Thinking Anglicans

Martyn Percy calls on Archbishop Welby to issue an apology

Modern Church has issued the following press release. To access the essay itself, go to this page, and follow the link provided.

AS THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND faces another scandal this week over same-sex marriage and its treatment of clergy in same sex relationships, a senior Anglican professor has called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to apologise for the Church’s mistakes in its response to homosexuality around the world.

The Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and a Vice President of Modern Church, has published an article petitioning Justin Welby in his role as head of the global Anglican Communion.

In an essay called Sex, Sense and Non-Sense for Anglicans, Prof Percy examines the Archbishop’s approach to the Anglican Communion’s tensions over homosexuality and same-sex marriage ahead of the meeting of Anglican Primates he has convened for 11-16 January 2016 in Canterbury. Prof Percy warns that if the Church of England maintains its current course in responding to conflicts around sexuality and same-sex marriage may lead to its disestablishment:

‘For any national church to turn its face away from those who are full and equal citizens, and have their unions and marriages recognised as such, effectively augments a process of de-nationalisation and privatisation. It is a route-march towards a tribal church.’

In the Anglican Communion, which represents an estimated 85 million people in 165 countries, the Archbishop of Canterbury also faces the challenge of how to respond to religious, cultural and legal homophobia. In 41 of the 53 countries of the British Commonwealth, homosexual conduct is still regarded as criminal. Prof Percy calls for the Archbishop to acknowledge that:

‘(the) legal stigmatisation of homosexuality was largely ‘made in England’ in the nineteenth century, and imposed on cultures and emerging countries and that had not been, hitherto, homophobic. This is one of England’s less wholesome exports. The Archbishop of Canterbury could begin the Primates’ meeting by accepting responsibility for the part the Church of England has played in perpetrating this discrimination and the subsequent injustices – and publicly repenting of them.’

Prof Percy critiques Archbishop Welby’s decision to invite Archbishop Foley Beach of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to attend the Primates’ meeting, without consulting the official Episcopal Churches in the USA and Canada, and suggests:

‘So the Archbishop of Canterbury could begin proceedings in January by offering an apology to American and Canadian Anglicans for his intemperate gestures towards ACNA, and his lack of consultation, which has undermined them. He should further apologise for dealing in territories and spheres of authority that are simply not his to meddle with.’

He also warns against using the widespread belief that the Anglican churches of the global south now form the majority and are the only ones growing numerically to cede ‘more moral ground…to African churches…than might be judicious’ in divisive debates over sexual ethics. He calls for greater recognition of inequality and imbalance of power in the current debate:

‘Those needing protection and care are still lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians… Conservatives are not oppressed or criminalised for their opposition to lesbian, gay and bisexual people – ever, anywhere.‘

He recognises that for some Conservative Christians who argue that relationships between the sexes are prescribed and proscribed in the Bible, the issue will continue to be non-negotiable,

‘But if equal rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual people seeking to have faithful and life-long blessing of their relationship recognised and blessed is seen as matter of justice and equality, then we have a different Christian perspective to contemplate.’

Prof Percy advises against affirming dissonant voices from the global south ‘to uphold an oppressive conservative coalition that is determined to denigrate those of a more liberal persuasion’, which has placed the Church of England in alliance with developing nations but out of kilter with the rest of the UK.

He argues that the recent employment tribunal for Jeremy Pemberton – a priest who has married his male partner – which ruled that the Church of England was allowed to discriminate against Pemberton, because the church had exempted itself from UK equality legislation, ‘gave the Church of England the worst kind of Pyrrhic victory.’

This is compounded by the decision to discriminate against those being considered for future high office in the church based on any statements the candidate has previously made on same-sex relations:

‘The Church of England is, in other words, not only enshrining, but also perpetuating its own discrimination, while statistical surveys of churchgoers repeatedly show that there is growing toleration for same-sex unions in congregations and amongst clergy.’

This is not a situation unique to the Church of England, though it is particularly acute for Justin Welby as he tries to hold the Anglican Communion together in its tensions over the issue of sexuality and marriage. Archbishop Justin’s task is to appease conservative voices in the developing south of the Communion, yet at the same time not lose a whole generation of young people to the Church of England:

‘The Primates need to grasp that lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians are now an inescapable part of the Anglican Communion. In many countries across the world, they enjoy full and equal citizenship under the law. So, the Primates need to turn their critical attention to those countries in which they have influence, where this is not yet so.’

Prof Percy believes Archbishop Justin has a real opportunity to succeed where Pope Francis has recently failed in his recent Synod on the Family:

‘Simply put, no matter what his fellow Archbishops think about the right way to talk about homosexuality, there is no case for oppressing lesbian, gay and bisexual people under criminal law. In any country, anywhere.’

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Cynthia
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Cynthia

Blessings on Martyn Percy+!!! Finally, a moral leader in CoE. Hallelujah!

Susannah Clark
Guest

Martyn’s point about liberty of conscience is really important: “Yet other churches have faced the divisive issue of sexuality with a bit more nuance. The Church of Scotland, for example, deemed that same-sex relationships were a ‘matter of liberty of conscience, guaranteed by the Church, on matters that do not enter into the substance of faith’. Here, the question of same-sex relationships was left to the liberty of conscience of individuals, congregations and their ministers.” “Thus, a few might say that they cannot support same-sex relationships, and never will. But a quieter majority of others might think otherwise, and therefore… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Good on the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, a cleric of far greater Church experience than the current ABC – who sums up very well the situation of the homophobic origins in the former Commonwealth Churches in this brilliant summation: “‘(the) legal stigmatisation of homosexuality was largely ‘made in England’ in the nineteenth century, and imposed on cultures and emerging countries and that had not been, hitherto, homophobic. This is one of England’s less wholesome exports. The Archbishop of Canterbury could begin the Primates’ meeting by accepting responsibility for the part the Church of England has played in perpetrating this… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

This is spot on ! Very, very heartening to read.

Thank you to Martyn Percy.

DBD
Guest

A good day for Martyns. Comrade Percy is greatly to be lauded (once again) for his courageous use of influence and privilege to challenge the powerful. Perhaps he has been listening to the Mag.

Father David
Guest
Father David

In the conclusion to his beautifully crafted and well argued essay the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford calls for the need for episcopal poets and the employment of the language of poetry from our bishops as opposed to the dull verbiage of prose. Alas R S Thomas is no longer with us but mercifully his poems remain to enlighten many a sermon from our Anglican pulpits. We also have the deep poems of Rowan Williams but he no longer is Archbishop of Canterbury and I suspect is much happier exercising an academic ministry. Canon Percy’s essay invites Rowan’s non-poetic successor… Read more »

MarkBrunson
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MarkBrunson

Welby’s stiff neck won’t even bend enough to acknowledge Percy’s critiques, let alone repent. In a real sense, he has completed what Williams began – except in terms of personal, anecdotal loyalty, the Anglican Communion (or at least Canterbury) has lost The Episcopal Church. While the hierarchy may be willing to endure personal insult and denigration, the hierarchy are not in exclusive control of TEC. To be so publicly reviled by atheists or people of a different religion or even denomination is acceptable to Episcopalians, we tend to get a little “shirty” about it when we are patronized and belittled… Read more »

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

Read the conservative blogs and they think that Doctor Welby is compromised and wishy washy, and has conceded too much on ss marriage. He can’t win can he?

Tim Chesterton
Guest

So any church that is not an established church is a ‘privatized’, ‘tribal church’?

Davis Mac-Iyalla
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Davis Mac-Iyalla

Many thanks dear Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, you speak my mind and that of the many isolated LGBT people from the Global South.

I hope those in the Anglican leadership will take your advice seriously.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has never in anytime dignified oppressors, those Primates from the Global South who promotes and support criminalizing homosexuals in their province are a disgrace to Christianity.

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

An inspiring read. Thank goodness there are a few genuinely Anglican theologians left. I hope that the Archbishop will read and not simply respond, as he did at General Synod in July: “yes, I heard the words, but I don’t understand the question”.

Peter K+
Guest
Peter K+

First rate – as an exercise in preaching to the choir. Martyn Percy usually gives us food for thought to supporters and critics alike, but this is pretty much the ‘same old, same old’. Disappointing.

The essay’s main focus is on the wider Anglican Communion, I know, but can an essay of this type carry much weight when it doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the Pilling report and the ongoing Shared conversations taking place in dioceses and coming up in General Synod next Summer?

Lorenzo
Guest
Lorenzo

To be fair, Fr David, ‘the long held balance between Catholic and Evangelical bishops’ has led us absolutely nowhere. I wish the new evangelical bishops all the best in dealing with the current unpleasantness.

Susannah Clark
Guest

What we need: to get on with Christian life and service in our communities. What is being achieved: divisiveness on human sexuality, alienation and incomprehension in the wider community. The Church is log-jammed by the issue of human sexuality, where there is a division down the middle of its membership. Most people in good conscience now affirm and accept gay and lesbian sex. Many other people, also in good conscience, do not. So what’s for the best, so the Church and its Christian communities can focus again on service and not repeatedly, again and again, stumble and conflict over the… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Well done, Martyn Percy.

Of course it carries weight. It reminds the ABC that his first and primary care is England.

I will never understand why a succession of Archbishops has worked so hard to keep Global South hierarchs happy.

If 41 nations in the Commonwealth criminalised going to synagogue on Saturdays, would Welby go along?

David Beadle
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David Beadle

Thank you, Martyn Percy, a point very well made.

Susan in Georgia
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Susan in Georgia

Blessings on Martyn Percy. On a lighter? note… Every time I see the name of the ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach, I am reminded that the breakaway Diocese of South Carolina has a locally popular tourist destination by the name of Folly Beach. In fact, every time I see the good Archbishop’s name, I read Folly Beach. Might be a message there for Canterbury.

Andrew Lightbown
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Andrew Lightbown

The idea of unity requiring a ‘central unifier’ is interesting but not specifically relevant to issues relating to human sexuality. The Church established its ‘central unifiers’ some time ago: the ‘Catholic creeds,’ and ‘the sacraments,’ both of which leave room for variations in interpretation. What is clear, at least to me, is that all talk of affirmation and inclusion of LGBTI Christians is meaningless in the absence of liturgical rites; liturgy (and ergo the absence of liturgy) is doctrine enacted.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“I will never understand why a succession of Archbishops has worked so hard to keep Global South hierarchs happy” Post-colonial guilt, combined with the racism of low expectations (“see their colourful robes and their simple but wholehearted expressions of childlike faith which although lacking the nuance which we might apply still show their essential kind-heartedness and natural sense of rhythm”). It’s the politics of the 1950s which is, roughly, where large parts of the CofE either still live or would like to live: an exaggerated deference towards former colonies, for fear of being thought racist, which in fact ends up… Read more »

John Bunyan
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John Bunyan

This blog is so predictable. I think those who greatly appreciate e.g. the ministry of Archbishop Welby, who support traditional marriage, who welcome the hand stretched out to the various Churches of the ACNA, tend to be silenced or just give up contributing to what should be a courteous conversation – not least when so often labelled as “homophobic” etc. Admittedly, I am a licensed priest of Sydney Diocese, culturally conservative (e.g. a Prayer Book Society enthusiast, Mothers’ Union supporter, constitutional monarchist, a continuing ex-services chaplain etc, etc )- though also a liberal, indeed agnostic, unitarian Christian, whose main concerns… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Lorenzo, if we go as far back as the 1950s we see a healthy balance between Catholic and Evangelical members of the historic episcopate and numerically we were in much better shape then than we are now. In the 1960s with the publication of Honest to God we seemed to lose Faith in the product and since then the decline has been dramatic. With his background in the world of business the present Primate of All England seems to be rather like an Ecclesiastical Lord Sugar who is hell bent on introducing a whole host of purple shirted Evangelical business… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Well John Bunyan, the problem is this: what is courteous conversation in this context? Keeping it in the “First World”. The rhetoric of exclusion contributes mightily to LGBTQ teen suicide and homelessness, and depression for adults. Discrimination in the work place lessens ones economic well being. Personally, the rhetoric that I’m not created in the Image of God, that my marriage isn’t valid etc., is hurtful, indeed soul crushing. In what way is it courteous to tell someone, and whole populations of people, that they are inferior to you and and inferior, if not an abomination, in the eyes of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

An interesting parallel with the question of the Church of England’s attitude towards divorcees who have re-married (among them, some bishops!) is this seeming stand-off against the inclusion of Same-Sex partnered clergy.

The ‘traditional’ canon of marriage remains; but divorced and re-married clergy are acceptable, but same-sex married clergy are not! Such inconsistency!

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

Strange how the conversation has to be courteous when it’s toward conservatives, but any amount of insult, denigration and degradation are perfectly acceptable when aimed *by* conservatives *at* liberals, particularly gay and lesbian liberals. I continue to hear that this is because of their “deep convictions” and “passionate sincerity” – which, of course, is something of which no liberal, certainly no gay or lesbian person, could be capable. It also seems that “courtesy” changes, when applied to one, or the other. For instance, the liberal must be constantly attuned to every nuance of tone or expression, each and every possible… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John Bunyan, it’s a tricky question, isn’t it! I personally think that TA is one of the most courteous forums, although, of course, we all passionately believe what we believe. As Pete Broadbent pointed out in a different context, TA is about the only major liberal forum, so it’s not surprising that conservatives can find themselves outnumbered. Are we labelling people as homophobic? Yes, far too often and far too indiscriminately. There is a difference in how the terms can be applied. To conservatives it means “fearful of gay people”, and they see themselves falsely accused and labelled. To many… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Martyn Percy is spot on. One of the things are being told here, is that The Primates are really “servants’ , not “rulers” at all. (see link). That the agenda for the forthcoming meeting is also about global issues like poverty and climate.

I’ve been attempting to do my bit to draw attention to Percy’s point of view.

http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/hiltz-primates-meeting-not-a-decision-making-body

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘With his background in the world of business the present Primate of All England seems to be rather like an Ecclesiastical Lord Sugar who is hell bent on introducing a whole host of purple shirted Evangelical business managers onto the Bench who are “missional” minded and have some experience in the field of Church Growth’ The world of business creates the jobs that enable people to give to support our salaries, Father David. Yes, it has its own particular idolatries, but as the rector of a church full of business people who are trying to follow Jesus faithfully, I’d like… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘I personally think that TA is one of the most courteous forums’

Erika, take a look at the context in which the word ‘evangelical’ is used on this forum. We are the ‘unthinking Anglicans’, you know! (and that’s one of the milder statements about us!).

Kurt Hill
Guest
Kurt Hill

I thought it was quite a good essay, and I agree with much of what he wrote. However, I think that the Anglican Communion should be a much looser organization, as well as a much broader one. The Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church are the historic Anglican bodies in English-speaking North America. Both provinces were instrumental from the 1820s onward in forming the Anglican Communion in 1867. Any move to replace them with Continuing Anglican denominations, such as ACNA, must be firmly resisted. However, we should recognize the fact that there are more than 30 Anglican denominations… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tim, I couldn’t agree more. And it really frustrates me how the word evangelical is becoming almost synonymous with unthinking, shallow and homophobic. It stems from the time when the whole lgbt debate was framed in the context of liberals vs evangelicals. It’s damaging to lgbt people too because the debate is now firmly in the evangelical camp and we’re on the whole not very good at including pro gay evangelicals and LGBT evangelicals. But it cuts both ways, and the way some people dismiss everything liberal here out of hand isn’t helpful either. Constructive criticism together with constructive, well… Read more »

John Bunyan
Guest
John Bunyan

May I just add that I for one have never described a homosexually orientated person as “perverted”, or “inferior”, or an “abomination” nor said that God has made a mistake. (That is not my idea of “God” in any case!) I strongly support parliamentary provision of formal,legal,responsible civil unions for those of whatever sexual orientation – yet to come in Australia. And many people CAN do something about hospital problems – by visiting the sick and joining pastoral care teams – but at least in my hospital where the great majority still identify as Christian and there are a significant… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

John, I didn’t say any “said” those things, but people have to take responsibility for what they imply or what may be inferred, as well. Look at Tim’s comment to Erika, above. Nor do I believe I singled you out – I see relatively little from you, as opposed to our professional prophets and martyrs, Julian and Benedict. In the case of conservatives, they are quite careful not to use those words, as that would undermine their position, but their meaning is clear, no matter how they try to backpedal! Welby’s dancing around the subject is a very old ecclesiastic’s… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

John Bunyan, because I am in TEC, I am married to my partner of 24 years. We got married in our Episcopal parish with 175 joyous witnesses, awesome music, and a spirit filled liturgy. Our life together in covenant is blessed, our marriage is a sacrament, she is my best evidence of the Incarnation. I really don’t appreciate having my marriage disparaged, anymore than a straight person would. If that’s a problem for some people, well, people are entitled to their opinions. However, the minute there is discrimination, and rhetoric about not being equal, then that’s an enormous problem. It… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Cynthia: “I am married to my partner of 24 years. We got married in our Episcopal parish with 175 joyous witnesses, awesome music, and a spirit filled liturgy. Our life together in covenant is blessed, our marriage is a sacrament.” Some of the most beautiful words I have ever read here. And – like TEC itself – a beacon and a prophecy of what will come, over here in the Church of England… maybe not in all its churches, but in an increasing number of churches. What you report, what you portray, is so precious and gracious, that I cannot… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“Love will win.”

Yes! Love will win. That is the meaning of this season of waiting for the Incarnation of Love who arrives on Friday.

Love will win. For LGBTQ people, for refugees, for the poor, and for you and me (although I am LGBTQ, I’m pretty white and fiscally secure). Love will win.

Love even wins beyond death (which we Greeks call the “reverse Incarnation”). Love wins.

It wins faster when we open our hearts.

Barry
Guest
Barry

We were reminded on the BBC News website on Saturday last that Civil Partnerships have been with us for ten years. Ten years….and still the bishops of the C of E can’t bring themselves to approve a form of blessing. What is so wounding is to see our leaders repeatedly throwing away one of the greatest opportunities for pastoral outreach they have had in decades, and all to placate fundamentalists who wish to dress-up prejudice as principle.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“Ten years….and still the bishops of the C of E can’t bring themselves to approve a form of blessing.”

Let us hope against hope that the January primates’ meeting will at last give the C of E some moral clarity.