Comments: bloggers react to the LBC radio phone-in

Of the 34 comments currently responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury answering questions on the radio phone-in 33 concern his linking of killings in Africa to gay marriage. However, Archbishop Justin did have other things to say during the course of the hour long programme. For example he made this extraordinary comment - " I think the opponents of women's ordination are wrong theologically." It's a long time since I have heard such an arrogant and crass statement emanating from the lips of an Archbishop of Canterbury. Does that mean that Justin Welby regards his new best friend in all the world - Pope Francis - as being "wrong theologically", not to mention Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch?
With the vast backlash of criticism currently descending upon him I think we are all beginning to realise that the current ABC has been promoted beyond his abilities. The same was true of his predecessor but one George Carey - inflicted upon the Church by Margaret Thatcher after only little over two years experience as a diocesan bishop. Welby had less than half that time at Durham. When he was appointed it was said that his great strengths lay in the ministry of reconciliation. To date he doesn't seem to be making much impression as a reconciler in his role as titular head of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 12:43pm BST

Either those who oppose women's ordination are wrong theologically, or they are right. Pope Francis thinks they are right. ++ Justin thinks they are wrong. The Pope is free to express his views on the topic, so why should not ++Justin? The fact that Francis and Bartholomew are of one mind on this does not mean that ++Justin is wrong. There may be a case that ++ Justin has been 'promoted beyond his abilities', but if so I don't think this particular pronouncement is evidence of it.

Posted by Sam Roberts at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 2:15pm BST

I think as Rachel Mann has written elsewhere, the killings are done for spurious reasons tied up with long-standing tensions and hatreds... and if one spurious reason (homosexuality in England) is removed, the killing for spurious reasons will still carry on, because the justifications for killing are spurious anyway.

All that will be achieved is the suppression of gay and lesbian lives and acceptance in England, the corroboration of suppressions and mandate for prejudice elsewhere, and the trampling over individual and local church conscience by top-down demands for a uniformity that doesn't even exist.

No equivalent demands are made for heterosexual people to forego sex, and besides, as Andrew Brown says, surely moral sacrifice should be chosen autonomously by individuals concerned, not imposed by people who don't have to make that moral sacrifice themselves.

Boko Haram does not need gay Anglicans in England to be celibate. Their killings are driven by far stronger influences, and will carry on anyway.

If the Anglican Communion takes a uniform and proscriptive line against gay sex and marriage, that will only back up further the prejudice and hostility towards gay and lesbian people in Africa and elsewhere.

The Archbishop's reason for suppressing gay sex and marriage in the Church of England on grounds of threatened violence appears spurious too. Basically he just doesn't agree with gay sex and marriage. He has more likely inherited a tradition of teaching from his HTB days etc, and it has nothing to do with Boko Haram.

Heterosexual people making decisions about the lives of gay and lesbian people, and calling for sacrificial celibacy that they don't impose on themselves, is frankly an affront to autonomy, conscience and community.

The Church in England is divided down the middle in its views. Some local churches judge they should welcome gay sex and marriage. Their conscience on this issue should be protected.

The Anglican Church has a history of accommodating divergent views and traditions, and exploring the grace involved in co-existing. This ‘unity in diversity' is at odds with the Covenant, the uniformity the episcopal letter attempts to impose, and the narrowing of community that leads in other traditions to sectarianism.

We are One in Christ. At the point of our differences, the potential for grace and love may challenge us and make us more whole and authentic. It is not all about doctrinal purity.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 2:19pm BST

Father David, he is trying for reconciliation by telling liberals that women priests are ok and that gays shouldn't be attacked, etc. He's also still trying to tell conservatives there is a place for them in the church still. But liberals won't accept that any more than conservatives accept gay marriage. Nobody here liked Rowan for the last several years either, so I don't think you can blame lack of experience. The sad fact is there are two understandings in the church and they are both mutually exclusive of the other. No archbishop is going to have peace until one group is driven out.

Posted by Chris H. at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 2:35pm BST

Oh, to be "a fly on the wall" when Welby decides to lecture the Pope and the EP about their "error." He may not get very far with the EP, though, as I recall how, about a decade ago, William Swing, then the Episcopalian Bishop of California, wrote on his blog about how he had met with the EP and offered to "share" with him his views on WO - but the EP said he wasn't interested, and would rather not "share."

Posted by William Tighe at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 2:38pm BST

There has been little reference in this difficult debate particularly with regard to Uganda to the circumstances surrounding the conversion of that country. The 'Martyrs of Uganda', defined non-exclusively for the purpose of their canonisation (so that it has been argued that Anglicans figure in the total),were the page-boys of the ruling Kabaka in the central area of that country who chose voluntary death to submission to rape by the ruler. While deploring extreme penalties, acts and attitudes, it might be useful to study Ugandan susceptibilities in the light of these events.

Posted by Clive Sweeting at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 2:48pm BST

To argue that something which happened many years ago (in which even the "cause" so stated is suspect) now provides the grounds historically for some identical event many years is of course spurious beyond belief. The assumption is, of course we must act (or not) to protect the Africans (a bit of neo-colonial reach is it not?) Well here is a thought, contrarian I am sure. If these Christians in Nigeria, etc. are so endangered by something we in America have done (or you in the UK may do), and are so defense-less, well then I say arm them! Yes I know this seems horrible, but is arguing endlessly among the righteous, especially this semi-academic, time consuming twaddle, really going to help Nigerian Christians or Nigerian Gays. Just a thought.

Posted by William R, Coats at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 3:01pm BST

Sam, there have been 5 Archbishops of Canterbury who support the ordination of women (Coggan, Runcie, Carey, Williams and Welby) all previous 100 opposed this ministerial innovation. There have been 266 popes and 271 Ecumenical Patriarchs who all oppose this break with Catholic and Orthodox tradition. Are you actually suggesting that 5 were theologically right and 637 were theologically wrong? If not how do we decide who is right and who is wrong? Where does true Authority lie?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 3:09pm BST

You are right Susannah, these killings would have taken place in any case. At the rough end of the legal system in England it's called the 'Portsmouth Defence' (after the naval town, not the diocese). In its basic form it goes like this: 'He touched me on the trouser leg and called me "darling". In my disgust I knocked him down and to teach him a lesson I took his wallet.'

It is no longer successful in court, but still works for Lambeth Palace.

Posted by RevPeterM at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 3:36pm BST

The CoE is about to vote in women bishops and will consider the theological question to be settled. There will be provisions for those who cannot accept this, but CoE itself will no longer believe 2 opposed things before breakfast.

Fr David, of course Justin Welby believes the Pope to be wrong on this. That's hardly news!
And to have spent years discerning something and then come to a conclusion is hardly arrogant.
It may be wrong, but it's not arrogant.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 3:54pm BST

As The Rev. Mervyn Noote said on the first thread:

"If this is the line of argument he's resorting to, then he knows that he's lost the argument."

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 4:08pm BST

The Bishop Marc Andrus link is broken

ED: Fixed, sorry

Posted by Chip Chillington at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 4:21pm BST

"He's also still trying to tell conservatives there is a place for them in the church still. But liberals won't accept that any more than conservatives accept gay marriage."

What an extraordinary statement! I have yet to meet a single liberal who would say that there is not place for conservatives in the church, while I have heard, often, that liberals are “not real Christians.” What liberals are saying is that all Christians are welcome at the Table, the only “restriction” being that no one may exclude LGBT persons from full membership and participation in Christ’s church, or deny them a common road to full and deeper growth in Christ (i.e: marriage).

Just as we believe that the efficacy of the mass is irrespective of the person leading it, liberals do not feel that Christian fellowship is diminished by “undesirables” taking part – quite the contrary. Which is the more Christ-like view I leave to readers to decide, but it is clear that if anyone is being told that there is no place for them in the church, the shoe is on the other foot, and as you point out, it is conservatives who would deny growth through marriage and do not wish to worship with those who see it differently.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 5:59pm BST

Father David:

'Where does true authority lie?' Where, indeed?

Someone is right and someone is wrong. I suspect that only God knows the correct position. We are all free to express our views.

And sadly, whenever anyone says that they believe their view is theologically correct, it means (by implication) that the alternative view is (in their opinion)theologically wrong. It all-or-nothing, as a woman either can be validly ordained or she can't. I don't see Justin as having done anything wrong for simply stating explicitly what his position implies in any event.

Posted by Sam Roberts at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 6:22pm BST


Thanks for that.

The Ugandan Martyrs are referred to quite frequently in discussions about homosexuality in Uganda. I first heard of the Martyrs when they were alluded to by African clerics arguing against gay rights at the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

President Yoweri Museveni used to see the Kabaka's apparent bisexuality as proof that homosexuality and bisexuality had existed in Uganda before the arrival of the Europeans, and therefore that they were part of Ugandan culture. However, the President's recent conversion to an extreme anti-gay position has led him to comment that the Kabaka in question must have leanred homosexuality 'from the Arabs'.

Shades of the mediaeval European position where each country decried male homosexuality as 'the (insert adjective describing people from neighbouring enemy country) disease'. (The French Disease, the English Disease etc.)

I fail to see how discussions of the Ugandan Martyrs help any discussions on gay rights and gay unions. The Kabaka's acts - rape, grooming of minors and sex in breach of trust would rightly be illegal in any country now, whether that country allows consensual gay sex, civil unions, gay marriages etc, or not. If anyone is so blinkered that they can only see homosexuality in terms of rape and paedophilia, then they are rather like those who would massacre Christians for fear that the latter would make them (the killers) gay. That is to say, they are people whom you cannot reason with.

I hasten to add that this blinkered gays = paedophiles/rapists attitude is not exclusively Ugandan or African - it is found in Western anti-gay circles too.

Posted by Sam Roberts at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 6:44pm BST

We need great caution when discussing the "Ugandan Martyrs". The history of African culture in that area is quite contested.

There is strong evidence that same-sex eroticism was a major part of the culture in many parts of Africa. In a culture where young men and women were raised separately, a boy would grow up to become the object of affection of an older boy, then progress to loving a boy of his own, and then move onto a third stage of heterosexual marriage. These same sex relationships were socially approved of, and seen of as the major way in which the younger boys would be mentored and receive their education and enculturation.

There are anthropological reports of societies (in Nigeria if my memory is correct) in which the older and younger boy would actually get married, and the younger boy would be expected to cook and keep house for the older (often secretly supported by his Mum)

Such customs were widespread throughout the world. Classical Greece is probably the best known example. Within such a culture a king's retinue of page boys would be seen as entirely normal.

The coming of Christianity then brought with it a different attitude to same sex eroticism, and Kabaka's actions became a story of rape and martydom. But we should not let the Africans argue that same sex activities are unknown in Africa, or that homosexuality is a Western disease.


Posted by Simon Dawson at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 8:10pm BST

" Are you actually suggesting that 5 were theologically right and 637 were theologically wrong? If not how do we decide who is right and who is wrong? Where does true Authority lie?"

Until 1860, there were 15 American presidents who thought slavery was morally and politically correct. Until 1954, there were literally dozens of Supreme Court justices who thought "separate but equal" was morally correct.

The number of people who think something is "right" is not an indicator of whether it is or not.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 9:10pm BST

Perhaps the greatest irony (and tragedy) is that Welby sees a connection (or easily accepts there is one) between same-sex marriage in America and England/Wales and violence in Africa, rather than seeing the more obvious (and verifiable) connection between violence against gays and violence against anyone, in Africa, America, England and Wales and where ever it takes place. It is violence he should be addressing, not marriage.

I am also weary of folks who claim the overturn of the Biblical dietary Law offers no good analogy for overturning Biblical marriage law, appealing to Romans 14 (Paul's call to abstain from foods that offend ones brother). We are not talking about food here, on either side, but human beings.

Those who do violence defame the image of God. Those who marry honor the image of God in each other. There is no comparison -- or connection.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 10:38pm BST

"Where does true Authority lie?"

Authority lies with Jesus Christ, who broke substantial cultural taboos to teach, heal, and hang with women. It was Jesus who made a woman the first witness to the Resurrection. Woman can take comfort that Jesus treated us like human beings and called us to be his disciples. The rest is CULTURE!

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 10:45pm BST

Clare George's analysis on Welby's remarks is spot on.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 10:47pm BST

The continuing murderous rivalries and ethnic cleansing usually along tribal/religious lines continues in many countries across central Africa. The Moslem pastoralists of neighbouring Central African Republic have been all but wiped out or are in refugee camps in adjoining countries. The war raging in the Congo has taken over 5 million lives since 1994 some 3 million of them children.
One could say that we hardly need reminding of all the stories of child soldiers, massacres, rapes and vile atrocities of every form that has racked
the region for far too long, but it seems, reading the response of the ABC, we do need to be educated in the history and strife of places like the Sudan.
What sort of people believe that homosexuality is an infection that can be caught?
What sort of people kill women and children out of fear of catching being gay?
What sort of faith could encourage or support such an action or refrain from condemning the heinous act and the hate/fear that permitted it?
what sort of society/culture is happy to profit from these massacres and sees them as morally good?

What do we call this evil?
How do we stamp it out?

What is more, as others have said, how do we stamp it out here?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 11:07pm BST

Great rebuttal from +Kelvin.

I hope that all the world's religious leaders stand up and say "no, Justin, you've got it wrong. The right thing to do is condemn the violence and the homophobia." Our PB already has. Apparently she has a great deal more courage (and honesty) than Justin.

And then there's that Ugandan bishop standing up for LGBT people in his country; he's in danger of getting 7 years in prison.

That's what courage looks like.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 11:29pm BST

ED : The Bishop Marc Andrus link is broken again?

This other one seems to work; perhaps he keeps changing the typepad slug on it.

ED: fixed again, thank you.

Posted by Randal Oulton at Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 11:46pm BST

The notion that one may categorize theology in favor of the ordination of women as either "right" or "wrong" is probably not helpful. What does need to be said is that the sexism, the discrimination against women's equality that one finds articulated and defended inside institutional Christianity is unjust, wrong headed, and largely an embarrassment to those of us trying to hold onto some semblance of Christian believing in today's world .

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 12:22am BST

To quote Kelvin Holdsworth:

"When you encounter violence, you condemn it, Archbishop. When you encounter murder, you condemn it, Archbishop. When you encounter homophobia, you condemn it, Archbishop.

"You don’t appease it, Justin Welby. You condemn it.

"Why should any of us in any land expect anything less of you?"

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 1:42am BST

"For example he made this extraordinary comment - 'I think the opponents of women's ordination are wrong theologically.' It's a long time since I have heard such an arrogant and crass statement emanating from the lips of an Archbishop of Canterbury. Does that mean that Justin Welby regards his new best friend in all the world - Pope Francis - as being "wrong theologically", not to mention Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch?"
- Father David -

NO, Father, What it does mean is that the Church of England - Catholic AND Reformed - has come to the decision that the correct theological stance for Anglicans, is to accept that Women are made in the same Image and Likeness of God as Men, and are therefore able to exercise, now would we?e priestly and episcopal ministry. N.B./ We are not Roman Catholics, whose theology at present does not allow for this.

You cannot pretend, Father, that the Church
of England has the precise theology of the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches. Otherwise, we would not still be seeking unity now would we?

One thing ++Justin did say, was that, unlike the Pope, he does not have to power to make pronouncement for the rest of the Communion. May that continue to be so!

By the way, dear Father, Do you think Rome is 'right, theologically' about contraception?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 1:42am BST

Father David, I'm astonished at your appeal to numbers (apparently) as a means of determining truth. Majority vote (with the dead having votes a la G. K. Chesterton) is how truth is determined?

In reply to an earlier post of yours, I cited the second half of Article XIX ("Of the Church"): "As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith."

Do you think this statement -- to which I believe you swore an oath of assent -- is "arrogant and crass"?

Posted by WilliamK at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 3:24am BST

What the Provost of St. Mary's Cathedral Church, Glasgow (Kevin Holdsworth), said. Amen.

Posted by Murdoch at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 3:46am BST

Nathaniel, might I suggest that you take a look at some of the other posts on this site regarding women bishops and the fight to pass legislation allowing it and the Code of Practice offered? Other posts on gay marriage and bishops, too. For women bishops there were many calls that no provisions be made for traditionalists. Everyone has women bishops, full stop. Everyone does gay weddings. Several posters here have stated that only someone who is for gay marriage and women priests/bishops can be a "Real Christian". Not Christ, faith, or baptism-- gays and women are the real theology. Those who don't agree have been called cultists, terrorists, and Neanderthals to name a few. If they aren't Christians then you don't need them in the church. I'm glad you disagree, but the feeling really is there in some areas of the far left. Hate goes both directions.

Posted by Chris H. at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 4:01am BST

Barak Obama is the 44th American President, that means that if 15 favoured slavery, 29 were against. A democratic poll of U. S. A Presidents would vote decisively against slavery.. So, Pat, my original question stands - how do we decide what is theologically right and what is theologically wrong? Where does true authority lie?

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 7:43am BST

It seems that the Archbishop is manipulating the mass grave story in a very questionable way:,-killed-in-south-sudan.aspx

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 8:52am BST

"Injustice anywhere leads to injustice everywhere" said Martin Luther King. What the church has yet to learn is that you will not build justice for everyone by excluding those you disapprove of. "Darkness does not drive out darkness, only light can do that" MLK again. If Christians and Muslims are to stop slaughtering each other it will be because they both learn this, not because LGBT rights are denied in the CofE. Where in all of this is the astonishing vision of Jesus of Nazareth which so inspired MLK?

Posted by sjh at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 9:07am BST

Welby was *not* talking about the Sudanese massacre on LBC, but about a different, Nigerian one.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 11:25am BST

Father David:

MY point was that for the first 80 or so years of American history, every President supported slavery. Once one didn't, things changed. But was Lincoln wrong because 15 Presidents preceding him thought differently?

While we live in a representative democracy (both in the UK and the US), and we pass our laws and elect our representatives by majority vote, we do not decide morality or theology on those terms. Indeed, the US Constitution contains specific language defending the rights of a minority to espouse views that differ from the majority. (We've not always done a good job of living up to that language, but hey--we're human.)

And that very humanity is why we cannot say "the more people who believe something, the more likely it is right."

Oh...and authority? It lies within the individual human conscience.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 11:41am BST

Fr. David,

The Roman Catholic Church isn't afraid to say to Anglicans that we are wrong when it believes so--it still does not recognize Anglican orders, and does not consider any church but itself to be a part of the Church Catholic, but a separated splinter. This is not, I am sure, said out of rudeness, but out of belief. So too with us. We can disagree without falling into the sort of dogging-and-catting that so long marred relationships. (E.g., referring to the RCC as "Our fallen sister," or worse)

And we should uphold the right, as we see it, while making opportunities to work together, and remain in conversation. And let Rome determine how to respond for itself. For me, that means embracing women's ordination to all levels of ministry as an exercise of God's will--whom He has called, I should bar?

Which is pretty much how I feel about the other issue Welby discussed: Even if what he said was empirically correct, of which I am skeptical--not that he was told it, mind, but that it was true-- it is morally outrageous, and would be a blackmailer's charter.

Posted by John Wirenius at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 12:02pm BST

William, it has been said, not by me, of course, that the only thing that unites the Church of England is the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, in that no one believes any of them! Perhaps this has been said because they owe more to the politics of the time when they were concocted rather than to true religion. Personally, I have a very high regard for the Bishop of Rome who hath no jurisdiction in this realm. As I've said before, he is the most Christ-like pontiff to sit on the throne of a Peter in decades and for that, he surely deserves our love and respect. But there again, who am I to judge?

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 12:25pm BST

I am a consequentialist (so I have been told). If it were the case that blessing or celebration of gay marriage in Britain were to lead to the deaths of Christians in Africa or anywhere else, then I think the good would be outweighed by the bad (even though the bad would be being fomented by some very unscrupulous people and carried out by some very deluded people, both of which groups would of course carry much, much greater responsibility than the celebrants or participants in such marriages). If someone like Bishop Francis of Sudan - a good person, in my experience - said this would happen (and I imagine he does), then I would believe him. Cynthia here has said that TEC continues to do much good work in Africa untrammelled. But I think it's different with the C of E, because of the colonial past and its legacies. So, very reluctantly, I think this argument has force. That force would surely be somewhat diminished if the C of E simply allowed pluralist practice - which I think the best outcome anyway, in this as in other areas.

Posted by John at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 2:30pm BST

" do we decide what is theologically right and what is theologically wrong? Where does true authority lie?"

Where ever true authority lies, it must be just and not arbitrary to be credible. A credible and legitimate authority would not be at war with experience, especially with our empirical and scientific experiences of the world. So far, reason, experience, and justice stand against an arbitrary reading of Scripture that seeks to legitimate an entirely arbitrary prejudice against gays and lesbians which may have plenty of historical precedent, but whose truisms wither into a toxic nullity when tested.

A true and legitimate authority must be engaged with the world and with life, and not be limited to self referential closed systems.

One of the remarkable things about the campaign to end slavery on both sides of the Atlantic in the 19th century is that it succeeded despite overwhelming historical, social, economic, and even religious arguments in favor of continuing the institution. A majority of people (including people in authority) favored the institution and accepted it as legitimate at the beginning of the 19th century. There was no economic reason to end it and plenty of economic cause to perpetuate and spread slavery. Textile industries in several countries depended on American cotton kept affordable by slave labor. Theologians found no shortage of Scriptural proof texts to legitimate foregone conclusions. And yet, that very ancient institution of slavery collapsed under a renewed scrutiny.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 2:34pm BST

Fr David
"how do we decide what is theologically right and what is theologically wrong?"

You know the answer to that, you just don't agree with it.
The CoE has its own discernment processes for its theology and it believes that these enable it to work out what God wants for this church.
Having followed the processes, it has now come to the firm conclusion that God actively calls women to be priests and bishops.

Whether other churches aren't getting the same call, whether they are not hearing it or whether they are ignoring it, who can say! It's not our concern. Nor is the mythical "universal church" relevant that some claim has to agree before the CoE can make such decisions.

You are free to disagree with this, to wring your hands, to wish things were different. You are free to believe that the CoE is wrong.
But this church has come to a conclusion and it is set to implement it, with full provisions for those who struggle with that truth.

And that is really where it ends.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 4:21pm BST

Why was so much attention given to Anne Widdicombe? After all, she left the CofE over 20 years ago because she couldn't accept the right of the Church to ordain women. What was she doing on the programme? After all she has her own spiritual leaders now who no doubt welcome her support and leadership for whatever cause she now espouses. Why burden an Archbishop, whose orders and authority she doesn't recognise. Or perhaps', like some others, on here and elsewhere, she just can't let go.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 5:26pm BST

Chris, H - Thank you for your well-taken comments. I suppose to a degree, that I am the product of my church environment, being a member of an Episcopal Church in Seattle that actively welcomes all. We perform same-sex marriages, but while quite liberal, we welcome and include some pretty conservative members. We have had a few leave – possibly 5 or 6 – but this has been of their own accord, not the result of any conscious exclusion. The conscious, real exclusion I have encountered - rejected children being one element I have seen too much of - has however, been from the far-right side.

It’s easy to fall into the language you mention, and I confess to doing so at times of frustration. You hit the mark when you say, “the feeling really is there in some areas of the far left,” but I have not encountered it in “real life” (people will often say terrible things when frustrated and/or anonymous, as on the internet, and I question whether they always really mean it.)

Perhaps the answer is to ignore both extremes, and go on with the work of community? At any rate, your comments are valuable and well taken, and I thank you for them. As for who is a “real Christian,” I leave that up to Christ himself. OUR job is to love one another, hard work though that may sometimes be!

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 5:55pm BST

In his comments, the ABC is committing the logical fallacy of reification, that is, claiming a causal connection between two independent variables.

People in England, or in the USA, or anywhere, do many things, for many different reasons. People in Africa, or anywhere else, for that matter, also do many things, for many reasons.

To claim a causal link between these two independent variables -- i.e., that an action by people in the USA or in England directly leads to or causes an action in Africa, or somewhere else, as the ABC does in this interview, is to commit reification.

Reification is actually a form of rhetorical argumentation, not a form of logical reasoning.

It is a form of justification for an action that one wants to take -- in this case, not to support same-sex weddings in the Church of England -- that tries to shift responsibility for one's own decision away from oneself and place it on a third party.

There is simply no way to demonstrate any causal link between whatever the Church of England chooses to do on this subject and what people in Africa choose to do toward their fellow citizens who are gay.

To claim such a causal link is to deprive people in Africa of their freedom to make their own decisions, as well as to inflate the significance of actions taken in England.

The ABC is being dishonest here -- he would have more credibility if he were honest in expressing his opposition to same-sex marriages, rather than blaming his desire for inaction on the possible reactions of someone somewhere else.

Posted by JNWALL at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 6:14pm BST

even if there was a link, which is by no means proven and I would dearly like to see some studies or other evidence that show a direct link between the murder of conservative, anti gay African Christians and mildly liberal churches in the West, we would still have to ask what is to be done about it.

Would we have to cave in to bullies and become less equal ourselves?
Or would we have to double our efforts to fight homophobia in our own country to become an example of how little there is to fear from liberated gay people?

What course of action would actually be helpful not only in the short term but in the long run?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 7:09pm BST

There is simply no way to demonstrate any causal link between whatever the Church of England chooses to do on this subject and what people in Africa choose to do toward their fellow citizens who are gay.

If that is the case can everyone who is urging us to set the Africans a good example please stop, since their efforts are clearly futile.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Sunday, 6 April 2014 at 9:48pm BST

Father David, you asked: "Where does true Authority lie?"

In my view, the answer to your question begins with Matthew 28:18. Would you agree?

Posted by WilliamK at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 2:13am BST

"To claim such a causal link is to deprive people in Africa of their freedom to make their own decisions, as well as to inflate the significance of actions taken in England."


As someone upthread said, it's like an abusive spouse saying "now look what you made me do".

We would have to ask what Welby would have said about 9/11 had he been an archbishop at the time. "We should give these people what they want, as otherwise they might do it again", I presume.

Has he actually thought his position through? What he's essentially saying is that killing Christians is not futile, because you get what you want if you do it. It encourages the killings by giving the killers the power they seek.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 7:50am BST

but the claim is that our setting a good example and treating our own citizens as fully equals is causing actual bodily harm to conservative anti gay Christians in Africa.

If people really want us to stop behaving morally and ethically correct to our own citizens and if they want our own citizens to accept that lesser moral status, they have to do a little more than just claim that there is a link.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 9:25am BST

I don't care whether the moral logic is repugnant - I do care whether there is a possibility that innocent people might lose their lives, which they would not otherwise have done. One might compare the former pope's Ravensburg speech. He had an absolute right to give it. He had arguments. Nevertheless, innocent people lost their lives as a result of it, which they would not otherwise have done, and the speech should not have been made. That seems completely elementary to me (as a corrupt, fudgy, consequentialist). It might - I only say might - be the same with gay marriage. I am in favour of gay marriage (passionately, actually). I already answered Erika's question in the short term. In the longer term, of course, one works for the whole deal and in both contexts, Africa (and elsewhere) as well as the UK (and elsewhere).

Posted by John at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 10:07am BST

And if we're talking about potential links I would also like to point out another possibility.
Lgbt people in Africa have told us that their churches have used the Archbishop’s stance in support for their own. “Look, even the Archbishop in a much more liberal church is not treating gay people as equals. He knows they're morally inferior".

Changing Attitude in Nigeria have begged the CoE for years to speak out clearly against homophobia and violence. They have been met with a deafening silence.

If my Nigerian friends are to be believed the terrible laws might not have been implemented if the CoE had been much firmer in condemning anti gay violence and legislation years and years ago, if it hadn't tried to appease Archbishop Akinola by refusing to invite Gene Robinson to Lambeth etc. Instead, they have given him an air of respectability which he should never have had and which he used very cleverly at home to lay the foundations for the current situation.
Now it's too late to do anything about it.

There is a very genuine possibility that appeasing violent behaviour will only ever result in more violence.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 10:13am BST

I offer the following as an interpretation of the positions and the nature of the relationship or covenant being established.

Thank you, as ever, to Andrew Brown for his excellent analysis.

Positions being established:
The arguments for vilifying gay relationships are correct – there is no room for doubt – as they are based in a literal reading of the Bible.
There is a link, which cannot be put up for question (again no room for doubt), between actions of gays in the UK and the persecution of Christians, whatever their sexual orientation, in several African countries.
The protection (a temptation which I believe Jesus resisted) of those being persecuted in several African countries, is possible from afar.

The nature of the relationship:
I understand that a reaction based in an eye for an eye, etc, is what is being offered. This is based in an analysis of power which is win-lose. If we support gay relationships (in or out of marriage), then we are responsible for others persecuting our fellow human beings. This argument also closes around who is ‘we’. There is a certainty about this we-ness of, as I see it, those who are Righteous. In Lacanian terms, it is a closed group.
This contrasts with how I understand the relationship in which Jesus acts and describes. Firstly, we are asked to submit to a relationship of love and trust – no certainty is offered. It is necessary to give up all our ‘having’ in return for approaching the limits of our experience and finding we have got it wrong. This is the first step in transformation and takes me out of my comfort zone. Secondly, we may only treat our neighbours as ourselves if submission to a relationship of love and trust is in place.

All actions have consequences, for which responsibility has to be taken. My concerns are two-fold:
1) How are our friends (both part of our church communities and on the outside) who are gay best supported so that gay marriage is not seen as spat out by the Church of England?
2) What actions are required, from within relationships of love and trust, to help and support those who are persecuted both for their faith and/or their sexuality?

In my opinion, until we have taken the masonry beam out of our eyes, and tackled question 1, we have no basis for action on question 2.

Posted by Julia Evans at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 12:35pm BST

There was Pius Xll who did not condemn the Nazi round-ups of Jews, because (he claimed) that to do so would endanger others (Christians, one assumes) and then there was the bishop in Bulgaria (I think it was, always if the story is true) who took his flock out and lay down across the railroad tracks in a Gandhi gesture which prevented that train from conveying its load of Jews to the death camps. Which one was the greater Christian?

Posted by Sara MacVane at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 12:47pm BST

I agree with everything you say, Erika, as you know very well. But consequentialists take account of all relevant factors - and loss of innocent life should surely be on that list.

I thought at the time that when R Williams first became AbP he should have argued that the gay issue belonged among 'adiaphora'. He might have got away with it in his honeymoon period.

Posted by John at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 2:26pm BST

John, Re. the previous pope's Ravensburg speech, gay marriage, etc.... So, you're arguing that people in the West should self-censor and abstain from advancing social justice in our societies because some Muslim thugs believe in killing innocent people over words and ideas? We should hold ourselves, rather than them, responsible for their murderous deeds? I find your position appalling.... Perhaps I should go out and kill someone because of it: that would be your fault, of course!

Posted by WilliamK at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 2:30pm BST

" But consequentialists take account of all relevant factors - and loss of innocent life should surely be on that list."

The consequentialist would then have to make a proper analysis of the consequences.
Does speaking out lead to deaths, as the Archbishop seems to have been told? Or does not speaking out lead to tragedy, as lgbt Christians in Nigeria tell us?

Those of us who have promoted and signed the recent petition asking the Archbishops to speak out against the Nigerian anti gay laws, a petition that was started by Nigerian refugee Davis Mac-Iyalla and welcomed by Changing Attitude in Nigeria, believed that it would help persecuted people in African countries if the Archbishops stood up for them.

We may be wrong.
But currently there seems to be assertion facing assertion and no effort at all to prove that speaking out against violence causes violence, no proof at all that promoting human rights and justice leads directly to violence and injustice.

There must be sociologists out there, maybe even among us here on TA, who have looked into this question and who could shed a little more light on cause and effect?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 3:51pm BST


I signed that petition and tried to get others to do so too.

I have little respect for Welby or the new bishop of Durham. I think their failure to speak out has many times been disgraceful. I have said so many times, on TA and elsewhere. I have written to the new bishop of Durham, who will have no reason to like me.

I think gay priests who want to get married should go right ahead. I will support them to the best of my ability. I am sure many others will too. I hope and expect that many priests will find 'creative ways' (the bishop of Buckingham) to celebrate the marriages of gay lay people.

Posted by John at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 4:22pm BST

Consequentialism is an amoral ethic because the justice of acts themselves is ignored. It's the ultimate in ends-justify-the-means.

Say a bunch of racist terrorists demand, "Expel all non-Aryans from the nation, or we start murdering people at random. You have 72 hours," and a third country is willing to grant safe harbor, consequentialism makes deportation the preferred option since exile is preferable to death.

Anyone repulsed at that conclusion isn't a consequentialist.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 4:52pm BST

"But consequentialists take account of all relevant factors - and loss of innocent life should surely be on that list."

John, surely consequentialists need to take account of whether a premise is actually true. 50 years of war and suddenly it's the gays fault? Is that reasonable? Logical? Aren't those South Sudanese Christians just as homophobic as the Muslims?

As Erika points out, there isn't a shred of evidence that that connection is true. Murderers use excuses, and victims lash out. And "leaders" have been known to use tragedies to further their agendas, and often the truth doesn't matter.

The idea that if the West just persecutes its gays a bit more there will then be peace in Africa is rather far fetched, isn't it?

People on this blog have mentioned the "racism of low expectations," that is definitely in play amongst the people who are sympathetic to that premise. After all, we can't expect those people to shed their ignorance…

When the world condemned the racist violence in South Africa, things changed. When the world condemns the homophobic violence, things will change. But going along with the charade isn't going to bring about peace in our time.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 5:33pm BST


I implore to read - carefully - what I have actually written. I have not remotely endorsed the proposition '50 years of war and suddenly it's the gays fault?'.

Posted by John at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 7:13pm BST

I'm not attacking you. I kind of agree with you. If there are indeed consequences we need to know what they are so we can take them into account in our choices, or at least so we can try to mitigate them and find other ways of minimising them.

But that's precisely why it is important to know what consequences they are and what action or inaction they spring from.

Just hinting darkly at consequences, as Justin Welby has done, is not enough. He was sincerely shocked, that is certain. As, I expect, any of us would have been.
But I do mind that he seems to have accepted the explanation he was given unthinkingly and then used it as an argument in our own marriage equality debate.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 9:03pm BST

South Sudanese Christians are currently butchering other South Sudanese Christians over oil, money and political factionalism. Nothing do to with the gays. Nothing to do with the Muslims.

North Sudanese Muslims are still butchering Christians in the intra-Sudanese borderlands. Although there's a long history of racial hatred and Muslim supremacism, these days it's mostly about oil, money and land.

The butchery in Greater Sudan has nothing to do with gays, a lot to do with religion, and even more to do with oil. Do you believe Justin Welby, a genuine expert on Africa and a former Nigeria oil man, isn't well aware of this?

No, I don't either.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 9:09pm BST

John, I read what you said. What I'm saying is that this "consequentialist" stance seems to rely on accepting a premise that is likely false. The 50 years of war points strongly to the idea that something besides gays is driving the killing. Did I get that wrong? Is there something I'm misunderstanding about "consequentialists?" To me it implied an acceptance of a false premise. If I got that part wrong, then I would appreciate a clarification.

Emotions do kind of run high when the ABC makes the claim that my acceptance as a Child of God in TEC prompted a massacre. It stings, even though I've been in touch with South Sudanese ministry organizations that don't seem to be taking the same view… And there are those oil fields...

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 7 April 2014 at 9:45pm BST

"If it were the case that blessing or celebration of gay marriage in Britain were to lead to the deaths of Christians in Africa or anywhere else, then I think the good would be outweighed by the bad."

_If_ it were the case. So far, the only thing we have to go on is the Archbishop's hearsay--and of course both his interlocutors, and their persecutors, had axes to grind. Decades of axes, in fact.

I am not aware of how much communication murderous factions have with each other, but when Christians get massacred, I doubt that the Christians get the unvarnished truth as to why the massacre took place. What is more likely is a convenient excuse--whatever excuse can be trumped up.

And even if it were the case, how can we let a violent faction halfway around the globe dictate, indeed mandate, discrimination against our neighbours? This kind of thinking gives power to the persecutor. It would counsel against any moral progress, lest someone be offended and resort to violence.

If only this AofC and his predecessor had had the backbone strongly to oppose homophobia in the UK, Africa, and elsewhere. Then everyone would know that Canterbury does not fall for just-so stories.

But no. This Archbishop heard a tale that he found congenial to his homophobic opinions. Therefore he credited it and repeated it. And he tried to play it as a trump card against equal marriage in England.

By all means, Archbishop, credit the causal chain. And give murderers the comfort that they are right to kill--because gays are second-class, don't you know, and morally dangerous, and therefore must be denied marriage, bishoprics, and much else.

The Archbishop ought to be ashamed of himself. And the more English priests enter into same-sex marriages, the better.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 8 April 2014 at 3:16am BST

So, the logical way to condemn and provide witness against the savage mistreatment and murder of gays and lesbians in Africa is to give them an example of how to mistreat *gently* and to murder only their spirits!

How delightfully Christian.

Your ABC is the problem, not the answer. Makr them stay home and shut up until you get one with enough brains and insight to actually be worth something.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 8 April 2014 at 8:40am BST

Appeasement of murderous elements is never, in the long run, a particularly Christian charism.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 8 April 2014 at 11:50am BST

'Appeasement of murderous elements is never, in the long run, a particularly Christian charism.'

Sounds great. Except:

(a) There are lots of situations where such 'appeasement' is very sensible and much the least bad course. (Ireland, practically every liberation struggle of the last century, the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine now, etc. etc.)

(b) We're not talking about 'appeasement' here anyway - or at least I'm not (I'm not speaking for Welby). I'm talking about whether there might (or might not) be circumstances where exercise of one's full rights - or full public exercise of one's full rights - might harm innocent people elsewhere (given instant communication, unscrupulous demagogues, combustible situations, etc.). The pope's address seems to me a good example: I'd welcome some proper discussion of it.

All this said, I'm completely in favour of individuals, both priests and lay persons, breaking current church 'law'. Under those circumstances, Welby could say to anyone who wanted to listen: 'not me, guv'. Then, presumably, the chances of murderous reactions would be diminished.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 8 April 2014 at 2:28pm BST

The reason anyone would attack anyone else over homosexuality is homophobia. So the answer is to combat homophobia, even in its genteel forms, which give aid and support to its more violent forms. For instance, the notion that homosexuality is contagious stems from the notion that it is a disease to be cured.

The idea that "if everyone were homosexual it would be the end of humanity" is indeed a frightening thought; until one observes that the same is true of celibacy. Yet "moderates" will still make this frightening observation about homosexuality as part of a perverse application of a Kantian categorical imperative.

African homophobia is being empowered and encouraged even by those for whom the violence it engenders is repugnant.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 8 April 2014 at 3:30pm BST

"I'm talking about whether there might (or might not) be circumstances where exercise of one's full rights - or full public exercise of one's full rights - might harm innocent people elsewhere "

Of course there might be.
But the question is whether this is one of them, whether the link that was being made does, in fact, exist. And if it existed, what the correct response would be.

We have provided several other possibilities here and before we can have any further reasonable discussion we need some solid evidence.

Surely someone has done studies about the causes of anti Christian violence in Africa? About the development and rise of homophobia in Africa? About the links - financial and intellectual - to groups in the West? Or to theologies in the West?
And if they haven't, maybe they should now?

How can we come to any reasonable conclusions if we don't know any of the facts?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 8 April 2014 at 5:05pm BST

I don't have the evidence either, Erika. The point of my intervention was to counter the automatic thinking (too complimentary a word, actually) of so many of the reactions here. But if (say) Bishop Francis of southern Sudan said this to me, I would be inclined to believe him, and if I were a gay Brit. (which I have been), I would adjust my behaviour accordingly (within the limits - the pretty free limits - I have spelled out above). That's all I'm trying to say.

I'm broadly in favour of the perspective of rjb (and even cseitz!) on another thread, though, obviously, I recognise far fewer resultant practical constraints than they do (from their different positions on the liberal-conservative divide).

Posted by John at Wednesday, 9 April 2014 at 7:13am BST

"The point of my intervention was to counter the automatic thinking"

Right. It's just automatic. No one on TA would read, study, or pray before writing. Probably not a single soul on TA has significant personal experience in the Developing World to give perspective to these "automatic" views. Oops! What am I saying, I have significant experience… But I'm sure my views are just automatic and have nothing to do with the time I've spent in disaster areas, teaching under trees, and living with the people. All the people quoting MLK are just automatons who have no idea what they are saying, even though they may be LGBT, or a person of color, or worked in justice issues…

John, I'm wondering if that last post could have used one more edit. It looks to me like lots of people are struggling with issues of moral agency and this consequentialism bit, and whatnot.

A lot of the writing has been restrained. The ABC said that this massacre was caused because TEC treats me and my partner like human beings. Like many, I've suffered discrimination that has severely impacted my earning potential (note that our social safety net is nothing like the UK's), and of course, there's all that soul crushing hate language. The resulting depression is real suffering, and the ABC says that's my lot because we have to appease murderers, and now there's the guilt trip to contend with. He's lucky that all I'm throwing at him are words from MLK.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 9 April 2014 at 9:26am BST

"But if (say) Bishop Francis of southern Sudan said this to me, I would be inclined to believe him"

Maybe that's where we differ.
If someone suggested there was a link I would take that very seriously, but then I would go home and research what that link is.

We're not talking about a pub conversation where you can tell your partner in bed as you switch the lights out "that guy, you should have heard him.. makes you think, that does..."

We're talking about someone in a position of authority who has to make important judgement calls for people in his own country and people abroad.
I expect a more thorough approach before someone like that repeats a comment as if it were proven fact.

As for "some people on this thread"... yes, there are always some. But I thought the principle of a proper debate was to engage with the highest arguments people make, not with the lowest.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 9 April 2014 at 9:32am BST

"African homophobia is being empowered and encouraged even by those for whom the violence it engenders is repugnant." - Tobias Haller -

This was precisely my point, John, is saying that the Church of England cannot be blamed for African homophobia - except insomuch as its early Victorian missionaries may have inculcated such a view of Same-Sex relationships, from which the African Churches have never been liberated - unlike the rank of Mother Church in England.

(Thinks: has the C.of E. become liberated?)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 9 April 2014 at 11:57am BST

"But if (say) Bishop Francis of southern Sudan said this to me, I would be inclined to believe him"

Something tells me that Bishop Francis was not there when the massacre took place.

At the moment, this is all a just-so story. It gets repeated because it is congruent with various people's deep-seated prejudices, and their international theo-political agendas.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 9 April 2014 at 2:09pm BST

As I've already said John, even accepting the massacre claim arguendo, we shouldn't give an inch to extortion. Doing so makes us complicit in the act. Would you argue that we should exclude or diminish ethnic minorities at the say-so of neo-Nazis? If you wouldn't, then this is no different.

The cancer of homophobia took hold in the church because liberals kept quiet in the name of unity. The liberal instinct to be kind and inclusive was used against us with ruthless purpose. Our silence made us accomplices in the past. Let's end that sin.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 9 April 2014 at 6:57pm BST


We're not getting anywhere. I think you (and others here) frame arguments - and situations - over-sharply. Back to my pope analogy. I think his address was a mistake because it resulted in wholly innocent death, and this result was pretty (not absolutely) predictable. In the African situation I wasn't hanging everything on the particular massacre. In the UK situation - and the UK church situation - I fight for gay rights. My conscience is clear (only on this one thing!). But in certain situations it may be wiser - and more moral - to duck and weave rather than to trade punch for punch.

Posted by John at Thursday, 10 April 2014 at 9:48am BST
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