin etc., but because they genuinely seemed to believe that this was an appropriate focus for a public statement presumably aimed at the nation to commemorate an important anniversary. The statement has no meaningful pastoral content for anyone not already on the inside; it only speaks to those involved in our internal wrangling. It does not even pretend to be Good News for the people of England. It tells them nothing other than ‘On this important anniversary we want the nation to know that we’re using heavy… Read more »

Caelius Spinator
Guest
Caelius Spinator

crs–I find your response unclear as well. “My point was how the work of the Cross appears to be understood — an example of general human suffering.”–Do you mean this as the position of the commenters here or of the Archbishops’ statement? “We relate to Christ not as sinners who bring about his death, as humanity at large after Adam, but seamlessly ‘on his side.'”–Again, I don’t understand whose position is being described. As for the issue of impunity, I commend to you Fleming Rutledge’s recent volume on the Crucifixion, which explains the issue of impunity far better than I… Read more »

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

Why can’t the CofE be more like the Church of Sweden which allows same-sex marriages to be performed by its priests? Scandinavian countries always appear in surveys to be in the top five ‘happiest’ countries in the world. This may be because the populations aren’t burdened with religious guilt and ‘sin’ as exemplified in this gloomy letter. The bishop of Stockholm is happily married to her priest wife, and the sky hasn’t fallen in.

Rod
Guest
Rod

Is this really the best our Archbishops can come up with? They are in danger of becoming unfit for purpose.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Erika, I think you make a good point. I hadn’t read it as an outsider of the Christian faith, but when you do, it seems to speak a language that must be almost indecipherable to ordinary people for whom this anniversary is frankly independent of the Church’s traditional and present position on gay sex. The words used are a carefully-balanced compromise, frankly addressed more to the ‘internal audience’, trying to hint at the sin involved in gay sex (to placate conservatives) while trying to sound friendly and welcoming to try to appease gay-affirming members of the Church, as they try… Read more »

TJ McMahon
Guest
TJ McMahon

Fr. David, Froghole, et al….
In the USA, the quote is indeed most often attributed to Lincoln and Twain, and was in common parlance by the early 20th century. I believe Coolidge was the first President of the US who said it in the presence of the news media, although I think he attributed it to Lincoln.

The story as I heard it was that Lincoln recited it as his interpretation of Proverbs 17:28. Of course, Twain is also known to have some interesting interpretations of Biblical verses…

crs
Guest
crs

Thanks–I have been puzzled to understand the meaning of the Cross as I hear it from most progressives. It is a view of the atonement to the far left of Abelard. I thought this might explain the umbrage here, at least in part. But you raise even further issues I had not considered. “my understanding always has been that conscious sin must be acknowledged to God for justification.” Correct. An invisible wand hasn’t been passed over everything. I also agree that the archbishops statement is unclear on this point. I had assumed theirs was an effort to say condemning homosexual… Read more »

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

In quoting Matthew 11 28-30 is it just possible that the Archbishops do so in the spirit of Matthew 23 1-4? Yes, you continue to tie heavy burdens on a whole group of people and render the possibilities offered through Matthew 11 28-30 almost impossible. The more I ponder this ‘pastoral letter,’ the more frustrated I am by the narrowness of its vision and its lack of understanding and compassion.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

I am a bit surprised that no one else has mentioned this point. Perhaps it leaps out at me because I am not accustomed to the Archbishops’ very personal way of describing Jesus. But in a statement about the decriminalisation of “homosexual acts,” are these two sentences not bizarre? “Many people who have nothing to do with the institutional church and who seldom, if ever, attend it, nevertheless see in Jesus Christ someone of startling and extraordinary attraction. Many homosexual people follow Christ, drawn to him by his love and his outstretched arms welcoming all those who turn to him.”… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

‘I am deeply troubled by this letter. Not for the churchy debate about sin etc., but because they genuinely seemed to believe that this was an appropriate focus for a public statement presumably aimed at the nation to commemorate an important anniversary.’ Spot on, Erika. The statement shows a very worrying ignorance of how it will be received by people outside the Church – whom it’s our mission to reach, to serve, and to love. As Susannah pointed out, it’s given rise to a lot of homophobic comments on Sentamu’s Facebook page. And I do mean homophobic, not just disagreeing… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

A first step in putting words into action to answer the call ‘to be identified by what [The Church] loves’ and ‘turn away from condemnation of people as its first response’ might be to approach those many Christian LGBT members of Parliament who would dearly love to facilitate this changed attitude in the Church and review current legislation. The most obvious example would be the exemptions from the Equality Act which prohibit the religious liberties of a significant minority of church members. The other is the Marriage Act itself. Some demonstrable progress on this front, and a willingness to work… Read more »

Ray Anglesea
Guest
Ray Anglesea

The Archbishops statement is to my mind outrageous,offensive, shameful, hurtful and embarrassing for all my LGBT friends, their families and friends,on what was to be a day of national celebration (I have just watched BBC Against the Law!) Do these guys ever stop to think what damage they continue to cause to people in the LGBT community, including present LGBT Bishops and priests.I had high hopes for Welby, but his authority is slowly being diminished, sadly becoming a national joke. Perhaps if they had a gay child, like Archbishop Tutu, they would begin to understand and act,