Thinking Anglicans

responses to the Sentamu interview

Updated again Tuesday evening

Libby Purves wrote an article for The Times titled Retreat from your battle against gay marriage. Only Times subscribers can read it, but if you are such a person, it is well worth reading. Here is the link.
A small fragment is reproduced here.

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif belief that John Sentamu’s argument against gay marriage is already lost.

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, hopes that people will pay attention to other things in his most recent interview than his attack on gay marriage. Fat chance. When he said that the government will be acting as dictators have done if it introduces gay marriage, he put himself squarely in the wrong on a matter that people care about.

Nor does he give what I think are likely to be his real, animating reasons: that he believes gay marriage is bad because it makes being gay look normal and even admirable, and because gay people should not have sex with each other. Around most of the world, and certainly in most of the Anglican Communion, these would be perfectly respectable and uncontroversial things to say. But in modern Britain they are a minority view, and certainly not a respectable one. They are not going to win a political argument – and that’s what he’s fighting here…

Archbishop Cranmer published Sentamu pitches for Canterbury.

Terry Sanderson of the NSS wrote at Huffington Post that Sentamu’s Shot at Gay Marriage Is Only the First Salvo in a Bitter Battle to Come.

John Smeaton of SPUC wrote British government is afraid of the homosexual lobby.

Megan Moore wrote at Conservative Home that The Archbishop of York doesn’t deserve to be called a “bigot” by Twitter’s intolerants.

YorkVision reports YUSU slam Archbishop over marriage remarks. And see also Archbishop of York criticised for “outdated and homophobic rhetoric”.

Peter Tatchell wrote Archbishop Sentamu is “intolerant and out of touch” and also Archbishop Sentamu Has No Right to Block Gay Civil Marriages.

The Uganda Humanist Association writes Sentamu, your words will travel.

JP Floru Director of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute, wrote in the Telegraph Gay marriage won’t make the world stop turning

…It is interesting to see that in the most recent debate on the issue of gay marriage, the bigots are falling out of the closet left, right and centre. They speak in code. Instead of shouting that “allowing gays to marry will demean Marriage”, they argue that “any marriage other than one between a male and female would change the meaning of marriage”. In other words: We Believe that Your Union is of Lesser Value than Ours – and the Law should Reflect This! Talk of totalitarianism.

Another argument is the “most people don’t want this” one. Well, there probably was a time when most people believed slavery was quite a useful little custom. A democratic majority does not legitimise trampling over the right of individuals to be treated as equal humans. Democracy can only be accepted by all if the power of the state to trample upon individuals is made impossible…


  • Richard Ashby says:

    Can I be so bold as to say that in the Archbishop of Canterbury stakes being black will trump any views on gay marriage.

  • Concerned Anglican says:

    There’s no chance of Sentamu becoming ABC, it’ll be Chartres (sadly) who will be put in as a stop gap measure to let things calm down for four or five years until he’s seventy.

    A similar thing happened after Michael Ramsay when Donald Coggan was put in as a short term candidate. Ramsay was surprisingly similar to Rowan Williams in temperament, churchmanship and intellect. Coggan was the complete antithesis to Chartres.

    Meanwhile, Sentamu should be careful of throwing stones in glass houses.

  • JCF says:

    [“Archbishop Cranmer”: who is this?] Re Sentamu: “And the CNC might quite like a[n ABC] who’s prepared to tell a Tory PM where he can stick his proposal for ‘gay marriage’.”

    Nevermind LGBTs—or, say (vis-a-vis the Anglican Communion), TEC—think?

    [Don’t think we Episcopalians have forgotten Sentamu’s “Here’s talking down AT you” performance of (IIRC) GC ’06!]

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Very good collection of reactions!

    Andrew Brown’s prose sparkles.

    I think Terry Sanderson is correct in saying there is going to be a Church led opposition and that this has already been in the planning for some time. John Smeaton at SPUC seems to be reflecting his angst at his group’s failure to impact on the politicians and accusing gay people of the sort of blackmail SPUC has tried (and failed) to use as a political tool, very interesting!

    Ugandan humanists send a dire warning!

  • I think it sad that Archbishop Sentamu, who had such affirming comments to bring about Gays and Adoption, should go on to say what he has about the prospect of Gay Marriage. He is confusing those of us who really believe that committed, permanent relationships between LGBT persons must be better than the option for uncommitted, casual relationships – such as are common in hetero- as well as homo-sexual liaisons – and thus worthy of the Blessing of the Church.

    However, as the Church is unwilling to oversee the commitment of permanent, faithful relationships between LGBT persons, it should not stand in the way of the government officially fulfilling that need.

    “Where Charity and Love are: there is God!” – Maundy Thursday Liturgy

  • rjb says:

    Am I naive to be surprised at John Smeaton’s article? I always assumed SPUC was fairly moderate and reasonably sane, given the current Archbishop of Canterbury’s former association with the movement. Instead Smeaton trots out the familiar more-persecuted-than-thou paranoia that seems to be the last refuge of the terminally out-of-touch.

    It’s hard to see what anti-abortion activists should have against gay marriage – indeed, should they not be encouraging rampant homosexuality as an obvious remedy to the nation’s plague of unwanted pregnancies?

  • David Wilson says:

    RJB – so following your “natural” desires is not the issue – encouraging same-sex amongst heterosexuals suggests it is merely the right to do as you choose.

  • JCF says:

    DavidW, check your Tongue-in-Cheek Detector…

  • John Barton says:

    I wonder if any of his critics have actually read what Archbishop Sentamu said in his interview with the Daily Telegraph journalist. It’s in full on his website; most reports about it bear little or no resemblance to the truth.

  • Although the transcript reveals some of the ABY’s more offensive comments in a kindlier context, the comments themselves remain problematical as examples of circular and/or definitional reasoning: i.e., marriage is between a man and a woman because that’s what marriage is; and the state shouldn’t get involved in such things because it isn’t the states business. That, for me, is where the problem lies.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    The man is not as bright as he thinks he is, and has Prince Philip’s happy facility of expression. I have no doubt he didn’t think through what he said – Sentamu is clearly a mediocrity promoted through apathy – but it doesn’t put him an any sort of light as a suddenly holy, intelligent and sound pastor. Like Carey, and, indeed, like Williams, he’s a company man sounding off about a perceived challenge to his hegemony without the slightest concern for what is right.

  • Sentamu has stated (without overstepping the church’s current position on same-sex relationships for which the 2005 Pastoral Statement is under review): ‘We supported Civil Partnerships (the bishops in the House of Lords), because we believe that friendships are good for everybody. But then to turn Civil Partnerships into marriage, that’s not the role of government to create institutions that are not of its gifting.’

    If as in the US race laws, civil partnerships are wrong because they apply a ‘separate, but equal’ status to same-sex relationships, how many here are on record as forthrightly objecting to the Civil Partnership Act that established a ‘separate, but equal’ status to homosexual relationships? How many of you merely supported Civil Partnership status as an intermediate tactical objective, rather than the founding of a new recognised institution?

    Yes, you can achieve short-term objectives like these immediately by pushing through legislation, but you can’t apply the same sort of political expediency to re-define the nature of marriage and the mutual and blood responsibilities that flow from it to be no longer based on the reality of a couple’s consummation.

    I think that’s what Sentamu means when he says: ‘I don’t want to redefine what I call 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.’ Of course, change can happen, but not with the same expediency.

    History repeats itself, since pressing for civil partnerships to be held in a religious setting is clearly yet another short-term tactical expedient born out of an ethos of ecclesiastical stealth.

  • Feria says:

    Mark Brunson: ‘The man is not as bright as he thinks he is, and has Prince Philip’s happy facility of expression.’

    Careful: recall that (unless I’ve missed an earlier instance) Prince Philip, when he was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, was the first Ordinary in the Church of England in whose jurisdiction civil partnership blessings were allowed – see the post on this forum on 16th February 2006.

  • Fr Mark says:

    David S: I don’t recall bishops lining up to support the introduction of civil partnerships at all. If they had done, then they surely wouldn’t subsequently have banned anyone in one from becoming a bishop and refused to sanction the blessing of them in churches. For bishops to claim retrospectively that they were as a group somehow in favour of civil partnerships all along is mere dissembling.

    Equality for gay people is being won in the face of oposition from the bishops, considered as a group, every step of the way. They oppose freedom because they are scared of losing control: this is not anything to be dignified by theological terms, just the normal reaction of unaccountable ossified top-heavy leadership systems throughout the ages. They don’t like change (look at how incredibly long it is taking to get women bishops actually consecrated!), and don’t see why the rest of the world can’t wait for them all to have retired before pressing ahead with anything too challenging or controversial for them to deal with. These are simply the reactions of an organisation run entirely by and for old people, are they not? Few people under 50 share their view of the matter.

  • David, the “tactics” to which you refer were also played out in the history of race relations. In 1799 John Jay sponsored “gradual emancipation” in New York that said that the children of slaves would be born as free citizens. This had happened in other states and would continue for some time. Eventually emancipation took place, and then the establishment of “separate but equal” by law or by custom were the next steps — including the Liberia adventure. The reevaluation of segregation in the 1960s led to its downfall. We are, in the US, still dealing with the relics of this step by step approach, but it was the only practical way to make the changes needed.

    There are always some who will stand for the “all or nothing” approach — and some did when Civil Partnerships were suggested. But it is hardly “stealth” to accept an interim proposal towards an eventual goal. In the “race” analogy, there were some even from the former-slave side who said segregation was what they wanted. I do not know if that was a political ploy or a reality. But none of these movements are monolithic, and you will find many strands in the debate. But I do not think if fair to characterize this slow pressure for change, characteristic of Fabianism, as duplicitous or “stealthy.”

    Or at least any more stealthy than the woman who asked for crumbs under the table, in furtherance of her real goal of saving her child.

  • Fr Mark:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Nevertheless, you still didn’t address the substantive issue: that of those here who disingenuously supported the introduction of civil partnerships as a mere short-term ‘separate, but equal’ tactical expedient.

  • Fr Mark says:

    David S: “those here who disingenuously supported the introduction of civil partnerships as a mere short-term ‘separate, but equal’ tactical expedient”

    You make it sound, by your choice of words, as if there is some kind of war going on, with winners and losers. I don’t agree: men don’t lose when women have equal rights; white people don’t lose when members of ethnic minorities have equal rights; straight people don’t lose anything when gay people have equal rights. It is not a zero sum game: the whole Church wins when all humans are treated by it with proper dignity.

    I don’t believe that people in search of a few crumbs of decent treatment from the Church should be attacked as “disingenuous.” Those deserving of censure are the high and mighty in the institution who appeal to irrational argument to block fair treatment of their fellow humans, who constantly try to sweep difficult issues under the carpet, who try to put off discussion into the distant future, and who practice evil discrimination behind closed doors (as we discovered from Colin Slee’s notes on the Southwark appointment process)…

    Those who are really disingenuous are all these out of touch old men in church leadership positions who are now making it sound as if they really supported civil partnerships all along – yet whose voices were either conspicuously silent or opposed to the change in the law at the time, and who cannot even now countenance admitting civilly partnered clergy to the episcopate or blessing civilly partnered lay couples. That is real disingenuousness, not to say rank hypocrisy.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    Mark there can t be many of us who are 60+ who buy this episcopal disingenuous, double-talk and anti-gay prevarication either !

    David S we have always had to take what we could get and then Get On With It ! – as creatively as poss – I’ve been doing it for over 60 years !

  • Mr. Shepherd, the idea that civil partnerships were introduced in some disingenuous way is a “substantive issue” of your own devising. Most social change does not come about immediately, but in stages. To cite the example of race that you raise, the long road by which the US dealt with slavery and racism took many steps, and the journey is far from over. In the late 18th century, for instance, a number of states introduced the concept of ‘gradual manumission’ — New York among the latter in 1799 — by which the children of slaves would no longer be slaves. The Emancipation Act and Civil War abolished slavery de facto, but segregation and racism still held sway (in some ways they still do.) ‘Separate but equal’ was another stage in this journey — and was supported by some on both sides as a way forward, as the experiment in Liberia indicates most dramatically. It wasn’t until the 50s and 60s that this interim accommodation was overturned, and one might well observe that the reality today is still very far from perfect in many parts of the country.

    The point is that, as with Fabian Socialism, the practical realities of culture often necessitate such step-wise motion. But there is nothing disingenuous about it. Or at least no more disingenuous than the woman who wanted her child healed asking for crumbs from the table. The movement from decriminalization to marriage is taken step by step; and it is likely fair to observe that few gay men in 1950s Britain ever would have imagined that within 60 years such a movement might take place. They were initially happy no longer to be sent to gaol! Please don’t label them as disingenuous who are simply seeking equality as best they can in the face of much opposition. These “tactics” are more a result of the situation than a desideratum.

  • Tobias Haller:
    As you well know, the ‘crumbs from the table’ metaphor acknowledged Jewish precedence (as the natural descendants of Abraham) over Gentile access to the healing grace of Christ. As Paul, says, ‘to the Jew first and to the Greek also’.

    The analogy would suggest that heterosexuals enjoy a naturally derived access to the marital benefits that homosexuals are not properly entitled to participate in.

    I would not have compared civil partnership status and gay marriage to a provision of unmerited grace, so I find it strange that you would reinforce that idea.

    In respect of your all-too-familiar comparison with the black US civil rights movement, the difference is that those advancements were still largely prescriptive. Black democratic participation in the legislative process was minimal at that time. There are no such hindrances forcing homosexual UK citizens to, without strenuous objection, accept unsatisfactory temporary compromises on gay marriage, like civil partnerships. Instead, we see step-by-step capitulation towards a grubby involvement in undignified realpolitik.

  • Mr. Shepherd, “Jew first then Gentile” implies that the Gentiles do in fact merit God’s attention, even if subsequent to Jews. So, yes, I am asserting that until now heterosexuals have enjoyed access to benefits that have been withheld from same-sex couples — and to which they are entitled by the grace of God, and by natural right. I should have thought that was obvious.

    The comparison with the civil rights movement was raised by you, once again, in your effort to contrast it to the gay rights movement. I am suggesting that the similarities surrounding the incremental nature of both movements are at issue — which you denied. The ability to vote does mark a difference, but the issue is minority status: where the number of votes is less (whether because one’s group cannot vote or is in the minority), one loses, and therefore must accept incremental or temporary measures towards a greater goal. In both cases, winning over the majority is the crucial factor, and that is what is happening in the current movements, as it did with civil rights. Q.E.D.

    Once again, slinging ad hominem adjectives (grubby, undignified) is not helpful. Moreover, I think the characterization is inaccurate.

  • 1. Grace accords us unmerited privileges. You may indeed call anything bestowed in this way to be an entitlement. However, these privileges differ from the liberty and claim-rights accorded by society. In respect of grace, there is nothing in unregenerate humanity (‘the natural man’) that merits anything from God. We were ‘by nature, the children of wrath’. So, I would hope that you didn’t mean that society bestows the right to marry in the same way.

    2. I said of black civil rights: ‘those advancements were still largely prescriptive’. It partly explains the incremental development of the black civil rights cause in the 60’s. There were great swathes of American society that were hostile to the ideas of desegregation.

    The inability to vote was only part of the issue. It was the limit on black political participation in the framing of those legislative advancements that was more significant.

    There was no need to adopt such an approach in the lead-up to the Civil Partnership Act of 2005. Post year 2000 UK society was and is open to forthright debate on the nature of civil marriage. Instead, there was a campaign to found what is now understood to be an unsatisfactory short-term tactic.

    On that basis, the characterisation is fair.

  • MarkBrunson says:


    I don’t care what happened under Philip’s watch, ask anyone about his tendency to use “credit-to-your-race-don’t-sweat-much-for-a-fat-girl” expressions!

  • Tobias Haller says:

    David, there were, in 2000 and still are, large swathes of civil society opposed to same-sex marriage. That is why we are having the debate. The reason for incremental movement is entirely based on the opposition, not the desires of those seeking change.

    Your argument fails.

  • Tobias,

    The reality of significant opposition does not preclude forthright, open debate from both sides on it. The illegality of political formation and legislative participation in the 60’s does.

    In spite of some reactionary elements, the tide had turned by 2000. The generation that ushered in the Blair government on a landslide victory was full of belief in youth and open to fresh ideas: ‘Things can only get better’ and ‘Cool Britannia’ were the mantras. Section 28 was repealed. Prominent MP’s on both sides of the House came out and were cheered by the wider society for their honesty. One such person, Lord Chris Smith was a member of the cabinet.

    That’s why there was no need (nor suggestion at the time) to accept Civil Partnerships as a temporary provision.

    If the opposition was so strenuous, attempts to pass Civil Partnership legislation would have been defeated at least once.

    But, please, present the contrary evidence of UK history that contradicts the above account.

    Considering the political and social climate at that time, your insistence that opposition was then and is now hostile and widespread enough to justify the approach as incremental is baseless.

  • Tobias Haller says:

    David, I simply think you are misreading the history. There were strenuous objections to same-sex marriage in 2000 — as there are now: are you aware of that? And the opposition was much stronger in 2000 than now. Civil Partnerships was a step forward, but not as you seem to suggest a desideratum in itself — at least for many. It is important to recognize that there are some gay and lesbian persons who do not want SSM but a separate and equal category of CP. Just as there were African Americans who were happy with segregation, and opposed the movements that stirred up trouble. The problem with your thesis is you are presenting the reality as a monolith when it is much more complex. You are also suggesting duplicity, which from my experience is totally mistaken. I know of no one who said, “What we really want is CP” who used that as a subterfuge, and who really wanted SSM. There may be some who have changed their position since 2000, but I do not think the change is a result of duplicity, but a change in thinking. The difficulty I have with your thesis is that it implies bad motives to others, which seems to me to be unnecessary. You can go on saying my view is “baseless” but I do not think that reflects the reality.

  • Tobias Haller says:

    David, my response was lost once again in the ‘net gap. Suffice it to say that I think your memory of the 2000 debates is faulty; there was no chance that same-sex marriage would have been adopted, and CP was the best that could be achieved. This was not a ploy by the GL people, but necessitated by the opposition. As to the 60s in the US, I lived through it, and your recollections are similarly faulty.

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