Archbishop Rowan Williams
[COMMENT: The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan
Williams, is strongly pro-homosexual. But he is equally strongly a
Church conservative in terms of Church order. He strongly favors the
approval of homosexuality, but equally strongly insists that the homosexualists
must wait until the Church at large approves such a lifestyle. That puts
him in direct conflict with the realities of Christian faith. He is going
to get shot at from both sides. E. Fox]
Apparently, Williams re-released some earlier
papers and Ruth Gledhill has decided to write a big story on it -- just at
the most inopportune time for Williams, but at a moment of great clarity for
the Primates of the developing world.
August 15, 2003
Archbishop of Canterbury backs faithful gay relationships
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
THE Archbishop of Canterbury will reignite the simmering row over
homosexuality in the Church by backing gay relationships in a controversial
essay dedicated to the subject. At the height of a debate over homosexuality
that threatens to split the Anglican Church in two, Rowan Williams has
sanctioned the reissuing of a six-year-old essay that challenges traditional
Evangelicals gave a warning last night that schism now seemed inevitable, in
view of Dr Williams’s attack on the key texts used against homosexuals by
conservatives at such a sensitive time for the Church.
Dr Williams was asked in February by the publishers SCM-Canterbury Press if
he wished to make any amendments to his essay, first published in 1997 in the
run-up to the Lambeth Conference the next year. He gave his assent for
publication that same month, when the sexuality debate was reaching its
height in Canada and America, although before the abortive selection of Dr
Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading.
He argues that there is more to homosexuality than Romans i, the
passage most frequently cited by evangelicals where St Paul attacks the
“unseemly” passions of men with men.
Dr Williams goes on to set out a possible case for active same-sex
relationships by arguing that revisionists who support “sexual expression”
for homosexuals may, like evangelicals, be trying to be faithful to the
His arguments, couched in diplomatic theology, make clear his support for
committed gay partnerships and his belief that the Church’s traditional ban
on homosexual activity should not apply to those in faithful gay
The book of essays, The Way Forward, will be published at the end of
this month and comes at a time when the Anglican Church faces schism over the
appointment of its first openly gay bishop.
Dr Williams says that there are plenty of homosexual Christians who do not
recognise themselves in Romans i, where St Paul condemns a society
where “God gave them up unto vile affections”, where women turned to
lesbian love and “the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burnt in
their lust one toward another”.
Dr Williams says that if Romans i is to be read as being about the
phenomena of homosexual behaviour in general, as it is by many evangelicals,
then “homosexual desire is not only intrinsically disordered, but
intrinsically rapacious in a way that other kinds of desire are not”.
By contrast, many Christian homosexuals want to live in obedience to God and
“struggle against the many inducements to live in promiscuous rapacity — not
Dr Williams speculates that such a homosexual would say: “It is hard to hear
good news from the Church if it insists that my condition is in itself
He says: “If the Church is to give constant encouragement in following
Christ, even to those who do not settle for either celibacy or marriage
because of their orientation, can it really and honestly do so without at
least admitting that an account of homosexual identity dominated by Romans i
cannot be the whole story?"
He also says: "Of course lives may be and some lives apparently must be lived
without sexual expression in the usual sense of the term. But if you do not
accept that homosexual desire is itself a mark of disorder, can you
confidently say that the presence of this desire must always be a sign that
sexual expression is ruled out?"
Dr Williams's essay will confirm the fears of evangelicals that the Western
Church is headed irrevocably down a sexually liberal road that they cannot
accept. It will also strengthen the hand of the evangelical Archbishops of
the fast-growing African and Asian Churches when the 38 primates of the
Anglican Communion meet in London in October.
They are expected to demand some kind of censure against the American Church
or the diocese of New Hampshire, which elected Canon Gene Robinson. Dr
Williams's essay stands alongside an equally powerful contribution from his
friend Jeffrey John, who was forced to stand down as the next Bishop of
Reading after objections from evangelicals to his sexual orientation.
Dr John argues the case for sexually active gay relationships and says
openness on the issue is part of the "Christian responsibility to deal with
the truth". He challenges the "natural law argument" that homosexuality is
Dr John, who is continuing to work as canon theologian of Southwark
Cathedral, says homosexuality clearly does not fit the generally observed
order of nature because bodies of the same sex do not fit together in the
same way as a male and a female.
But he continues: "Homosexual behaviour is common to many classes of animals,
so at least one form of the natural-law argument - that because animals do
not engage in homosexual behaviour neither should humans - is clearly wrong."
He says that civilisation itself depends on people disobeying many instincts
and urges which might be termed "natural".
He adds: "Even if one were to accept the description of a homosexual
orientation as a 'disorder' or 'handicap', those who suffer from other forms
of disorder or handicap are not normally condemned for adapting a using the
gifts and capacities they still possess in the most creative way possible."
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