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Archbishop of Canterbury unhelpful and offensive sermon

Archbishop of Canterbury unhelpful and offensive sermon

Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow reflects, at his blog, on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon in Mexico City:

The Short Version

*The Anglican Communion is in a mess

*The Archbishop of Canterbury is in Mexico and he has preached a sermon

*It isn’t really a very helpful sermon and is quite offensive

The Long Version

This week the Archbishop of Canterbury (I think we can stop calling him the new Archbishop of Canterbury now) has been preaching in Mexico. He preached a sermon earlier this week which was aimed at the troubles of the Anglican Communion. Though its conclusion is that we must all “walk in the light” which is pretty untroublesome, he has used language to get there which stigmatises fellow Anglicans and which I don’t really think is helpful at all.

After quoting a troublesome part of the ABC’s sermon, Holdworth comments:

It isn’t really helpful to characterize the troubles of the Communion as being “sides” in any case and neither of these images is remotely helpful.

The basic trouble in the Communion is that some of us think that gay people should be treated like anyone else and have our reasons for doing so. Others think that is wrong and have their own reasons for taking that view. The latter sometimes think that they alone believe a view consonant with the bible.

It is deeply unhelpful of the Archbishop to use language which appears to suggest that the risk that those who wish to affirm gay people present is one of a lack or loss of core beliefs. That just isn’t true and is a nasty slur against fellow Anglicans. The US and Canadian churches are not places where God is absent and if the Archbishop needs to find that out, he needs to go there and meet them, something that his predecessor seemed to find impossible to do….

Further comments on the unhelpful sermon:

… The other uncomfortable notion in this sermon is that it looks as though the Archbishop is painting a scene where there are these two squabbling factions and the bishops tentatively walk a narrow path of balance and moderation between them. Innocently tripping along the cliff edge, fearful of being dragged down one side or the other. (Do cliffs normally have two sides anyway?)

That is not my experience. Bishops are part of our problems. Indeed, the Episcopate is the place where a very great deal of these problems occur in the communion.

Here in Scotland, it sometimes seems as though the Bishops think they should present themselves as only possible “honest” brokers amidst naughty disagreement amongst others. It isn’t true and we all know it isn’t true. Our bishops are not of one mind yet appear entirely unable to model their diversity in a healthy way….

Read all of Holdsworth’s blog here.

How The Telegraph interpreted the sermon here.


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‘ but I do not believe John Spong has EVER said “I am an atheist.”‘

Since he specifically rejects a theistic God separate from the natural world and Jesus Christ as the Incarnation of that God, it seems a distinction without a meaningful difference.

Bill Dilworth


“Not intentionally perhaps, but certainly by definition…”

Maybe I should rephrase it. Not every Christian who believes that homosexual acts are always sinful is a bigot. Many, of course, are – buy there are also those who think that way because their Christian training – how they go about deciding something is in line with God’s will, in particular – leads them to that conclusion. Now, we may well think they are mistaken, that their way of reaching this sort of decision is flawed, that they have been misled by others (especially their religious leaders), but I don’t think we get to decide what their “real” motivation is. Some people think same sex acts are always sinful because that’s how they were taught by people they love and respect, because that’s how they were taught to interpret Scripture or Tradition, or out of loyalty to their own religious group – but I reject the idea that they are always driven by hatred or fear of gay folk. That’s what I mean by their not being bigots.

Bill Dilworth

Geoffrey McLarney

“I do not believe John Spong has EVER said “I am an atheist.”

In an era when “Christian” and “atheist” were the two antonyms on offer, you might have a point. But since he has come out against virtually every core Christian tenet, I’m not sure how this allays Bill’s concern. Some Christians do indeed seem to confirm the “conservative” [sic] impression that the only possible queer-inclusive Christianity is one where “belief is trumped by being a nice progressive.” If you’re going to say that you’ve never encountered the likes of the Centre for Progressive Christianity and Sea of Faith, then I’ll have to suspend my disbelief.

I have great admiration for Spong’s dogged conviction of the Church’s conscience, but I get annoyed when people ask me and other gay Catholics why we didn’t “just join those nice United Church folks?” or the UF of MCCs. And too, I suppose, I still have fresh in my mind a conversation with a trans Anglo-Catholic friend about how our brushes with U*Uism couldn’t ground our queer incarnational faith, without diminishing our regard for our former brethren there. A faith which can accept queer embodiment only because it bends over apologizing for the bodily nature of Christianity – in the Resurrection and in Eucharist – doesn’t profit anyone.


Geoffrey McL, “the Spong/Pike element” = “don’t have Christian faith”???

I have ZERO interest in re-fighting any Spong/Pike Wars, but I think that’s a rather gob-smackingly broad equation.

JC Fisher

…whereas our friendly observer Susan “IT” Forsberg is an atheist, and will tell you precisely that, full-stop. Bishop Pike has received his reward (pray for us!) and can’t be asked, but I do not believe John Spong has EVER said “I am an atheist.”

Ann Fontaine

There is a middle ground beyond our differences. As per the Rumi quote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I will meet you there.”

On particular issues there is no middle ground – but we can lay down our swords and do what we can together where we agree. We all belong to each other via baptism. The difficulty comes is when one group is actively persecuting or abusing the other.

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