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The Archbishop replies

The Archbishop replies

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has published a reply on behalf of himself and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to an open letter sent in January alleging a failure in the church’s duty of care toward LGBTI Christians ahead of the Primates’ meeting. Read our original story on the open letter here.

In his reply, Archbishop Sentamu reminds Jayne Ozanne and her many co-signatories that

at the concluding News Conference when the Primates’ Communique was first publicised, the Archbishop of Canterbury emphasised that LGBTI people had been very badly treat by churches; for that he offered a personal, heartfelt and unequivocal apology. This is echoed in the communiqué, in which the Primates express their sorrow.

However there needs to be clarity as to what such an expression of repentance does and does not mean. It should not be misconstrued as to include an implicit rejection of the Church’s doctrine of marriage as we have received it. …

Dr Sentamu continues with a fifty-year defence of the Church of England’s actions with regard to human sexuality, beginning in 1957 with the Rt Rev Dr Michael Ramsey’s support for the decriminalization of sexual activity between consenting adults, and concluding,

Most recently in 2014 the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage cited and extended the Dromantine Communiqué statement against homophobic prejudice,… emphasising that members of the Church who entered same sex marriages should “be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.”

The letter goes on to discuss the nature of a “duty of care” held by the church towards its members, and to question “a culture … that favours repentance and apology in sweeping terms without clarity on what was done wrong.”

It is never wrong, of course, to admit false steps that can be identified and repudiated, but it would be wrong to invoke the language of repentance insincerely, without clarity on what is to be repented of.

The Christian doctrine of marriage continues to be  subject of discord, but the rejection of homophobic prejudice is undisputed. The Primates were also unanimous in their desire to continue walking together, despite their disagreements.

Finally, the Archbishop addressed the issue of “consequences” for the Episcopal Church.

The temporary restriction on the participation of The (American) Episcopal Church in some subsidiary bodies has been wrongly reported as a “sanction” or “suspension”. As with other members of the Communion, The Episcopal Church is self-governing and that is readily acknowledged. Nevertheless, as the Statement from the Primates Meeting said, “unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity, is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.” When a member church thus takes unilateral steps which cause deep pain to other member churches and threatens the unity of the Communion, there are inevitable consequences.

Read the original open letter here, and Archbishop Sentamu’s reply on behalf of himself and Archbishop Welby here.

Photo: The Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu, via


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JC Fisher

“When a member church thus takes unilateral steps which cause deep pain to other member churches and threatens the unity of the Communion, there are inevitable consequences.”

To describe actions as “consequences”, they have to be explicitly known beforehand: stipulated action -> consequential reaction. Otherwise, I believe the term “sanction” or “punishment”—freely chosen AFTER the fact—applies.

[I don’t for a second believe that TEC would have acted any differently at GC, but there would have at least been *specific AC consequences* that could have been taken into account when GC was deliberating. The Primates, au contraire, acted ex post facto—a universal example of bad governance!]

Ronell Stewart

This a great post, you have to be very careful how you present information to people, whether it is a scripture from the bible or your own views, someone may get the wrong message.

Kurt Hill

Some of these Church of England clergy make me want to barf.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Michael Russell

My wife’s aunt was once trapped in a long check out line in a supermarket. The manager came by apologizing profusely for the wait and she replied, “It’s not contrition we want, it’s Checkers.”
The same needs to be said to ++York. His words of “comfort” to the LGBT community mean nothing if not backed up by practices that enhance their quality of life in the entire Communion. To that end the verbal and ecclesiastical venom constantly aimed at this community must needs be “sanctioned” as well as collaboration with any state mechanism that incarcerates them on their supporters. There is no universe in which love means abuse, persecution, or imprisonment. (Well perhaps in that of the Spanish Inquisition which tortured out confessions and then killed the miscreant before they could sin again.)
But there is more. The violence done to Scripture and history in order to twist them to say that marriage has always been between one man and one woman, or that it is based in some Edenic return theology is also a crime against the faithful. Just as we are not bound to the multiple forms of marriage found in scripture, neither are we bound to marital forms which existed through the centuries for the purpose of cementing social, economic, or political alliances. To suggest that the chattel marriage practiced between Fathers and husbands-to-be is something “holy” or even congruent with contemporary notions of consent is is bunkum. As far as I am concerned we are quite free to imagine marriage as we have in TEC to include lgbt couples, as a consensual relationship between two souls as we shuck off centuries of marriage as chattel transference.
It would be refreshing then for the ++s of the C of E to at least acknowledge the complex Scriptural and historical traditions about marriage instead of simply parroting the fundagelical mantras. It might also behoove them to contemplate the vacuity of “compassion” without equity, protection, and inclusion.
One final note/question. In Kenya, where I have worked, most clergy cannot afford either the bride price or the full blown marriage celebration. How do the average clerics in Africa’s provinces obtain a church marriage?

Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD

My grandmother use to say that there is no need to cry over spilled milk. I suppose one could share that with the Church of England’s hierarchy. After the fact explanations seem to make the situation worse. The damage has been done. TEC will survive and continue to following the Light that the Holy Spirit has given us to follow. We still shall have no bishops on foreign soils to rule over us.

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