Monday, November 29, 2004

Dr Rowan Williams, Homosexuality & the Anglican Way

In his Advent Letter (2004) to the leaders of the Anglican Communion of Churches, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, referring to the recent controversy amongst Anglicans over ordaining “gay” persons, wrote:

“In the heat of this controversy, things have been said about homosexual people that have made many of them, including those who lead celibate lives, feel that there is no good news for them in the Church. Remember that in many countries such people face real persecution and cruelty; even where there are no legal penalties, they suffer from a sense of rejection. Young people are driven to suicide by the conviction that no-one will listen to them patiently; many feel that they are condemned not for their behaviour but for their nature. As I write these words, I have in mind the recent brutal and unprovoked murder of a homosexual man in London by a group of violent and ignorant youths.

The 1998 Lambeth Resolution on this subject declared plainly that the Anglican Church worldwide did not believe - because of its reading of Scripture - that it was free to say that homosexual practice could be blessed. But it also declared that violence in word or deed and prejudice against homosexual people were unacceptable and sinful behaviour for Christians. Earlier Lambeth Conference Resolutions had made the same point. Any words that could make it easier for someone to attack or abuse a homosexual person are words of which we must repent. We are bound to ask, with the greatest care, how we best communicate the challenge of the gospel to homosexual persons and how we may free ourselves from unreasoning fear or even hatred.”


  1. The pastoral concern of the Archbishop for those who regard themselves as homosexual, Lesbian or bi-sexual is to be commended. However, whether an Advent Letter made available to the secular media is the right place to express this pastoral concern, is questionable.

  2. The phrase "homosexual people" may be regarded as significant. The "gay lobby" are the ones who have sought - and largely succeeded - in having homosexuality recognised as a defining characteristic of a person, belonging to their very nature, rather than (only) as a distinct form of behaviour. This recognition has proved an effective weapon in their campaign, since it enables them to define opposition to homosexuality as "discrimination" against individuals, on a par with racial discrimination or discrimination against women.

  3. The Resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1998 is rather stronger than suggested by the Archbishop. Not only is the Church not free to bless homosexual practice it commits sin against God if it does so.

  4. Regrettably, there have always been certain male human beings who regard persons known to be homosexually active as proper recipients of verbal and physical punishment. Such youths and men obviously should not be encouraged in any way whatsoever in their attitude and anger; but, at the same time, it is difficult to see that the opposition of Anglican churchmen to the practice of homosexuality has directly influenced them and contributed to any recent attacks. Further, we do not yet know enough about the incident in London cited by Dr Williams to use it in a particular way as part of moral exhortation in a Letter to the far corners of the earth.

  5. One regrets that the Archbishop included these paragraphs in this (otherwise excellent) Advent Letter for whether he intended to or not he has once again raised the “temperature” (nearly to boiling point!) with respect to the controversy over homosexuality, sin, and God.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon November 29, 2004

No comments: