Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Bishop of Chichester comments on homophobic remarks

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has made the following response to the previously published remarks of one of that diocese’s elected lay representatives to the General Synod:

The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester. Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.

The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives. It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.

This response is contained within a press release issued by Changing Attitude Sussex, the full text of which is copied below the fold.

PRESS RELEASE BY CHANGING ATTITUDE SUSSEX

SUSSEX MEMBER OF C OF E GENERAL SYNOD ADVOCATES PRISON FOR GAYS

One of the Sussex Diocese of Chichester representatives on the Church of England General Synod, Andrea Minichiello Williams, recently attended a conference in Jamaica to urge the Government to keep the law which criminalises homosexuality. She spoke in derogatory terms about gay people, and peddled the old vicious lie that homosexuals are paedophiles.

She said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and paedophilia, she said.

“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to paedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”

The full details of her attack on LGB&T people can be read at www.thinkinganglicans,org.uk.

Dr Keith Sharpe, Chair of Changing Attitude Sussex commented:

Williams’ bigoted outburst amounts to dangerous hatemongering. It is reprehensible and highly irresponsible.

Jamaica is one of the most dangerous places in the world for LGB&T people who suffer homophobic intimidation and violence on a daily basis, including from the police. The brutal murder of gay men is commonplace. The community lives in constant fear and is unable to access the legal and justice systems.

Either Minichiello Williams did not know this, which is culpable ignorance, or she did know it and endorses it, which is sheer wickedness.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops’ report on Human Sexuality have recently called on the Church to repent of its homophobia. And yet here is a Sussex member of the General Synod advocating the vilest form of homophobia in a most terrible cultural situation. What she has said and done is contrary both to the Church’s Christian teaching and to common human decency. She has brought disgrace upon the Church of England and its General Synod as well as the Diocese of Chichester.

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, sought to distance himself from her remarks:

The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester. Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.

The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives. It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.

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Comments

What a mealy-mouthed response!

"Insofar as such comments incite homophobia ..." i.e., *if* they do, they're bad. Passive form spares him from making a judgment.

Warner does it again with "The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant ..." It implicitly dismisses that truth as mere perception. And the dog-whistle "same sex attraction" to finish it off.

I hope Williams stays on Synod and makes lots and lots of speeches. I hope she's invited to speak at church events the length and breadth of England. Confront and shame all enablers with the consequences of their position.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 4:19pm GMT

It's clear that FiF elements in the CofE will not be able to follow their ConEvo allies-of-convenience in the full force of their venom against gays, and as these discussions become more prominent the gap can only widen. I have always lamented the absurdity of New Directions magazine's subtitle ("for orthodox catholics and evangelicals" - as if it's more 'orthodox' to deny the real presence and the sacrifice of the mass altogether than to suggest God can effect them through a female priest!)

Posted by: Geoff on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 4:45pm GMT

+Chichester is to be commended for his prompt response. I hope he now has her in for a little 'chat'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 5:05pm GMT

Good for Martin. That shows good leadership

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 5:07pm GMT

It is a great relief to see this. These words in particular of the grace and glory of the heart of God are telling and healing :

'find the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.'

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 5:39pm GMT

Overall, a welcome statement from the Bishop of Chichester.

But... "insofar"?

Really?

Is there any room for doubt?

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 5:43pm GMT

what is with this demeaning conevo doublespeak:

"whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives"

He can't even say the word Gay...

Posted by: etseq on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 6:18pm GMT

Chichester is on the target list of dioceses that must elect a more representative slate of laity in 2015. Others include London, Rochester, Winchester and possibly Manchester. As Peter Owen points out elsewhere, this person was elected in 2010 at only the final stage in Chichester on a very low turnout. The presence of such people on General Synod is an embarrassment that the church can ill afford at present. It lies in the hands of those who will be elected at their APCMs to the deanery synods 2014-2017 in Chichester to deal with the situation.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 6:34pm GMT

Richard: He better. Any decent leader would have her in his/her office so fast her head would spin. Disgusting.

Posted by: Dan BD on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 7:22pm GMT

By definition *someone* must be elected only at the final stage.

Posted by: John Roch on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 7:44pm GMT

It's not clear to me that she has confirmed the Buzzfeed report. If she denies she used those words, and if there is no proof either way, then there is some reason for caution.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 8:18pm GMT

etseq, Martin Warner is not a conservative evangelical, and this year he has spoken both at the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement annual conference and at a welcome service for Brighton Pride, where he talked of 'the invaluable contribution that gay and lesbian people make' and the need to 'honour the many varied aspects of human identity and the part they play in the life of human flourishing.'

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 8:28pm GMT

+Martin is to be thoroughly commended for his rapid response to the statements made by Ms Williams.

When Mainstream was backing the 'Post-Gay' London bus ads the silence from the Diocesan whose GS representatives include their Convenor and Executive Secretary was deafening.

Posted by: Fr Paul on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 9:20pm GMT

I confess I have problems with Bishop Martin's attitude towards Women's Ministry in the Church. However, his outright condemnation of the homophobia of G.S. Member Ms. Williams has my approval. I just hope his view of Women in the Church is not too affected by his opinion of Ms.Williams.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 9:59pm GMT

Part of the problem is that you can't reason with the unreasonable.

Williams simply has a visceral dislike of homosexuality, and her biblical basis for it is like that old gag about streetlights being used more for support than illumination. She's able to dress up saloon bar ranting in theological clothing and present it as respectable (or at least less disreputable).

As her argument is not rational, there is no point in rational discourse. The effect of her being tolerated within the synod is to add a "but they do really" to everything the CofE says to distances itself from homophobia. What she's attempting to imply, and being somewhat successful at convincing some of, is that when senior CofE figures attempt to move the CofE on from crude homophobia, they are just saying what they are being forced to by the forces of political correctness and "really" are onside with the bigots.

It's the same argument her friends in the CLC are using to explain away the Bull defeat in the supreme court: the judges really support us, "they" won't let the judges say what they really think, but we know really.

If it gains traction, the CofE is finished. And it has a hint of truth, because Welby et al are currently trying to satisfy both UK public opinion and GAFCON, which is basically impossible, and therefore the accusation of disingenuousness is not implausible.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 10:07am GMT

As a woman priest in Chichester I can say that I feel far more encouraged and respected since the arrival of + Martin.

Posted by: sueeve on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 10:31am GMT

Interested Observer, thank you for your analysis - it sounds spot on to me.

Can we hope that Welby et al. will begin to see the contradictions and consequences of what they speak/do?

Posted by: Stephen De Silva on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 11:23am GMT

I find myself agreeing with almost everything that 'Interested Observer' says on TA. Whoever s/he is - 'Thank you'!

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 2:33pm GMT

Stephen De Silva - we can hope, and we must pray, but I wouldn't recommend holding your breath.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 5:07pm GMT

Interested Observer: I don't know what motivates Williams, but I do know that attitudes like the ones expressed in her speech are given cover by homophobia couched in the language of love and compassion. That type of homophobia is more insidious, and more dangerous as a result.

Say what you like about Williams, at least she's honest, and not to her advantage.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 7:24pm GMT

I wonder if Andrew was aware when he made his comment that the journalist was reporting first hand.

On an earlier thread I urged evangelicals to step up and challenge Mrs Williams. While there is still a great opportunity it's sad to note that Peter Ould has performed so many contortions in a bid to be generous to this lady that he has ended up shooting the messenger.

Still, there are others who may yet take on this important work and not be so distracted.

It's important to know just who holds the view Mrs Williams appears happy not to deny. Turning back the clock so we are once again criminals is a political position that demands the closest scrutiny.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 12:19am GMT

"And it has a hint of truth, because Welby et al are currently trying to satisfy both UK public opinion and GAFCON, which is basically impossible, and therefore the accusation of disingenuousness is not implausible."

Yes, Welby seems to be another fence-sitter.

Sad, really, when the hemming and hawing does the CofE so much damage in England.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 4:45am GMT

Goodness me. first this gets into the 'Independent' yesterday and today it's in the 'Chichester Observer'.

Is it significant that Mrs Williams has gone completely silent on this. She is not usually known for her reticence.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 1:57pm GMT

People are saying that the bishop is mealy-mouthed because of the 'insofar' in his statement. We do well to remember his sermon on 30 November 2012, he’d said: We can too often be heard to assert what we are against, and too rarely heard to proclaim what God loves and what we love too. That is, people. And creation. And beauty. And justice. And human diversity in its many guises. And reconciliation and recovery of freedom and hope and peace and glory. We need to be more confident in spelling out what this means and why. So, for example, we are against homophobia and sexism and racism and in justice and inequality of opportunity because we are for the inviolable dignity and freedom of every human being, man and woman and child.

Posted by: Derek Jay on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 6:19pm GMT

The devil, Derek Jay, is in the detail. What does Warner mean by "homophobia"? Does he follow Pilling in excluding any theological condemnation of lesbian and gay people?

Does he reject, unequivocally and with force, the idea that homosexual relationships are sinful?

Does he support marriage equality, and an end to compulsory lifelong celibacy for gay and lesbian clergy?

At present, there's zero prospect of Britain reinstating the Labouchere amendment. Williams' position isn't a live issue in the jurisdiction in which she's elected. Those things are.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 20 December 2013 at 12:36am GMT

How utterly said that so many people have taken the reported comments that Mrs Williams is supposed to have said and castigated her for it. All the news feeds i have seen so far have taken their comments from atheists,active anti bible sources and all seem to have taken their info from a man who was in Jamaica visiting the conference and is well known for his biased reporting.

Whenever i have heard Mrs Williams she has always been compassionate and passionately supporting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and biblically based.

All sin is to be identified as such and all sinners are to be loved yet remember God does not tolerate sin.

I believe this bishop to be significantly incorrect and he appears to chose his bible portion to suit his beliefs.

Posted by: Ian Pomeroy on Friday, 20 December 2013 at 9:43am GMT

I don't know the bishop personally but I think he listens and is worth engaging with (I base this on his working with Lucy Winkett at St. Paul's cathedral despite his views against the ordination of women, his opening up of Walsingham to be more welcoming to parishes not of FiF persuasion and his articles in the Church Times.) There are others on this page who know more about him from within his diocese.

Posted by: Derek Jay on Friday, 20 December 2013 at 11:45am GMT

I don't think Pilling 'excludes theological condemnation'. In fact, it is very conservative. As for 'zero prospect of Britain reinstating the Labouchere amendment', one should always be on one's guard - remember Germany between 1920 and 1940.

Posted by: Derek Jay on Friday, 20 December 2013 at 12:55pm GMT

To clarify my above comment, when I said that Pilling excluded "any theological condemnation of lesbian and gay people," I meant that it excluded theology from the definition of homophobia. So If you can couch your prejudice in theological terms, you're good to go.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 20 December 2013 at 3:08pm GMT

The devil, Derek Jay, is in the detail

Let's face it James. It begins to look like nothing Bishop Martin can say will satisfy you.

Posted by: ian on Friday, 20 December 2013 at 4:00pm GMT

Not so, ian, I already gave an example of what would satisfy me.

We like to think well of our leaders. Makes life easier. A carefully-worded statement, issued in good time, has worked. I don't doubt that Warner is a decent man. If he supports oppressive positions, that decency makes him, and those like him, more effective agents of oppression than Williams.

The comments reported from Jamaica are disgusting, but I'll not join in using Williams as a lightening rod for the church's homophobia. Her views didn't form in a vacuum. It's easy, and safe, to condemn the Williams of the world, marginal and outspoken: so much harder to do the same to powerful, friendly individuals with a slick turn of phrase.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 20 December 2013 at 5:21pm GMT

Ian Pomeroy - if her words were biblically-based, she'd be wanting gays to be stoned, like it says in Leviticus.

Posted by: Derek Jay on Saturday, 21 December 2013 at 9:15am GMT

James Byron, and others, I'd see the "insofar" not so much weasely as the passive legalese of a bishop expressing authority rather than degenerating into a tabloid shouting match.

Posted by: Tim on Thursday, 26 December 2013 at 8:09am GMT
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