Thursday, 27 July 2017

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)

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 9:46am BST | TrackBack
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Comments

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.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 10:36am BST

What a foolish statement. The mistakes here are legion.

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

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 10:42am BST

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.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 10:53am BST

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 worked out reflection on what their comments about sin actually mean.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 11:01am BST

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?

Posted by: Tim on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 11:07am BST

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.

Why is he presenting himself and his colleague as celebrants of LGBT values when they have been 'enforcers' in the Church, refusing to allow diversity of conscience, continuing to impose the standards and values of the entire Anglican Communion. At each step, Justin seems to have dragged his feet, and I weary of his managerial spin.

When he claimed that the ACC 'receiving' the Primates injunctions against truly inclusive provinces - that is to say, when they physically received the documents - as meaning the ACC endorsed and backed the Primates... a frankly dismal piece of spin that was repudiated by the ACC council members... he was trying to push through the line that radical inclusion of Provinces like TEC should be curbed and reversed.

This process of 'holding back' continues in the Church of England today, and onwards beyond 2020. Yet reading this press release, one would think they are championing the acceptance of gay and lesbian sex.

So it's the Tim Farron question all over again, seeking a straight yes or no answer, for all the other Primates and GAFCON to hear:

Do you think sex between two men (outside marriage as you insist it has to be) is a sin?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 11:14am BST

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.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 12:00pm BST

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

Posted by: Fr John Emlyn Harris-White on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 12:08pm BST

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 focus on what we condemn, let's talk about how we love people.'

The Primates of the Communion have opposed the "diminishing" of homosexual people, we are told.

Having your tender expressions of love vilified as 'sinful' because you can only have sex inside marriage, which we don't allow you...

Being told that you should not have sexual relations with your partner, and should live a life of celibacy instead...

That is not diminishing?

The logic is irresistible. 'We want to seem nice, but your sex is a sin.'

Sex outside marriage is not allowed, and we'll gloss over the reality that most heterosexual people have sex before we marry them, but we don't allow you to marry at all, therefore lesbian and gay sex is always wrong, because our parameters exclude you from the sexual joy we heterosexual archbishops can enjoy.

Frankly I regard this whole logic as a perversion, a brutality, an exclusion from sexual life and wellbeing, a tyranny, and no saccharine words can really disguise that.

It's not 'radical inclusion'. It's theological criminalisation. It's exclusion from human sexuality and from one of the most precious joys of human life.

Archbishop, is gay sex a sin?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 12:35pm BST

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.

Posted by: crs on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 1:04pm BST

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/

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 1:04pm BST

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?

Posted by: Fr Eric Funston on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 1:19pm BST

Susannah- they Care most about churches with large numbers?

Posted by: S Cooper on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 1:32pm BST

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 nothing to rebuild the Church's credibility among those who feel stigmatised by the theological muddle and cultural illiteracy that typifies the CofE's leadership.

Posted by: Simon R on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 1:42pm BST

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!

Posted by: RPNewark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 2:04pm BST

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.

Posted by: Stephen on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 2:07pm BST

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.


Posted by: Fr Andrew on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 2:35pm BST

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 in the Archbishops?
Just wondering as an interested observer living in another Province.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 2:43pm BST

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.

Posted by: Froghole on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 3:09pm BST

A reluctant swing and a wide miss. Christe eleison.

Posted by: DBD on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 3:20pm BST

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.

Posted by: Caelius Spinator on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 3:56pm BST

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 sex is a sin. Or admitting that blocking gay marriage leaves gay people outside the acceptable parameters for sex.

Whatever the theological truth of 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' which you are essentially citing, nevertheless, these Archbishops seem to be mentioning sin at all because they regard gay sex to be sin... otherwise why even mention 'sin' in a statement and celebration of lesbian and gay sexuality?

Forgive me, for suspecting these words are spin, especially in the context of previous actions, which have seen provinces threatened for their celebration of gay relations, priests stripped of jobs for getting married, and generally trying to placate the conservative provinces of the Communion, while delaying again and again on moves to accept gay sexuality in the Church.

Their track record calls into doubt any burning conviction to really acknowledge and affirm the sexual lives of gay and lesbian and bisexual people. On the contrary, they preside over a Church that still takes as its official line the belief that gay sex is forbidden and sinful.

My question, I think, is a reasonable one. Even if, as you say, none of us is worthy:

Do the archbishops think gay sex is ok?

It's a straight question that deserves a straight answer. But they are incredibly unwilling to answer it.

If we believe in simply telling the truth, why can't they just say what they think? It's not good enough to implicitly love the sinner, while repudiating such a precious part of who they are and how they feel. At least, not good enough if they are also presenting their gay-friendly credentials. What the Church ‘condemns’ is very relevant, even if they’d rather avoid mentioning it.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 4:15pm BST

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

Posted by: John Wallace on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 4:34pm BST

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.

Posted by: Charles Clapham on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 5:40pm BST

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.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 6:15pm BST

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!

Posted by: Anthony Duncalf on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 6:21pm BST

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

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 6:41pm BST

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.

Posted by: Robert Ellis on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 8:18pm BST

"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 it. We'd all know for sure where we stand, and could try and find some way forward in light of that. This word salad helps no-one.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 9:04pm BST

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.

Posted by: Steve on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 10:22pm BST

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

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 10:50pm BST

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.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 11:09pm BST

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 lesbian and gay marriage - to appeal for compromise and unity in the Church of England. I have pleaded for a 'unity in diversity'... for people to root our unity in Christ rather than pretend we have a uniform position... and for respect for conscientiously-held beliefs whether liberal or conservative.

To this end, I wrote to over 100 Church of England bishops, and engaged in correspondence with 42 of them. You can find my proposals here:
http://www.whisperedlove.com/atimeforgrace.htm

When they'd replied, I summarised the responses here: http://www.whisperedlove.com/atimeforgracebishopsresponses.htm

Privately, several bishops expressed dismay at the Church's failure to affirm gay and lesbian sexuality. A much larger number agreed that some kind of 'Unity in Diversity' was inevitable if schism was to be avoided.

However, there was a pretty wide undercurrent of concern that some conservatives would not contemplate that kind of compromise. This was backed up and validated by a couple of bishops who wrote to me in very strong terms about the total unacceptability of 'unity in diversity' because in their view affirmation of gay marriage or gay sex was an abandonment of the gospel.

So my view from this data, is that the real problem is conservative intransigence. The principle of saying 'We have diverse views, but what's most important is that we love each other, keep serving Christ, and co-exist in our Church' seems simply not acceptable to a minority of conservative Anglicans in the Church of England.

Yes, I agree, we should *all* guard our words, and pray and seek the grace and love of God in our dealings with one another. But in a Church that is divided down the middle on the issue of human sexuality, what is one to do if one group refuses to compromise and insists on only its way being allowed?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 27 July 2017 at 11:23pm BST

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 what God intends for them, and so as sinful. Being angry about this does not change the matter.

Posted by: crs on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 6:41am BST

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.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 6:53am BST

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.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 7:32am BST

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

Posted by: Jo on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 8:20am BST

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*.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 8:59am BST

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 theological words that you won't understand because they have a different meaning in real life, to let you know that we're still firmly focused on ourselves. Is there a world out there? Happy anniversary, miserable sinners.'

What is their relationship with their comms department if this can pass as helpful public engagement? Is that really how the CoE understands itself now? That would be truly desperate.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 9:00am BST

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 would be able to manage in 400 words.

That said, one element of the Cross is that it is a punishment for sin. Jesus must die so that sin is punished without the destruction that would presumably entail. However, my understanding always has been that conscious sin must be acknowledged to God for justification. And I'd find it a strange example for the Archbishops to be less frank with the public than with God. (Though given the long history of Anglican fudge, I may be entirely mistaken.)

I think many of the commenters wonder why the Archbishops think the pre-1967 legislation was wrong.

I also think many of those who are gay and lesbian and discern God's will as celibacy would object to being pressured into marriage with someone of the opposite sex, being discriminated against in employment and housing, and being subject to social opprobrium. And if the experience of Mervyn Stockwood, Peter Wheatley, or Nicholas Chamberlain is any indication, some might even want to live a common and celibate life with a spouse of some sort and maintain the current teaching on marriage. Strangely enough, this kind of blessed liberty in Christ Jesus is very difficult when non-celibacy is criminalized.

Posted by: Caelius Spinator on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 9:34am BST

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.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 10:30am BST

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

Posted by: Rod on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 10:32am BST

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 to suspend resolution of debate until after the next Lambeth Conference (if it takes place).

For me, one of the most blatant 'manipulations' in the whole message is the avoidance of the fact (and belief of the Archbishops?) that gay sex still remains sinful.

They write:

"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..."

...as if that makes the Church's official position on gay sex alright. What they omit to mention - because they're avoiding the nastiness of it - is:

"In January 2016 the majority of the leading Archbishops of the whole global Anglican Communion - almost 80 million people in 165 countries - still hold to the longstanding view of the Communion that homosexual sex is sinful and wrong."

This is what's glossed over. This is what remains a problem, and a negative, and what's taken as a mandate by homophobes everywhere: that supposedly God condemns gay sex as sinful. This is the residing vilification of the sexual lives of lesbian and gay people.

And to only mention the views on criminalisation, when the Church itself theologically criminalises gay sex, is to 'spin' a message, and hide a truth, and begs the question:

What right have Church leaders, who condemn gay sex, to jump on the bandwagon of people celebrating gay sex and its positive place in society?

It's a kind of appropriation, and with the fundamental hostility to gay sex still in place, frankly it's not going to have much credibility with outsiders, and the younger generations, who are frankly appalled by the Church's position and turned off by it. They have almost stopped listening.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 10:54am BST

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...

Posted by: TJ McMahon on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 1:11pm BST

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 sin failed to deal with the reality of sin more profoundly as affecting us all. But their statement isn't what I would call Theology I.

And this loss is also affecting pretty much all aspects of the discussion. Theology I is itself the problem, whether tried by archbishops or scorned by progressives.

Posted by: crs on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 1:33pm BST

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.

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 1:58pm BST

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."

I am left to wonder.... Did the Archbishops intend in these sentences to describe Christ as sexually attractive? Or are the Archbishops so tin-eared that they did not intend this reading, but approved these sentences regardless?

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 3:45pm BST

'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 with those who have more liberal views. Some of it is nasty. Did the Archbishops not realise this would happen? Did they care? Who exactly were they trying to speak to, and what were they trying to say? This tone-deaf press release has done them and the Church a big disservice.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 4:08pm BST

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 with Parliamentarians given that it was in the Palace of Westminster where the Exemptions were originally crafted, would alleviate the concerns of those who are skeptical of the apparent new line taken.

Posted by: Andrew on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 4:52pm BST

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,

Posted by: Ray Anglesea on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 10:37pm BST

'I am left to wonder.... Did the Archbishops intend in these sentences to describe Christ as sexually attractive? Or are the Archbishops so tin-eared that they did not intend this reading, but approved these sentences regardless?'

Jeremy, I too winced at that, read it again, and was confirmed in my view that the archbishops are showing a truly remarkable failure to understand how their remarks will be received. They seem to be lacking in emotional intelligence and in wisdom.

CRS, I'm intrigued as to what you understand the "progressives'" view of the atonement to be? Please tell us more.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 9:05am BST

I am trying to see some consistency. If we are all born in a state of goodness and simply need strong affirmation as the real medicine, then presumably the death of Christ would be at the hands of those who don't agree with this deep conviction. Christ would die the death of a very good man who sought to bring good things. Our role would be to come alongside that and pick up where he left off. We would not be holding the hammer and driving the nails, even and especially in our best intentions, but would stand aghast at what bad people did to a good man.

The Niebuhr dictim is remembered because it described a Lutheran reaction to american liberal protestantism that the latter did not deny: "a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ with a cross."

In the context of the ABs' comment, they seem to be saying that the cross reveals that we are all sinners, and therefore singling out same-sex sin is the kind of trap-door Romans 1 is held to be by many interpreters.

The reaction is 'but this makes sexual conduct sinful' outside the traditional framework and there is outrage over the matter put this way.

I have no view about the position the ABs are taking as it is frankly hard to know. Trying to please two ends of a spectrum pleases no one and can come across as dishonest.

Posted by: crs on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 12:25pm BST

Welby's out of the country. Sentamu is not. The easy, indiscriminate use of scripture in a public statement intended for those way beyond the Church has Sentamu's fingerprints all over it. Did Welby see this statement, or have time to consider its implications before it was released? Are there any theologically literate people left in Lambeth Palace who could have picked this up and avoided a PR disaster? Or was this an edict from Bishopthorpe that no-one else was allowed to critique before it was sent out?

Whatever the facts, these two primates have proven themselves to be precisely that.

Posted by: Greg Dobson on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 7:12pm BST

I have come to this rather late and I am not sure I have the energy to engage with it much, but as a newly elected member of the Crown Nominations Commission I will get lots of opportunities to ask the Archbishops what they mean. For the moment I think it all meaningless. It appears to conflate homosexuality and sin without qualification. Really? Not even a hint of covenanted relationships. What has happened to the 'relationships of stunning quality' reference? The House of Bishops, with a few worthy exceptions, are hiding in the coral super anxious that no-one says anything that might lead the media to say that 'the dam has burst.' But a bit like the creaky Kariba Dam, 60 years old or so, it is close to bursting. And a lot of provinces in the Anglican Communion will be drowned in the process.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 10:11pm BST

Anthony, there are bishops in the Church of England (as you doubtless know yourself) who have maintained discreet silence thus far, but who in private were deeply dismayed by what the bishops asked to be 'noted' at General Synod, and were pleased that Synod refused to 'take note'. There is not unanimity among the bishops, whatever the collegiate front that's been presented. Bishops who really hoped the Shared Conversations would lead to steps towards more acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships.

Now of course, one may ask oneself, why then did they not speak out. I'm not going to second-guess people's motives.

My exchanges with quite a lot of bishops (42 to date) show me that there are bishops who are frankly frustrated and appalled by the Canterbury-York line which they tried to push through Synod. There are even more who would like to allow more freedom of conscience to LGBT+ priests, through an 'agree to disagree' approach (unity in diversity).

But there is real fear and concern that any such step would be a nuclear option, and that by allowing marriage (or even public celebration of marriages held elsewhere) it would trigger a conservative rebellion, by those churches for whom traditional heterosexual marriage is a salvation issue. Therefore a compromise (of allowing 'some' priests and churches to affirm gay sexuality) is intolerable to them. The bishops collectively are acutely aware and concerned about the 'threat' that accompanies this conservative position.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 11:40pm BST

I tend to agree with your analogy of the dam, which is creaking (can it hold to the next Lambeth Conference?) but which ultimately must burst. At that point, there are considerable numbers of bishops personally willing to affirm LGBT+ relationships and go with the flow of a gay-affirming Church (or at least, a diverse Church that decides to let people follow conscience).

In doing so, they will be reflecting the conscience of the majority of the nation, and half the membership of the Church of England. In short, some significant bishops would be willing to adopt the 'Scottish' approach... if only the dam were to break.

Of course, if or when that dam breaks, as you suggest, it releases a flood – not just in England but Communion-wide. The local church we both worshipped at had a strong connection with Uganda. My own daughter works there, sharing Christian faith in desperately vulnerable communities. I fear for the balkanisation of the Anglican Communion. And yet – we risk losing England (especially the younger generation) if we continue to be perceived as anti-gay and preach that gay people’s lives are inherently sinful, when more and more people know that they’re decent and precious.

Confidentiality can be a frustrating thing (!) and there are limits to this post. But let me add: I hugely appreciate the frank openness in your previous post, which if picked up by Lambeth will cause a little concern, because at the moment (as this latest press release demonstrates) they want to skirt the key issues, and for people to 'play nicely', and keep up appearances of a 'Church which believes' only in traditional heterosexual sex within marriage, when clearly half the Church of England no longer believe that. The uniformity and the 'party line' are a front. It is a fantasy, like Justin's spin on the word 'receive' after ACC-13. It is Alice in Wonderland, and there are bishops who hate that conscience is being dominated in such a partisan way. Something has to give.
If at any point you’d like a private face-to-face conversation I should be happy to meet up, because the internet is very public and there are things I can’t say here. My email is on my supplied webpage, or if you ask Simon Sarmiento he may kindly help you contact me. In any case, again, thank you – for really refreshing candour.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 31 July 2017 at 12:06am BST

Anthony, we wish you well with your new responsibility, and be assured of my prayers. All we ask of you is that you are honest to yourself, and speak the truth in love.
The 'dam' will burst, and much angst real and unreal will be spoken. But at least we will then know who are our true Fathers in God, and our beloved church will move forward with a true and honest heart. Then once again it will become the church of our nation, inclusive of all ages and groups.
God Bless you.

Fr John Emlyn


Posted by: Fr John E Harris-White on Monday, 31 July 2017 at 4:11pm BST

'it would trigger a conservative rebellion, by those churches for whom traditional heterosexual marriage is a salvation issue'

1. Susannah, by 'churches' do you (or did your interlocutors) mean CofE parishes? AC provinces? Or something else?

2. I'm always amazed at the degree to which some people think God uses collective punishment.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 31 July 2017 at 9:57pm BST

Jeremy, the concern expressed to me by several bishops (in response to my argument for 'unity in diversity' which they often agreed was what it could have to come down to) was that I under-estimated the likely strength of conservative opposition to such a proposal: the proposal to let a diverse Church follow diverse positions of conscience.

The 'churches' I (and they) referred to were Church of England parishes/priests/PCCs who they seem to anticipate would arguably revolt in greater numbers than I believe, thereby risking schism into two 'Churches of England'.

My personal view is that while a smallish number of church communities may break off and place themselves under alternative leadership and organisation, I don't see that happening on a wide scale, because I think most parishes and communities just want to carry on their work and service in their local communities, without human sexuality being the primary, break-off issue it is to some very dogmatic leaders. In other words, I think most PCCs probably would opt for the 'opt-out' if offered, rather than a complete breakaway.

However, in reporting views expressed to me, several bishops think I under-estimate the rigidity of the position of conservative churches on this issue: which those church communities view as subverting God's creation purposes, God's word, and the salvation offered in the bible.

So I think there is caution rooted in fear of the consequences, and avoidance of the conflict, and postponement of any resolution. All the time, of course, the pressure inside the dam builds up.

Once again, there are striking and outspoken criticisms of the episcopal position that was presented to General Synod, notably but not exclusively by bishops not themselves members of Synod or the House of Bishops. Then more in the middle, a greater number who see 'unity in diversity' as a reasonable - and possibly only - way out of this stand-off.

Scotland seemed to see it this way, after all, and that respect for diversity of conscience appeals to more 'centrist' bishops, except they fear it may be inoperable, because of conservative refusal to accept it.

I can't publicly 'out' people who have written in confidence, but some of the views on the Lambeth status quo position were pretty eviscerating, reflecting internal and private frustration. In my opinion, many or most bishops would back a diverse consciences approach, once it was set in motion.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 7:37am BST

"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. ... we should be getting on with the mandate that Jesus gave us, to be his missional community in a broken world. - Posted by Steve"

Because if you condemn ALL physical intimacy between same-sex couples as SIN, you're not being Jesus's "missional community in a broken world"---you're actively doing the breaking. Break us, or love&respect us: it's one or the other, Steve.

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 7:08am BST

It seems to me the problem is quite simple. The divide is between those who see any expression of sexuality between persons of the same sex as sin (of varying degrees of gravity) and those who see such sexuality as sinful only and to the same extent one sees such sexual expression between persons of the opposite sex. Evangelicals appear to have no problem in seeing sin in some heterosexual relations and not in others. Some seem able to apply this principle to same-sex relationships.

In short, this is not about the atonement or the cross, but about the nature of specific actions with regard to whether they are sinful or not. The "progressives" are seeking parity -- judging (for themselves, rather than for others) the moral rightness of actions and relationships based not on taboo but on recognizable aspects of moral thinking in keeping with the teaching of Christ: fidelity, love, care, self-giving, and altruism.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 3:22pm BST

Amen, Tobias.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 3 August 2017 at 3:13am BST

Even Theresa May shows more warmth than those two.

The C of E is in trouble with such poor leaders. At least the PM sounds supportive, while forming a coalition with an anti-LGBT party.

When the church can say "LGBT," "BLGBTQIA," maybe things will have changed.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Friday, 4 August 2017 at 7:01am BST
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