Thinking Anglicans

Sentamu on homophobia

The Archbishop of York appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme today, and got into a spat with presenter Piers Morgan about homophobia. There’s a video here: Piers challenges Archbishop of York over gay rights.
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Press reports

Harry Farley Christian Today Archbishop of York clashes with Piers Morgan over gay marriage

The Archbishop of York became embroiled in a live TV argument over same-sex marriage on Wednesday morning as ITV presenter Piers Morgan accused him of homophobia.

Archbishop John Sentamu was appearing on Good Morning Britain when Morgan compared homophobia and racism. Sentamu, who is originally from Uganda, was visibly irritated at Morgan’s suggestions.

“This is the trouble I have with the people who argue that the question of sexuality is equal in terms of argument to the question of slavery.

“No, some of my relations died on the ships. Slavery was a very wrong thing.” …

Nick Duffy Pink News Archbishop John Sentamu: Homosexuality is not a sin, LGBT people were created in God’s image too

Antony Bushfield Premier Archbishop: ‘Not supporting gay marriage does not equal homophobia’

Nicola Agius Mirror Archbishop of York NOT happy as Piers Morgan compares homophobia to racism in heated gay marriage debate

Keiligh Baker Mail Online ‘The church ISN’T homophobic – I have lots of gay friends’: Archbishop of York in TV row with Piers Morgan as he is challenged over religious attitudes after Orlando massacre


  • Richard Ashby says:

    ‘Some of my relations died on those ships’. Oh for heaven’s sake, were talking about mass murder. There is no heirachy of evil.

  • Mark Beach says:

    Oh really, Sentamu… So some of your ancestors died on a slave ship.

    Some gay people died in night club.

    They were all murdered can’t you see the parallel

  • Sjh says:

    If he supports civil partnerships why won’t he bless them? It is always just words. Archbishop we will judge you not on what you say but on what you do. So far you have been busy ensuring the church does not have to treat LGBT people equally in the church. This diminishes them, if you hadn’t noticed.

  • Junia says:

    I cannot believe ABY thinks the “I have gay friends” line makes him sound like less of a bigot. Surely he’s intelligent enough to know what a nonsensical and cliché phrase that is.

  • James Byron says:

    Which “relations”? The transatlantic slave trade was outlawed some 200 years ago, and vigorously suppressed by the British Royal Navy. Unless Sentamu’s a lot older than he’s letting on, I believe the phrase he’s looking for is “distant ancestors.”

    Typical double-speak from Sentamu. For him, of all people, to justify discrimination on the basis of how people are born is just atrocious. For him to claim to oppose homophobia adds insult to injury.

  • Interested Observer says:

    When he says “I supported civil partnerships” that would be what some would call “a lie” wouldn’t it? At best it is very economical with the actualite.

    And Morgan, not exactly an intellectual heavyweight, runs rungs around him. Sentamu comes over as being completely out of his depth in what, for an archbishop on an ITV sofa, should be barely ankle deep water.

  • Jeremy Pemberton says:

    I think I’ll pass on having the ABY defend me from homophobia, if it’s all the same to him.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    ‘He hit back: “No, some of my relatives actually died on the ships.” ‘John Sentamu.

    Whereas, lgbti people are never put to death either on land or on sea….

    Or else, what is his point ?

  • Interested Observer says:

    Having returned to my keyboard from my phone…

    I can only think that the Archbishop has been listening to old episodes of Gary Bellamy’s “Down the Line” and, like a few people at the time it was first broadcast, not realised that it actually an artful spoof.

    He has presumably been living in an echo chamber where (a) invocation of slavery immediately triggers so much liberal guilt that all rational argument goes out of the window. It may have escaped his attention that (a) restrictions on marriage for people of colour have hardly been unusual, with “miscegenation” a particular bugbear below the Mason Dixon line and (b) actual living people’s relatives were murdered for being gay just this week, so invocation of dead relatives from hundreds of years ago while rhetorically impressive doesn’t actually have quite the same emotional impact.

    He is treading dangerously close to the “as a black man I cannot be a bigot”, and starting to play oppression top trumps implies that he has not read anything sensible about privilege and intersectionality in the past twenty years. You would have thought that the experience of oppression (in so far as a man who is a member of the House of Lords can claim that) would have given him empathy with others who are oppressed, but apparently not: he didn’t quite say “as a black man, slavery trumps everything” (which is a position he might be wise to keep quiet about the next time he visits a synagogue) but he came dangerously close to it.

    I’m sorry, but he just came over as a rather dim man who doesn’t like gays very much, and is struggling to find any rational argument because it hadn’t crossed his mind that anyone might disagree. As I say: like a spoof caller to a spoof chat show. Grim. Hopefully he’ll watch a recording of it and repent.

  • Kate says:

    It seems truly bizarre that a couple who both have a penis and who both have fathered children can lawfully marry in the Church of England – indeed have a right to do so – if one has legally changed gender, but two gay men cannot.

    And yes, it is also entirely possible for both of the couple to be visibly pregnant at the time of a church wedding.

    It is also possible for a couple both with male birth certificates, or both with female birth certificates, to marry in the Church of England, but the circumstances are more complex and require an international dimension.

    Just what is Sentamu objecting to? The principles have already been conceded (providing the couple contrives to be of the opposite sex for the purpose of marriage in England and Wales) and it is now just about accepting that and opening it up to ordinary gay men and lesbian women.

    I suspect if someone published a formal paper on it – it is probably only two or three pages long – much of the opposition in GS would give way. Of course, others would attempt a regressive law change but good luck to them in getting that through both Synod and Parliament.

    Just how bizarre are things? Try this. Peter from Liverpool is dating Kim from Dublin. Both are anatomically male but Kim has also been quite feminine and likes wearing skirts etc. They approach Peter’s vicar about marrying, but he says no as both are legally male. Kim writes to the minister in Dublin asking to be recognised as female. No medical appointments are necessary. Armed with her new birth certificate, Jan and Peter go back to the vicar. This time he tells them they can marry in Peter’s parish church.

    Of course that is right. That isn’t bizarre. What is bizarre is that a piece of paper from an unelected public official, who may or may not be a Christian, in another country can change a straight refusal into a yes and yet Sentamu can appear on television and claim there is a point of Christian theology at stake. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad that people are being needlessly hurt over a battle already lost but an archbishop who lacks the grace to admit that.

  • Once again… “I love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

    Okay, that is your right, if you believe that, in good conscience. But hating the loving, intimate, devoted, sexual, tender expressions at the heart of two decent people’s lives… profound expressions of who they are… that is still homophobia.

    Or look at how little help there is, how few resources, how much erasure, on diocesan websites. It’s homophobic marginalisation going on across the institution.

    Or ‘consequencing’ people because they love each other and want to share their lives together.

    Or taking people’s jobs away… the service of the sick in hospitals for example… in the name of love.

    It’s homophobia.

    You may still say you “love the person” but a person’s sexuality and relationships are a deep and integral part of who they are.

    So you’re not altogether loving the person, are you? You are loving a version of the person you think they ought to be, while erasing what you don’t like from that equation, vilifying the precious and tender, and the sacrificial love and lives.

    You’re loving *your* version of who the person is, not who they actually are, not honouring what is most tender and decent and given about who they are.

    And as someone said, we should try not to construct a hierarchy of wrongdoing. Racism isn’t better or worse than homophobia. Gay people still bleed. Lesbian women still die in a hail of bullets.

    Meanwhile, on website after website in the Church of England, we are erased.

    Homophobia is alive in the Anglican Communion. Loving ‘the sinner’ does not make the repudiation of people’s lives alright… and little wonder when people recoil from the Church in disgust.

    Half the Church disagrees with the bishops and archbishops anyway, and so their attempt to impose uniformity is particularly troubling, trampling as it does over the consciences of those who affirm people’s love regardless of gender.

    In the end, you have to hope and believe that love will win. It is already winning in countless people’s lives and loving relationships, but how sad that the Church still marginalises that love.

  • James Byron says:

    Of course, regardless of appearances in the interview, Sentamu’s the opposite of dim: in Uganda, he was an advocate and judge at a very young age; and he holds multiple advanced degrees from Cambridge. We can safely say that he’s fiercely intelligent.

    Why then did a man as smart as Sentamu get into the mess he did? Simply, ’cause the position he’s defending is untenable.

  • Daniel Berry NYC says:

    Notably, Donald Trump likes to bray that he has good relations “with the Blacks.”

  • MarkBrunson says:

    What a disgrace to Christ’s Body!

  • Nathaniel Brown says:

    ‘The church ISN’T homophobic – I have lots of gay friends’ – Archbishop Sentamu

    Dear ++ York – Please read thee three quotations, and ponder what you have said:

    1971: “DEAR ABBY, First let me say some of my best friends are homosexual, I have nothing against them, but…”

    From: Gentlemen’s Agreement:

    Anne Dettrey: I know dear, and some of your other best friends are Methodist, but you never bother to say it.

    Kathy Lacey: You think I’m an anti-Semite.
    Phil Green: No, I don’t. But I’ve come to see lots of nice people who hate it and deplore it and protest their own innocence, then help it along and wonder why it grows. People who would never beat up a Jew. People who think anti-Semitism is far away in some dark place with low-class morons. That’s the biggest discovery I’ve made. The good people. The nice people.

  • It was a nice switch from a question about anti-miscegenation to an answer about slavery. The comparison between anti-miscegenation and restricted access to marriage on the basis of sexuality seems quite an apt one, and we received no answer on that point at all.

  • John Barton says:

    Archbishop Sentamu was invited to be interviewed about the Referendum, because he had published articles on the subject. Without warning, Piers Morgan chose to ignore this and press him about gay marriage. It was he who introduced a comparison with racism.

    It is predictable that most Thinking Anglicans contributors will insist that opposition to gay marriage is homophobic. Anyone who disagrees with them is dim, out of his depth, insulting, bigoted. There is no debate, because they have an infallible grasp of the truth. Now where have I heard that before?

    John Barton

  • Iain McLean says:

    It is possible that John Sentamu supported civil partnerships in 2004 (he was not yet in the Lords), but he never said so then, when the bishops in the Lords attempted to defeat the Civil Partnerships Bill. See my Guardian comment piece from 2012, with its links and citations

  • Spirit of Vatican II says:

    I think Abp Sentamu is getting a bum rap here. He quite rightly said that opposition to redefining marriage does not make him a homophobe, and he skilfully changed the subject to Brexist toward the end. Piers Morgan gave a repetitive, rude, and question-begging harangue.

  • Sara MacVane says:

    In Brown v the School Board of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court (USA) ruled that separate is never equal, or in this case (Civil Partnership and Marriage) we might say: different is never equal and to refuse equality is to discriminate (“homophobia”)at least in my humble opinion.

  • It’s pretty simple really. Piers Morgan should not have asked “Is homosexuality a sin” because the orientation itself is often tolerated as long as people don’t act on it (and lead lives of celibacy not demanded of heterosexual couples).

    Instead, he should have asked: “Are homosexual acts a sin?” That is the direct question that needs to be put, again and again, to both John Sentamu and Justin Welby.

    Because if homosexual acts are as lovely and legitimate as heterosexual acts, then surely they should be blessed and sanctified inside marriage (which is the only context in which – it is argued – sex should take place).

    Basically if people regard gay and lesbian sex as sin, then that is homophobia.

    And if they dare to say those acts are good, not sin, then although they will create uproar in certain circles, there can really be no further argument about ending discrimination against people who love each other and want to get married, regardless of whether their sex is ‘good heterosexual’ or ‘good gay and lesbian’.

    I disagree with the suggestion that Piers Morgan was rude. I think he was trying to ask the key direct questions that the archbishops often want to avoid, for fear of alienating GAFCON and (some) English evangelicals… or else, out of fear of exposing themselves as prejudiced. Of course, “But I love gay people, I have gay friends” will be presented (and may be true) but unless you can affirm that you love who they really are… with their tender and intimate sex… then that still veers towards patronising people, rather than truly celebrating the whole of who they are.

    If John or Justin would care to come on here, and say: “You are mistaken Susannah, I think gay sex and lesbian sex are really lovely things, and just as lovely as heterosexual sex, and not sin at all” then I would be very happy to stand corrected.

    Unfortunately, Piers didn’t use exactly the right wording, or press home the issue.

    Somebody needs to. As truth-seekers, we should be open, transparent and true. There was no harm in asking John Sentamu open and honest questions, on an issue that is deeply relevant to the Church today.

  • Kate raises a pertinent point about the implications of the Gender Recognition Act, namely that two people with penises, or two people with vaginas, may already be married members of the Church of England.

    In a community I am involved with, I have a Christian friend with a true and lively faith, who long ago married a childhood sweetheart. And their marriage has been a blessing ever since. Of course, it has also been fully acceptable in the eyes of their church.

    In recent years, my friend transitioned, and eventually had gender reassignment surgery.

    By much grace, their family has held strong, and my friend and her wife have no desire at all to end their marriage, a marriage which has blessed them through all these years, been the basis of family life for their children, and basically involves the same love and care as ever.

    However, my friend’s wife has been exploring ordination, and she has been told that being in a marriage with another woman would be an impediment to ordination. Such is the obsession the church seems to have with genitals. They… just… love… each… other.

    It has been proposed that if they got a divorce, then ordination could be further explored. Neither of them want a divorce. Why would they? They treasure their marriage.

    Yet my friend feels dreadfully sad for her, and wonders whether they should do a technical divorce, just to keep the church happy. The other thing would be not to apply for a Gender Recognition certificate, so that legally they would still be male and female. But my friend is not male. My friend has a vagina. And anyway the Church would still oppose ordination on the grounds that two women (aka vaginas) would be defying the Church’s teaching on marriage.

    It is a really difficult predicament, and I think it highlights how fluid the issues of sex and gender are. It’s obvious my friends’ marriage is precious and sanctified and blessed by God. And their changing gender status makes not a difference to the integrity of that marriage.

    And if marriage still holds true between a transwoman and a cisgendered woman, then why need it not hold true (and be precious and blessed) between two cisgendered women or two cisgendered men?

  • Kate says:

    “It is predictable that most Thinking Anglicans contributors will insist that opposition to gay marriage is homophobic.”

    I don’t think objecting to ssm within CofE is homophobic but Sentamu goes beyond that and argues that same sex couples should only be allowed civil partnerships, not a secular marriage.

    IMO it is his attempt to own the entirety of the term “marriage” to exclude same sex couples which is homophobia.

  • Interested Observer says:

    “He quite rightly said that opposition to redefining marriage does not make him a homophobe”

    “question-begging harangue”

    An example of “question begging” would be “quite rightly said”.

  • Brian Ralph says:

    I consider that opposition to redefining marriage is a mark of homophobia. Here in NZ, the only time I feel I am a 2nd class citizen is when I enter an Anglican church. The Anglican church of Aotearoa New Zealand is one of the few openly homophobic institutions left in this country.
    Unlike in my country of birth, where I know I become 2nd class as I pass through customs in Sydney. The reason I now proudly carry a NZ passport and no longer put Anglican on any form asking my religion.

  • Malcolm Halliday says:

    John Barton. ++Sentamu had also written following the murderous attack on LGBT people in Orlando and he was fairly pressed on his position and Morgan fairly and robustly pointed out that there were other views within the Established Church than those being propounded by the Archbishop and that a change might be needed if the Church’s mission to the nation was not to be frustrated. Like other writers to this column I thought the reference to historic slavery was true but a diversion to the argument he was having. Defending a position on the Referendum was an easy call. His position on love and same-sex marriage in the 21st Century was much more testing.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    No, Spirit, he is NOT getting a bum rap.

    Either he is too tin-eared to realize or too disingenuous to care about the phrasing – that’s first.

    Second, how about we say this:

    “There’s nothing wrong with how the Catholics were treated after Mary I! It’s perfectly possible to believe that Catholics shouldn’t hold office or be allowed to vote and not be anti-Catholic. Some of my best friends are! Besides, Mary I burned some of my own people at the stake, and that’s wrong. So, not at all comparable to the real struggle others have had.”

    Piers Morgan is haranguing, rude and question-begging, but he still came across as more compassionate and sensitive than Sentamu. What Sentamu said, in saying, “That was wrong,” was to intimate that the treatment of GLBT by the church of England is not, even that what happened in Orlando was, perhaps, not. I guess it has to happen to those like you for you to understand.

  • Kate, in an earlier thread you made a similar point about the CofE’s apparent inconsistency in permitting the marriage of trans people in its churches contrasted with its vehement opposition to same sex marriage. It was of course an apparently unanimous House of Bishops that secured the quadruple lock to prevent same sex couples marrying in its churches. As I’ve noted in ‘This is my body: hearing the theology of transgender Christians’ and elsewhere, in 2003 the House of Bishops was publicly divided over the marriage of trans people following gender recognition: Bishop(s) (one in particular) spoke in favour in the Lords and the House of Bishops agreed that two views (for and against the reality of gender transition) were valid in the Church of England. What the House also did was obtain an exemption for clergy with conscientious objections to officiating at a marriage where one or both parties has undergone gender reassignment. So in your example, Peter’s vicar could still refuse to wed the couple (though not deny them a ceremony in their parish church – but it’s a little unclear whether this was altered by the Equality Act) even though they could now produce birth certificates to show that Peter was male and his partner female. As someone who was able to marry in church as a result of this legislation I have always campaigned (with Sibyls, Changing Attitude, England & the LGBTI Anglican Coalition) for a similar model for the marriage of LGB people in church, including the conscientious opt out given that one of the main fears seems to be that people will be ‘forced’ to go against their conscience if same sex couples are able to marry in church. With your earlier post in mind there is an interesting article by Stephen Whittle and Lewis Turner which looks at how definitions of sex and gender were altered by the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

  • JCF says:

    “It is predictable that most Thinking Anglicans contributors will insist that opposition to gay marriage is homophobic. Anyone who disagrees with them is dim, out of his depth, insulting, bigoted. There is no debate, because they have an infallible grasp of the truth. Now where have I heard that before?”

    Brilliant framing of the Fascist Mob, Mr Barton: I was almost too ashamed to speak!

    What gives it all away, however, is the phrase “opposition to gay marriage”. As has been said (about another issue), “if you’re opposed to gay marriage, don’t get [married in] one.”

    But that’s not really the issue, is it? No, it’s about FORBIDDING OTHERS—those same-sex couples who feel, in the Church, divinely CALLED to that state of life—to get one. [And the ministers who would celebrate such marriages.]

    How can you pretty-up this slamming of the church doors in gay peoples’ faces? How is it really all about YOUR suffering?

  • Spirit of Vatican II says:

    Pope Francis would give exactly the same reply as Sentamu — this resistance to “redefining marriage” is just the current teaching of both our churches. Pouncing on Sentamu in a highly individualized way even makes me feel we are thinking in racist stereotypes (“he’s African, he must be homophobic”). In our Irish Marriage Referendum the yes camp banned all reference to the no camp as “homophobic” and this restraint and breadth of vision was one of the contributing factors to the stunning success of the referendum. Gay activists do not need to be kneejerk in their reactions,

  • Iain Baxter says:

    One of my best friends is gay – and he does not agree with gay marriage – and he definitely is not homophobic. However, if someone does all in their power to stop someone getting married, because they are gay, then I think that is a pretty homophobic action.

    I hardly think the ABY can complain about an ambush – it was just after the terrible massacre in Orlando, he would have expected to be asked about his reaction. What he did not expect was such robust questioning, for which his response was dangerously close to “I am only obeying orders”.

    For him to hide behind the “teaching of the Church” is disingenuous. To quote the words of St. Paul, Archbishop Semtamu could have said how, on the LGBT issue, ‘I have acted “beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.”‘

  • Kate says:


    Stephen Whittle is a divisive figure in terms of advocacy but the paper you kindly linked is good work, and something I’d not read. Thank you. I have only skim read it because I am on mobile today, but I will study it.

    Relevant here is his conclusion. Male/female and man/woman has already been defined to mean something different in national and church law than any of the concepts Setanmu and co have when they insist marriage is only between one man and one woman. That being the case, I can see no credible objection to doing as you say and extending the same rights to gay couples to marry in their parish church with a conscience out-out for priests. It is less than ideal as I don’t think there should be an opt out: accepting ordination means accepting obedience to the Church and opt outs interfere with that ancient principle of discipline.

    I think it says something about T and I being the forgotten siblings of LGBTI that so few of those advocating for same-sex marriage are unaware of such material and that all the relevant precedents have already been set. Anyone interested in same sex rights – whether for or against – really ought to familiarise themselves with what male and female now mean in law. (The Whittle paper is a good start but I can see some gaps (eg the international dimension) so it isn’t the entire story.)

  • robert ian williams says:

    Isn’t this all relative. By today’s standards some one like Abraham Lincoln would be considered racist as he believed the best solution for freed black slaves was repatriation to Africa. How do you judge right and wrong? So how can you call some one homophobic because they do not share your views on the LBGT identity and position. Certainly there is disordered cultural prejudice ( ie. hating gay people for the sake of it) but if you believe in a revealed religion it is very hard to shift your opinion.Especially if you are governed by a religion that does not temper its rules with synodical government.The latter can only be reflective of society as a whole.But there again can you be sure with majorities…the majority cheered for Barabbas. Archbishop Sentamu accommodated royal pre-marital living together, divorce and re-marriage and female ordination…but one wonders why he can’t revise St Paul on gays?

  • Spirit of Vatican II says:

    He has revised St Paul on gays, but not on marriage.

  • Sara MacVane says:

    Sorry, RIW, but Abe did change his views, as almost any of his biographies will affirm.

  • robert ian williams says:

    But Thomas Jefferson kept abusing black women,and owning them as slaves.

    You don’t get it….you can’t judge people in past centuries by our views.Our views are subjective and subject to change.

  • Cynthia says:

    Don’t forget, Robert, that Jefferson wrote “I shudder when I reflect on the fact that our God is just.” He knew slavery was wrong.

    I suspect that a lot of leaders in history knew that what they were doing was wrong when they burned heretics, promoted anti-semitism, etc. They were participating in demagoguery that kept them in power.

    Sure, it’s tricky applying modern sensibilities to the past, but it is also problematic to let them off the hook and not marvel at how they so often used the texts of a loving God to promote evil.

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