Thinking Anglicans

Don't legalise gay marriage, Sentamu warns David Cameron

Updated Sunday evening

Martin Beckford of the Telegraph has spent the week in Jamaica with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

In Saturday’s Telegraph he has two articles:

Dr John Sentamu: Church must avoid being ‘too middle class’

…While the focus has often been on the introduction of homosexual and female clergy, Dr Sentamu is aware that the Church must do more to avoid its leadership being solely white and middle class.

“I used to chair the committee for minority ethnic Anglican concerns, and we seemed to be making some progress but that now seems to be going backwards. Where we have lost out is black people who had been realised Anglicans, who are now joining Pentecostal churches. That’s a huge drain.”

He said white working-class parishioners were also poorly represented in the Church’s leadership, often being relegated to making tea after services, and highlighted support groups for single mothers and replacing theological books with audio versions as ways to help disadvantaged groups.

“The Church should be a sign of the kingdom of heaven and should be telling us what it will look like. Heaven is not going to be full of just black people, just working-class people, just middle-class people, it’s going to be, in the words of Desmond Tutu, a rainbow people of God in all its diversity.”

Don’t legalise gay marriage, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu warns David Cameron

NB This article now also includes a video interview. Watching it is recommended.

…But the Archbishop says it is not the role of the state to redefine marriage, threatening a new row between the Church and state just days after bishops in the House of Lords led a successful rebellion over plans to cap benefits.

“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.

“We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.

“It’s almost like somebody telling you that the Church, whose job is to worship God [will be] an arm of the Armed Forces. They must take arms and fight. You’re completely changing tradition.”

Earlier this week, Lynne Featherstone (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Equalities Office) answered this question in parliament on the subject:

(1) what recent discussions she has had with (a) the Church of England and (b) other church groups on same sex marriages in church;

(2) what representations she has received from the Church of England on same sex marriages in church.

Answer:
The Government will publish a formal consultation on equal civil marriage in March 2012. I have met with a wide range of organisations ahead of this consultation including with representatives from the following church organisations: Church of England, Catholic Church, the Evangelical Alliance, Christian Institute, Quakers and Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. Discussions have been held and are ongoing with other organisations including those representing other faith groups, non-religious groups and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

This consultation will not propose any changes to religious marriage. Same-sex couples will not be able, under these proposals, to have a marriage through a religious ceremony on religious premises.

Update

Rosalind English has written this at UK Human Rights Blog: Archbishop on warpath.

Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has thrown a firecracker into the consultation on gay marriage, which is about to begin in March. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he declared that he did not agree that it was the role of the state to define what marriage is. ”It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are”.

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Davis Mac-Iyalla
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Davis Mac-Iyalla

Archbishop John Sentamu, you cant define the real meaning of marriage and neither would you be able to stop marriage Equality in the UK, it is such selfish pronouncements like this from you and your fellow bishops that is actually making members leave the Anglican church for the new generation Pentecostal churches. If marriage is actually an institution ordained by God, then its only a matter of time before LGBTI Christians will be legally married in the church of England, its our right for our relationship and marriage to be blessed in our churches. Ordination of women bishop and full… Read more »

Father ron Smith
Guest

“This consultation will not propose any changes to religious marriage. Same-sex couples will not be able, under these proposals, to have a marriage through a religious ceremony on religious premises.” – Lynn Featherstone – So, then; at least in the arena of Civil Marriage there will be no distinction between heterosexual and homosexual partnerships under the new peoposal. This is entirely consistent with the majority of heterosexual couples who do not want a religious ceremony. At least in the Civil Courts there will be no discrimination on account of the sexual orientation of couples – not like in the Church!… Read more »

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

Another brick in the wall.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I guess Archbishop Sentamu’s “rainbow of the people of God” doesn’t include any gays or lesbians.

Malcolm French+
Guest

I have never heard such an incoherent load of tripe in my entire life.

And I watched several minutes of the last Republican presidential debate.

Daniel Walters
Guest
Daniel Walters

“This consultation will not propose any changes to religious marriage. Same-sex couples will not be able, under these proposals, to have a marriage through a religious ceremony on religious premises.”

I don’t understand… I thought that churches that wanted to, *would* be allowed to have same-sex marriages in their churches? Is this a u-turn? And if so, why?

Gerry Lynch
Guest

Gay marriage has majority support in the UK, according to every poll done in the subject in recent years, and it will probably pass the House of Commons by a majority of 500-100 or so. I’m really not seeing the dictatorship thing here. As for the subtle dig that somehow this is an offence to the white working-class, I don’t think he has a clue what he’s talking about. Given that the Archbishop lives in a palace, and I live in a council estate, I’m claiming the inside track on this. Would anyone care to take a guess what proportion… Read more »

JeremyP
Guest
JeremyP

I think that what Lynn F means is that the consultation is not going to get into the very legally convoluted territory of marriages which are contracted in churches, where the priest is acting at one and the same time as the minister of the liturgy and the registrar of the marriage, and the marriage is contracted in and through the liturgy of the particular church (as in Church of England Marriages at present). The consultation is, as I understand it, about civil marriage. But, even though the consultation may reveal that the people of Britain want their country to… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

The church has always been middle class. Working people only went to church because they were expected to or intimidated into doing so by priests, landlords and masters. Once these social pressures evaporated and once other more attactive ways of passing the time became available the working classes deserted the churches in droves, never to return. The Bishop is whistling in the wind if he thinks that the provision of a few dvds at the back of the church and provision of support groups for single mothers (aren’t there any of these in his province?) is going to have any… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

…as the moral authority of the CofE drops to ZERO.

Kyrie eleison! Lord re-form your Church!

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I am told that this man was once a lawyer, so it seems rather strange that he should be in such a lather about the way the state defines marriage. Here, in England and Wales, the State defines where you can marry; when you can marry; how you can marry; who you can marry; when your marriage is over and when it wasn’t a marriage in the first place; it only recognises one marriage at a time and (like the Church) used to make you stick to it! But all the same I, like this Ugandan guy, think the role… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Equality for blacks alone in a vacuum ! ~Please.

Sentamu I was born in a ‘2 up 2 down’ with an outside lavatory, in Liverpool 8, where my parents shared with my grandmother.

That working class enough for you ?

The C of E has made a poor fist of supporting working people and communities – as well as lgbt folk.

Tobias Haller
Guest

The Archbishop appears to be completely innocent of familiarity with sacred and secular history, and the rudiments of political science.

The notion that the state is dictating to the society represents an ironic example of failing to recognize ones own visage in the glass.

BS
Guest
BS

In answer to Daniel Walters, current law allows for civil partnerships on religious premises. It is not yet clear whether, under the new proposals, same sex couples will still have the option of civil partnerships. If they do, then presumably the “civil partnerships on religious premises” will still be possible. If not, then presumably there will have to be a provision for “civil (same-sex) marriage on religious premises”. ———- It’s interesting that +Sentamu appeals to long-standing tradition. These arguments were used against Catholic and Jewish emancipation in the 19th century. And, how should we say this, how many centuries of… Read more »

Geoff
Guest

So at the same time that the government are abolishing the religious-premises ban on civil partnerships, they’re going to *institute* one on same-sex marriages?

Tom
Guest
Tom

I don’t know who listens to Sentamu, Martin, now he is no longer a lawyer, or even if they ever did. It is absurd to try to conflate, as he seems to, the two concepts of Civil Marriage and Holy Matrimony when probably a very large number of people in legally contracted and state-recognised marriages would not have those marriages recognised as Holy Matrimony by the Church. Is he just a slovenly lawyer or does he think it helps his (anti-gay) cause to muddy the waters?

american piskie
Guest
american piskie

Can Tom give us an example? The C of E surely recognises all marriages contracted before the registrar, and has no special category “holy matrimony”.

Richard Wharton
Guest
Richard Wharton

Having watched the actual video clip of the interview, I am left feeling deeply depressed that such an unintelligent stream of drivel will now stand in the minds of the population at large as being representative of the views of churchgoers in general. The archbishop fails to establish any kind of theological basis for his personal prejudices, instead merely making a vague appeal to ‘tradition’. It hardly needs to be pointed out that cultural traditions are in a constant state of evolution, resulting from the widening perspectives of those within them. This is how we came to abolish slavery, despite… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

Amazing–amazing that a Christian bishop’s comments can be so uninteresting, un-visionary, uninspiring, un-prophetic, un-insightful, un-useful, in short, unremarkable in any way.

Perhaps that’s how they justified making him Archbishop of York?

And I agree with Pat O’Neil’s comment above: strange how he invokes Archbishop Tutu’s “rainbow” image while at the same time trashing one of the most important themes in Tutu’s witness: the place of gay people in the church.

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Despite appealing to it, His Grace of York is not much aware of “tradition” in England, I fear: he castigates the Church for not appealing enough to the working class, but then proceeds to insist on precisely the middle class view of “family values” which even the Victorian working class proved surprisingly resistant to.

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

“I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”

Unless, perhaps, you’re the founder of the Anglican Church, King Henry VIII?

Sentamu’s thinking is like a railway crossing where the lights are flashing and the bells ringing, but there’s nothing coming.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

If I hadn’t known of the “witness” of other Ugandan bishops before now I’d never have believed that such drivel could come from the mouth of an Anglican prelate. It’s enough to make one wish to repent of “Christianizing” Africa.

Leonel
Guest
Leonel

Ban Ki-Moon: Africa Leaders Should Respect Gay Rights

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says African nations should stop treating gays as “second-class citizens, or even criminals”.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/29/ban-ki-moon-africa-gay-rights_n_1240124.html

Someone PLEASE tell Sentamu.

Leonel
Guest
Leonel

Sentamu made these sad remarks while in Jamaica.

Jamaica is considered one of the, if not the most homophobia-ridden country in the Caribbean: In Jamaica, it can get you killed being gay.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

This is the same Archbishop of York, who when challenged on the royal cohabitation ( prior to last years royal wedding ) stated he agreed with it..and compared it to milking a cow.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

Don’t these bishops know that in making their sniffy remarks they are touching on a millennial tradition of persecuting and murdering Jews, oops, gays I mean?

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

“I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”

Unless, perhaps, you’re the founder of the Anglican Church, King Henry VIII?

~What Randal Oulton said.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Hello American Piskie, yes I can. Just one example will suffice though there are many more; how about Prince Charles and Camilla who were not allowed by the Archbishop of Cantuar to have a church marriage (Holy Matrimony)? The ABC did grudgingly allow them a “blessing” (what’s that worth?) AFTER the civil marriage conducted in Windsor Registry Office. Presumably the blessing was allowed because they were heterosexual sinners and not homosexual ones?

Anthony Keler
Guest
Anthony Keler

I appears to me that many of the problems facing the Church of England stem from the marriage of Church and State. When these two entities are one, there is no impetus to minister to the needs of the people, or become accountable to people in the pews. When a job is guaranteed, and one is ordained to join the insiders, the only thing left is a group of people destined to propagate a hierarchy of stagnation.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Seconding Leonel.

That Sentamu said this in ***Jamaica*** takes this from inane to inexcusable.

Archbishop Sentamu, for the sake of the CofE (and by extension in the minds of many, the Anglican Communion): RESIGN.

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

“Sentamu’s thinking is like a railway crossing where the lights are flashing and the bells ringing, but there’s nothing coming. “-Randall Oulton.

Except the train’s already gone, and leaving him in a cloud of ballast dust.

Father ron Smith
Guest

“Presumably the blessing was allowed because they were heterosexual sinners and not homosexual ones?” – Tom, on Monday –

That could be fairly taken to represent the official attitude of the Church of England.
Would it were less hypocritical. – Although, we must remember, that this concerned the future *Head of the Church of England*. so perhaps necessary.

Leonel
Guest
Leonel

. I don’t understand why Sentamu is doing this. Lynne Featherstone (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Equalities Office): “This consultation will not propose any changes to religious marriage. Same-sex couples will not be able, under these proposals, to have a marriage through a religious ceremony on religious premises.” Sentamu must know this. He must know about homophobia in Jamaica. Article 79 of Jamaica’s Criminal Code: ‘Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency… Read more »

american piskie
Guest
american piskie

Thanks Tom. There are rules about wedding services, but that’s irrelevant since on the whole the C of E sticks to the classical position that it’s the couple who marry each other, and they are not obliged in any way to do so in a religious service. So C of E surely believes that the Prince and the Duchess are married, and it believes marriage is “holy”. It doesn’t, I think, make distinctions between one sort of marriage and another. (Individual clerical busybodies may try to do so, but what matters is what the law says.) After all, that’s why… Read more »

Gerry Lynch
Guest

To be fair to Jamaica, new Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said during the candidates debate in last month’s general election that discriminating against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation is wrong, that government should provide protection against that, and that she would appoint any suitably qualified gay person to her cabinet. She also promised a review of the existing laws that criminalise homosexuality.

This did not stop her winning the biggest landslide in Jamaica for decades.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

american piskie is I believe correct in that the CofE now seems to accept all (monogamous?) marriages as marriages, though there was a time when the marriage of the unbaptised and marriage after divorce were seen …… well shall we say, differently. Since 2004 these marriages no longer require the special permission of the bishop. I would suggest it is less clear about the “holy” bit!! Is there a difference between civil and religious marriage? The blessing of the Prince of Wales’ marriage would seem to suggest that there is something deficient in the secular ceremony – Is there nothing… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

I think that’s another reason the ABY’s remarks were so reprehensible, Gerry. The government of Jamaica is FINALLY taking some steps in the right direction—a direction which may not be easy for the society as a whole—and the ABY’s comments can be seen to undercut those efforts.

american piskie
Guest
american piskie

I find much of what Martin Reynolds says temptingly persuasive. But then I try to imagine a world in which there is a difference between Marriage (as defined in the law) and Marriage (as recognised by the C of E). I’m not speaking of the ceremonies, but the “state”. I fear I cannot imagine that world as not including constant judgmental behaviour by the clergy and others, with a vocabulary shading from “not really married” through “essentially adulterers” to “and the children are, I’m afraid, in God’s sight, bastards”. So I’d like to see a continuation of the current situation,… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I am sorry to be “temptingly persuasive” while remaining ultimately unconvincing! Still, I think american piskie is being more melodramatic than incoherent.

I am not sure that in any reasonable modern discussion emphasising the differences between civil marriage and marriage in a religious setting necessarily has the responses we read above. in fact I struggle to get there at all.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Martin,
but what, precisely, is the difference?
If two people decide to try and spend the rest of their lives together in an exclusive relationship, then that’s a marriage. Whether they affirm that before a registrar or before God in a church.

I can’t help but fear that the curch only ever asks for a differentiation when it wants to maintain some “equal but different” form of discrimination.

Where is there a genuine difference between mere marriage and holy matrimony that goes beyond social prejudice?

Tobias Haller
Guest

It is hard for the C of E or TEC to define a difference because in both places we clergy act as ministers of church and state — and share a theological view from the Reformation (officially) that downplays the notion of “sacrament.” But for RCs, particularly in lands where the Code Napoleon is in force, it is much easier to make the distinction, and to maintain the requirement, for instance, that an RC couple must have a church marriage in order for the church to recognize it as licit. Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox regard the nuptial blessing to be… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tobias, I grew up and got married in Germany where you have to have been married in a registry office before you can have your church wedding. It’s not called a blessing, it’s called a wedding. And apart from the signing of the register it’s exactly the same as any British church wedding I’ve ever been to. Most people who opt for church weddings have a small ceremony in the Register office on a Friday and then their “real” wedding with guests in church on the Saturday. But I have never heard anyone say that there is a material difference… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I am simply trying to take full advantage of the government decision not to allow religious groups to celebrate same-sex marriages.

In this case we ministers are proscribed from acting for either church or state – and as I said earlier clergy are forbidden by law from being state marriage registrars.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

If there is no difference “between mere marriage and holy matrimony” , then why should I seek the legal and canonical faculty to be married in my Church?

american piskie
Guest
american piskie

I would not have applied the adjective “mere” to marriage. (I know Martin Reynolds thinks me too alarmist, but using this dismissive word is the start of the slippery slope as far as I am concerned.)

I would (as one who tries to see all marriage as sacramental) would answer Martin’s last question this way: I would want to celebrate publicly and proclaim what the prayer book sees signified in marriage.

But it’s not necessary to believe that the wedding service is what makes a marriage signify that.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Because you want to be married in the presence of God supported by your congregation and by prayers. If God is the centre of your life you would not want to take this major step in a purely secular setting.

But the step itself is the same.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I am not convinced by these.

I would not find these arguments helpful in the struggle………..

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Martin, I’m not trying to convince you, I’m trying to understand you and in my last 2 posts I have been trying to explain why I don’t. For me, there is no difference. As there clearly is one for you, and as it is clearly important to you, I would very much like to hear what that difference is. One of my posts got lost. I had replied to Tobias’ post about the difference being difficult to define because in both TEC and the CoE clergy act as ministers of church and state. I grew up and got married in… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I think part of my difficulty is that a marriage is made by the couple and confirmed by the priest. So at what point is the marriage made, at what point does it become sacramental? If the priests only confirms it, then the ceremony is not, strictly speaking, important. And the priest’s words are, essentially, also part of the ceremony, they don’t add anything vital – unless we believe that the priest’s confirmation of the marriage is important in order to make it a marriage… which is not what the theology says. So when my wife and I made the… Read more »