First Anglican Priest in Equal Marriage Ceremony in England

Gay priest defies Church of England ban on same-sex marriage as senior vicar warns of ‘crisis’

Hospital chaplain Canon Jeremy Pemberton, 58, becomes the first Church of England priest to marry person of same sex

The pair would have been unable to marry in an Anglican church as the Church of England refused to support the Government’s legalisation of gay marriage last month. As well as banning clergy from marrying a person of the same sex, priests are not allowed to direct same-sex marriages.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby last week claimed that if the Church of England accepted gay marriage,Christians in countries where homosexuality is illegal would be killed.

Following the change of law, The House of Bishops’ guidance on same-sex marriage, signed by Archbishop Welby and the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, said: “We are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.”

“That’s what I want. It is the same as anyone who wants to get married.”

Following the wedding, Canon Pemberton took to Twitter to express his delight, describing the ceremony as “very moving and very happy”. He said that being the first was “accidental”, adding that “we just wanted to get married”.

The couple have received floods of well wishes on social media, including from some corners of the Church, including LGBT activist Rev Stephen Sorby, who said: “Congratulations lovely. Every blessing. We stand with you”, and the vicar of Sedbergh in Cumbria, Drew Mac, who wrote: “Congratulations and best wishes – and may God bless you too!”

Support also came from Rev Colin Coward, director of the Changing Attitude campaign group and Dr Giles Fraser, the former canon chancellor of St Paul’s.

But Rev Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative Reform group and member of the General Synod, told The Telegraph that Canon Pemberton should be reprimanded, warning that inaction could trigger “crisis” in the Church of England.

He said: “If there is not clear discipline then it is the equivalent to saying ‘we really didn’t mean what we said.’ It will precipitate a crisis.”

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Reverend Christopher Lowson, said he spoke to Canon Pemberton, who is a chaplain of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, after he informed him that he would be getting married, but did not say if he would now be taking disciplinary action.

He said:  “I am aware that a member of the clergy who works in the Diocese of Lincoln has married a partner of the same sex.

“The priest concerned wrote to me in advance to explain his intention and we had a subsequent meeting in which I explained the guidelines of the House of Bishops.”


This article from the pages of the ‘Independent’ newspaper in the U.K. gives the story of the first Marriage of a same-sex couple involving a clergy-person of the Church of England.

Despite the opposition of the Church of England’s Bishops to any of its clergy taking advantage of the newly created law which allows same-sex couples to marry; it could have been predicted that there would be some clergy who would take up their civil rights to marry – despite the very real threat of disciplinary action from their local bishop.

In the case of Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who is a priest resident in the Diocese of Lincoln, but employed by the N.H.S. as a Hospital Chaplain; the Bishop of Lincoln – once he had been made aware of imminent plans for the wedding – advised Canon Pemberton of the guidelines issued by the House of Bishops of the C.of E., without, however, issuing any outright ban for the marriage, which is now legal for same-sex couples in England and Wales. What discipline, if any, will be meted out to Canon Pemberton is yet to be decided.

There can be no doubt that this first marriage under the new law, of a clergy-person of the Church of England, will be keenly followed by both the media and the membership of the Church of England. Any statement on behalf of the Church of England hierarchy that seeks punishment of Canon Pemberton will be resisted by those in the Church who believe that clergy should have the same rights as the laity to be married under the new law.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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Palm Sunday Procession at St.Mary’s episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow

Palm Sunday Procession 2014

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 05:41 AM PDT

Here’s a wee video of the Palm Sunday Procession at St Mary’s this year.

I promised people something extra this year. For some reason, people thought I had booked a donkey.

Well, anyone can book a donkey.

Here’s what happened. Many thanks to the guys from the wonderful Clanadonia for making this year’s procession so memorable.


What a wonderful Hibernian Celebration of Palm Sunday with the long Procession of clergy and congregation of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral  in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Provost, Father Kelvin Holdsworth, always innovative in his eirenic ministry at the SEC Cathedral in the heart of Scotland’s Glaswegian community, has encouraged the local people to celebrate the Palm Sunday Liturgy in a particularly Scottish way. If the Haggis can be ‘piped in’ to celebrate Robbie Burns, then surely the Entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem can be celebrated with at least an equivalent dignity! 

And what a joyful scene, headed by the two pipers and accompanied by drums, clergy and people of St. Mary’s processed around the church with Palm Crosses – and even a trio of dogs – to greet the Messiah on His ride into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week.

And, don’t you just love the spectacle of the Deacon and Sub-Deacon of the Mass dancing and waving their Palms at the end of the lengthy procession? Even the thunder and lightening seemed to join in, too.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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‘Curmudgeon’ – Critique of the ABC and ‘The West’

Archbishop Welby Struggles with a Greater Truth

As the Anglican Curmudgeon, it behooves me now and then to comment upon matters Anglican. And just now, there is a tempest in the Anglican teapot which I have refrained from noticing, because after all, it is still a small storm in a very small teapot.And indeed, it is a “storm” only if you take its measure by the winds from the West – or (which comes to the same thing, direction-wise) from the left. By all other measures, including one which takes note of the fact that the winds are blowing only from the West, something must be going well in Anglican Land.For the Archbishop of Canterbury has seen fit to share with Anglicans in the West his insights gained from a visit with Anglicans to the South. And from the reactions in the West, it would appear that neither group can even begin to comprehend why the other proceeds as it does. Even worse, it would appear that each group would prefer that the other did not call itself “Anglican.”Now, the adjective “Anglican” makes sense from a religious point of view only if one allows it to modify a noun, such as “Communion.” As many from both sides will explain to you at the drop of a name, it makes no sense to call yourself “Anglican” if you are not part of the “Anglican Communion.” (There are other nouns it can modify, but for those who are in it they do not reach the same level as “Communion”.)

So what does it mean for two different groups in the Anglican Communion to treat each other as though they were not really Anglican?

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the quintessential Anglican, so he cannot side with the one group against the other. All he can do in the circumstances is urge upon each group mutual respect for the other’s views.

But the Archbishop thereby gives away both the game, and his role as a neutral arbiter – because the opposing views can by no objective means be called equally worthy of respect, at least within the context of the Christian religion, and the particular branch of it of which he is the nominal head.

Here is the problem in a nutshell: the West claims the authority to recognize same-sex relationships based upon its recent experiences with them as coming within the traditional understanding of what is “Anglican.” The South, based upon its  traditional reading of Scripture,  rejects that authority outright.

What is worse, the South’s “experience” of same-sex unions is exactly theopposite of the West’s: in the South, even a perceived support of them leads to violence and death. Most often recently, such murder comes from the hands of Islamic terrorists bent on exterminating a Christianity that could conceivably espouse (even if in the South, it doesn’t) what has always been regarded as an abomination among the people of the Book. The West, on the other hand, regards the Islamic terrorists as a local problem of the South – a problem that is traceable largely to tribalism, fear and ignorance.

So the South cries “Help! Stop adding fuel to the fires of our foes!” – while the West largely says “They are your problem, not ours.” (Though that stance does not stop the West from actively intervening to ostracize Southern attempts to legislate on homosexuality, which intervention only exacerbates the tensions between Muslims and Christians in the South.)

This divide, which the Archbishop of Canterbury thought he could bridge by being sensitive to the concerns of both sides, unfortunately has nothing to do with the Anglican Communion in particular. Instead, it has to do with all humankind – and goes to the very essence of being human.

The West argues that Scripture must be interpreted first and foremost in the light of ongoing experience, then by reason, and last by tradition – except when the latter two conflict with experience.

The South argues that Scripture is capable of interpretation only by reason, as guided by tradition (by which it means reason as our forebears expressed it), and that man’s experience is an especially fallible, and at best only local and limited, guide to what Scripture means.

These positions are rooted in a far deeper and older dispute. They relate to who is in charge: man, or someone beyond or outside of man.

The view that man is in charge is reflected in the Bible passages that deal with Adam’s fall, with the Tower of Babel, with the Golden Calf, and numerous later apostasies by the nation of Israel. (Notice that none of those stories turned out well for man.)

The view that someone outside of man is in charge is older than the Bible, and permeates it: before Scripture was ever written, God was in charge. And God remains in charge, no matter what man may think, because God is infinitely greater than man, and indeed, created man in His image – so that man might appreciate, worship, and glorify Him.

The Archbishop’s mistake, or naiveté, was to treat these opposing views as standing upon equal ground.

They do not. The West’s view is (to quote one especially obnoxious proponent of it): “We [i.e., man] wrote the Bible, and we can change it.” The South’s view is: God breathed His Word into Scripture, and God’s message does not change – with time, with experience, with man, or with  whatever is currently the fashion.

Experience is grounded in emotion and feelings, i.e., how one interprets experience. And by definition, therefore, one’s experience changes with, and is defined by, the time in which one lives.

In the traditional view, God gave us reason to temper our emotions and feelings – throughout all time. Otherwise, there would be little to distinguish man from the animals.

Thus reason is grounded in God’s image in man; emotions and feelings, however, are grounded in fallen man alone, i.e., in the heritage that he shares with all animals. To quote Blaise Pascal:

Man’s greatness is so obvious that it can even be deduced from his wretchedness, for what is nature in animals we call wretchedness in man, thus recognizing that, if his nature is today like that of the animals, he must have fallen from some better state which was once his own.

The difference between the West and the South, therefore, is not just particular to the Anglican Communion, but is as old as man himself. The West is currently in the thrall of man (which can for the nonce be exhilarating, but which in the end is always disastrous). The South remains, as best as it is able, obedient to God and His will as expressed through Scripture.

The terrorists who slaughter Southern Christians for (supposedly) tolerating what is an abomination to their religion of Islam are equally in the thrall of Islam – which is to say, a different man’s version of God.

Thus for Western Christians in the thrall of man to call African Islamists “backward, fearful and ignorant” is for the pot to call the kettle black. They may differ in appearance, but they share the same color – i.e., they both despise those who would follow God as he has always spoken  through Scripture, rather than God as he “speaks” currently through man.

What does this mean for the Anglican Communion? It means that part of it follows man (or God as seen with man’s experience as paramount), while the other part is trying to follow God (as heard and understood through His timeless Word).

There is no compromise between these views, because man is not God.

There is no bridging the gap when man willfully sets himself apart from God.

The gap can be eliminated only when men agree to let God’s Word be unchanging, and to follow it as best as they can, given their fallenness. He made it unchanging, so that they could never lose their way through anything He said or did, but would always have a straight path to which they could return. Think about that for a moment.

Disputes arise through man’s own fallenness, and not because God wills them to exist. Disputes about God’s word are from Man, not God. Man may not always get it right, but he should never be certain that he is right just because he is man. (See this earlier post on how man can best tell when he is being true to God’s Word.)

Thus the Archbishop should not be surprised that his observations of the reality that divides the  West from the South bestirred such a reaction from the West. Far from shrinking from such observations in the face of Western criticism, he should redouble them, and keep on pressing home the message: the South asks only that we return to the path God made for us, while the West insists on charting its own course. It is for the West to change its tack, and not for the South.

I do not envy whoever occupies the see of Canterbury. He can succeed, perhaps, but only with God’s help. Please pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Married Priests in the Roman Catholic Church – a Possibility

Pope says married men could be ordained priests if world’s bishops agree on it
10 April 2014 15:23 by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

A bishop who met with Pope Francis in a rare private audience on 4 April has said in an interview that the two men discussed the issue of the ordination of “proven” married men – viri probati – in a serious and positive way.

Bishop Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of Xingu in the Brazilian rainforest, spoke to the Pope about Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment, and the treatment of indigenous peoples but the desperate shortage of priests in the bishop’s huge diocese came up in the conversation. According to an interview the Austrian-born bishop gave to the daily Salzburger Nachrichten on 5 April, the Pope was open-minded about finding solutions to the problem, saying that bishops’ conferences could have a decisive role.

“I told him that as bishop of Brazil’s largest diocese with 800 church communities and 700,000 faithful I only had 27 priests, which means that our communities can only celebrate the Eucharist twice or three times a year at the most,” Bishop Kräutler said. “The Pope explained that he could not take everything in hand personally from Rome. We local bishops, who are best acquainted with the needs of our faithful, should be corajudos, that is ‘courageous’ in Spanish, and make concrete suggestions,” he explained. A bishop should not act alone, the Pope told Kräutler. He indicated that “regional and national bishops’ conferences should seek and find consensus on reform and we should then bring up our suggestions for reform in Rome,” Kräutler said.

Asked whether he had raised the question of ordaining married men at the audience, Bishop Kräutler replied: “The ordination of viri probati, that is of proven married men who could be ordained to the priesthood, came up when we were discussing the plight of our communities. The Pope himself told me about a diocese in Mexico in which each community had a deacon but many had no priest. There were 300 deacons there who naturally could not celebrate the Eucharist. The question was how things could continue in such a situation.

“It was up to the bishops to make suggestions, the Pope said again.”

Bishop Kräutler was then asked whether it now depended on bishops’ conferences, as to whether church reforms proceeded or not. “Yes,” he replied. “After my personal discussion with the Pope I am absolutely convinced of this.”

Last September the Vatican Secretary of State, then-Archbishop Pietro Parolin – who was then Apostolic Nuncio to Venezuela – answered a question put to him by El Universal newspaper by stating that priestly celibacy “is not part of church dogma and the issue is open to discussion because it is an ecclesiastical tradition”. “Modifications can be made, but these must always favour unity and God’s will,” he said. “God speaks to us in many different ways. We need to pay attention to this voice that points us towards causes and solutions, for example the clergy shortage.”

In 2006 Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes issued a clarification in the Holy SeeBollettino reiterating his support of church teaching and tradition just hours after telling a Sao Paolo newspaper: “Celibacy is a discipline, not a dogma of the Church … Certainly, the majority of the apostles were married. In this modern age, the Church must observe these things, it has to advance with history.”

The topic of ordaining “viri probati” was raised with a question mark over it in a speech by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, at the October 2005 Synod on the Eucharist – the first synod of Pope Benedict XVI.

“To confront the issue of the shortage of priests, some … have put forward the request to ordain married faithful of proven faith and virtue, the so-called viri probati,” he said. Cardinal Scola, who read his speech in Latin in the presence of Pope Benedict, did not say which bishops from which countries had suggested discussing the ordination of older married men.

Above: Lay Catholics have become familiar with the sight of married priests who were formerly in the Anglican or Lutheran Churches, or who minister in international dioceses of Eastern Rite Churches such as the Maronite Church (pictured). Photo: CNS


This article in ‘The Tablet’ (the premiere R.C. newspaper in the U.K.) speaks of the possibility of allowing married men to become priests in the Roman Catholic Church – dependent on the agreement of the world’s Roman Catholic Bishops!

In conversation with PopeFrancis recently, on the shortage of priests – Bishop Irwin Krautler said that  “I told him that, as bishop of Brazil’s largest diocese with 800 church communities and 700,000 faithful, I only had 27 priests, which means that our communities can only celebrate the Eucharist twice or three times a year at the most.” 

From this article, one can clearly discern the great need for more priests in South America, where Roman Catholics are having to make do with a sparse diet of Eucharistic Nurture. One cannot be surprised that this has caused this pragmatic successor in the Throne of Peter to re-assess the real need of the Church for more priests if the Church is to survive in its present constitution. Without Eucharistic ministry, which is at the heart of Catholic teaching, the Church will have great difficulty in carrying out its appointed mission to the world in which is operates.

This is surely an important example of where the Church needs to meet the real needs of its constituents. If the present code of discipline for priestly ministry – that of the need for celibate men – does not meet the needs of the mission, then some alternative has to be put in place, and urgently.  In South America, where parishes are deprived of sacramental ministry because of the acute shortage of suitable celibate males to become priests,  the first step would be to ordain non-celibate males. If this does not provide enough new recruits, then, who knows, Rome may yet agree that its women, also made in the Image of Likeness of God, might be considered fit for ordination. Mind you, that might take more than the patriarchal magisterial system of the papacy could stand at this present time.

However, if anyone at the Vatican could bring about the miracle that such radical re-organisation requires – to meet the present and future need – Pope Francis is the one to encourage it. Remarkably, although Pope Francis clearly agrees with his brother bishop as to the real need of married clergy – he does not assume his role of exercising the papal Magisterium to enforce his opinion on the Church. Rather, emulating the humility of his illustrious forebear, Saint Francis of Assisi, he leaves any decision to his brother bishops.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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‘Church Times’ on ‘Same-Sex Marriage v. Murder in Africa’

We face attacks if C of E marriage policy changes’

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies - ‘Church Times’ - Posted: 11 Apr 2014 @ 12:14

Click to enlarge

BISHOPS in South Sudan have confirmed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning that Christians in their country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings.

Archbishop Welby gave his warning during a phone-in on LBC radio last Friday. Asked why the Church of England could not permit clergy to bless same-sex relationships, he said: “The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Nigeria, and other places, would be absolutely catastrophic.”

He spoke of a visit to South Sudan in January: “The church leaders there were saying, please don’t change what you’re doing because then we couldn’t accept your help, and we need your help desperately.”

The LBC presenter, James O’Brien, suggested that gay Christians might interpret the Archbishop’s words as a ban on marrying “because of the conniptions it would give to some, dare we say, less enlightened people in Africa”.

“I don’t think we dare say ‘less enlightened’, actually,” replied the Archbishop. “That’s nothing to do with it. It’s about the fact that I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America.”

Returning to the subject later, he said: “What was said was that ‘If we leave a Christian community in this area’ – I am quoting them – ‘we will all be made to become homosexual; so we are going to kill the Christians.’ The mass grave had 369 bodies in it, and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul – as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”

On Tuesday, the Bishop of Maridi, the Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama, verified this report. “Gay relationships in the Church of England would mean the people of South Sudan going back to their traditional religions which do not take them to same-sex practice,” said. “Secondly, there would be continued violence against Christians [in the fear] that they would bring bad and shameful behaviour or homosexual practice, and spread it in the communities.”

Any change would lead to a rift, the Bishop of Wau, the Rt Revd Moses Deng Bol, warned on Wednesday. “The Church of England blessing gay marriages will be dangerous for the Church in South Sudan, because people here, like many African countries, strongly oppose gay marriages. And so they would want the Church here to break relationship with the Church of England.

“As a Church, we need to remain united as a body of Christ. We must be mindful of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world when taking decisions, because what affects one part of the body affects the whole body as well.”

Bishop Arama concurred: “As South Sudanese, we very much value the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because light and darkness cannot stay together. It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow the world into darkness, but lead the world into light.”

On Thursday, the Bishop of Cueibet, the Rt Revd Elijah Matueny Awet, said that, if the Church of England blessed gay relationships, Christians in South Sudan would “go back and worship their traditional beliefs and Gods [rather] than worshipping the true God. . . Islam will grow rapidly in South Sudan because of the pagan believing on same-sex marriage.”

He argued, however, that it would not lead to reprisals in South Sudan, which would take a different path to that pursued in the West.

“We have been described by English people and American that we are a rude community . . . The question now, is who is rude now? Is it the one who is claiming his or her right? The one who is forcing people to accept his behavior?”

Clergy elsewhere have been critical of Archbishop Welby’s comments. On the same day as the broadcast, the Bishop of California, the Rt Revd Marc Andrus, described them as simplistic.

“His proposed way forward – to continue to oppress LGBT people in the UK – will fail to keep Africans safe for this reason: if Africa is watching the UK as closely as the Archbishop would have us all believe, then they will not miss that the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion is on the side of continued second-class citizenship for LGBT people.”

In the UK, the Vicar of St Mary with All Souls’, Kilburn, and St James’s, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, said that the Archbishop had “allowed himself to be subject to moral blackmail of the worst sort”. Mr Cain plans to marry his same-sex partner later this year.

“The solution is perhaps not sacrificing the mission imperatives of our country to the frankly bullying tactics of some African prelates, but to recognise that it is perhaps time that the position of primus inter pares of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Communion is no longer tenable, and to give it up to a rotating leadership. That would . . . set the Church here free to be the Church of England, and not caught in some awkward mid-point between African and European cultural and religious traditions and developments.”

On Monday, Davis Mac-iyalla, a gay Nigerian Anglican who has sought asylum in the UK after receiving death threats, said that clashes in Nigeria had “no link with homosexuality at all. . . I was very shocked when the Archbishop tried to make that statement that rights given in the UK will affect Christians in Africa, and I think he is wrong in that statement or mistaken.”

He suggested that it was conservative Christians in Nigeria who “try to portray the picture that it will have consequences, but it will not”.

During the phone-in, the Archbishop reiterated a traditional position on same-sex relationships: “My position is the historic position of the Church, which is in our canons, which says that sexual relations should be within marriage, and marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Asked whether he could imagine a day when two people of the same sex married in the Church of England, he said: “I look at the scriptures, I look at the teaching of the Church, I listen to Christians round the world, and I have real hestitations about that.

“I am incredibly uncomfortable about saying that. I really don’t want to say no to people who love each other, but you have to have a sense of following what the teaching of the Church is. We can’t just make sudden changes.”

On Wednesday, in an interview with the Anglican Journal during his visit to Canada, the Archbishop said: “One of the things that’s most depressing about the response to that [LBC] interview is that almost nobody listened to what I said. . .

“What I was saying is that when we take actions in one part of the Church, particularly actions that are controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part of the Church but around the world . . . And, this is not mere consequentialism. I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point that, as a Church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our voice carries around the world.”

Leader comment

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Wading through this ‘Church Times’ report about the ABC’s connection between any prospect of the Church of England’s acceptance of Same-Sex Marriage in England and Wales and the possibility of the murder of Christians in Africa; I came upon this item from a statement made by one of the South Sudanese Anglican Bishops

‘Bishop Arama concurred: “As South Sudanese, we very much value the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because light and darkness cannot stay together. It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow the world into darkness, but lead the world into light.” ‘

One can understand the cultural difficulty for African people’s acceptance of same-sex relationships – as being, for them, ‘counter-cultural’. However, for Bishop Arama to compare same-sex ‘practice’ with ‘darkness’ as seemingly opposed to heterosexual practice as ‘light’, is to ignore the modern understanding of homosexuality as a given for a minority of human beings and, therefore, worthy of expression for those who have no other way of being. Homosexuals are not necessarily called to celibacy just because they are homosexual. Nor is homosexuality considered to be a ‘sickness’ in the modern world.

Africans have their own cultural attitudes, but they need to learn that we in the Western Churches of the Anglican Communion no longer denigrate people who happen to be gifted with a different sexual-orientation from the binary ‘norm’. Such people have a right to express their human love in ways that are consonant with monogamous faithfulness to one partner – as is also expected with heterosexual relationships. The big problem for the Church and Society is when monogamous relationships are spurned, in favour of licentiousness – whether for heterosexual or same-sex couples. If monogamous relationships are generally accepted as serving ‘A Common Good’, then this should be everyone’s right.

Also, on this subject; local communities must be allowed to conduct their polity on locally agreed parameters. The law of the land – as long as it is based on a respect for the rights of the individual to flourish in that community, with regard for the common good – must determine how the Church is to operate in that place. International courts have the capability of determining whether, or not, the individual human rights afforded to the citizens of those countries that sign up to a common polity meet the standards set down by the courts as being for the common good.

Because the law in certain African countries mitigates against the human rights of LGBTI people; this does not mean that we in other countries – whose governments have now outlawed discrimination against LGBTIs – have to live by the oppressive polity of such African regimes.  In England and Wales (the catchment area of the Churches of England and Wales) discrimination on the grounds of one’s sexual-orientation has now, effectively, been outlawed. It seems to be taking the Church a long time to catch up to the reality; but, on both gender and sexuality issues, the turning tide is inexorable. 

It is of course realised that some countries around the world have yet to sign up to the Charter for Human Rights. It should be part of the pastoral ministry of the Churches of the Anglican Communion to ensure that bigotry and  hatred against  (and, in some places, the murder of)  the LGBTI community, is not  countenanced as part of the way of life for member Churches. Such activity is in itself part and parcel of the darkness of this world, which needs to be exposed for what its really is and brought into the light of day.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Archbishop of Canterbury: a Canadian Interview

Welby explains gays and violence in Africa remarks

By Marites N. Sison on April, 09 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop Fred Hiltz met for two hours at the convent of  Sisters of St. John the Divine in Toronto. Photo: Michael Hudson

After a 12-hour day of back-to-back engagements, a jet-lagged Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, sat down for a 15-minute interview with the Anglican Journal late Tuesday evening, April 8.

Welby and his wife, Caroline, arrived in Toronto Monday afternoon for a one and a half day “personal, pastoral visit,” his first, to the Anglican Church of Canada. Welby, whose area of expertise includes conflict resolution, has said that these visits are part of a process for getting to know the primates (senior archbishops) and their churches. The Anglican Communion, which has been struggling with divisions over the issue of sexuality, has about 80 million members in 143 countries. Including Canada, the archbishop has visited 17 of the Communion’s 37 provinces and aims to visit them all by the end of the year or early 2015. He arrives today in Oklahoma City, to visit The Episcopal Church.


Q: How would you describe your first visit to the Anglican Church of Canada? What have you learned about this church that has been most unexpected?

A: Two things have been unexpected, that have been striking. One is the depth of commitment to the truth and reconciliation process, which I didn’t realize quite how deep that went into the life of the church. And, also, the commitment of the church to support the Council of the North dioceses…That’s all part of the same sense of commitment to those who the church has damaged or who are on the edge. The other thing that’s struck me has been the commitment to the Five Marks of Mission and that these are very much part of the strategy of the church, and that’s the vision of the church.

Q: You mentioned in your dinner remarks that your conversation with the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has been most useful in terms of how to move forward in the Communion.

A: We had two hours together and I find him a particularly helpful, thoughtful and challenging interlocutor, and someone who seems to be able to unlock and unpick issues that were weighing on my mind and to…enable more creativity. I don’t know if that’s part of his life as primate, but I felt that, as a result of the conversation, I was more creative than I was before it.

Q: Could you give us a sense of what you talked about? 

A: There were these obvious things. We talked about the challenge of diversity in the Communion, that we have such breathtaking diversity across the Communion, that it’s a massive task to even think about how we can relate to each other effectively. We talked quite a lot about the companion dioceses and the value they are…the depth they get into.

Q: In 2016, the church’s General Synod will be presented with a resolution changing the marriage canon to allow same-sex marriage. Is this a cause for concern?

A: That’s a really tough question. Well, it’s got to be a cause for concern because this is a particularly tough issue to deal with…And, I hope that two or three things happen: I hope that the church, in its deliberations, is drawing on the wealth of its contribution to the Anglican Communion and the worldwide church, to recognize…the way it works and how it thinks, to recognize the importance of its links. And that, in its deliberations, it is consciously listening to the whole range of issues that are of concern in this issue. We need to be thinking; we need to be listening to the LGBT voices and to discern what they’re really saying because you can’t talk about a single voice anymore than you can with any other group. There needs to be listening to Christians from around the world; there needs to be listening to ecumenical partners, to interfaith partners. There needs to be a commitment to truth in love and there needs to be a commitment to being able to disagree in a way that demonstrates that those involved in the discussions love one another as Christ loves us. That’s the biggest challenge, that in what we do, we demonstrate that love for Christ in one another.

Q: Some people have reacted strongly to your statements about the issue of gay marriage in your interview with LBC radio.

A: Lots of people have.

Q: Were you in fact blaming the death of Christians in parts of Africa on the acceptance of gay marriage in America?

A: I was careful not to be too specific because that would pin down where that happened and that would put the community back at risk. I wouldn’t use the word “blame”— that’s a misuse of words in the context. One of the things that’s most depressing about the response to that interview is that almost nobody listened to what I said; they mostly imagined what they thought I said…It was not only imagination, it was a million miles away from what I said.

Q: So what exactly were you saying?

A: What I was saying is that when we take actions in one part of the church, particularly actions that are controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part of the church but around the world…And, this is not mere consequentialism; I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point that, as a church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our voice carries around the world. Now that will be more true in some places than in others. It depends on your links. We need to learn to live as a global church in a local context and never to imagine that we’re just a local church. There is no such thing.

Q: You’ve said the issue of same-sex marriage is a complex one that you wrestle with every day and often in the middle of the night…

A: I have about a million questions. I think really I’ve said as much as I want to on that subject.

Q: You recently released a video collaboration with Cardinal Vincent Nichols. What was the impetus for that?

A: It came about in the discussions we were having together. We meet together to discuss and pray quite regularly and out of that came the sense that we ought to do something public and visible that demonstrated what the church is already doing, to draw attention to that and that we’re centered both in prayer and social action. 

Q: Is there an Easter message you’d like to give to Canadian-Anglicans?

A: I would say that at the heart of my own thinking as we approach Easter is to recall the joy that is in the risen Christ.

Q: Is it harder for you now to be on Twitter because you’re the Archbishop of Canterbury? 

A: Yes.

Q: Are you less candid?

A: I’m not necessarily less candid. It’s very interesting with social media, isn’t it? Every day I get loads of questions directed at me through a Twitter message—everything from “What’s your favourite book?” to “Are you really saying…whatever?” Sadly, there’s really no way I can respond to those—it’s just impossible. I would do nothing else all day, and then I wouldn’t get through it. One of the things I find difficult is ignoring responses to things that are tweeted because everything in me wants to respond to the people who’ve responded to me. But it’s just not possible. The other thing is that you just become aware of the dark side of all these things: that people feel that they can write things about other people, and not just about myself, which are really horrible. And so I have to say there are moments when you think, “I just don’t know if I want to put up something on social media because it will just unleash a torrent of abuse from some people.” But in the end you think, “Well, I won’t read it…there’s no point… I’m just going to get on with life.”

Q: Do you still compose your own tweets? 

A: Yes.

Q: You don’t have a minder doing that for you?

A: No, no. I said it’s got to be authentic. It’s got to be me; that’s why there are sometimes gaps. I’ll go through a few days where nothing particularly occurs to me or I’m travelling. I’m not on Twitter today—I might just manage it today before I go to sleep. Some days, lots of things happen; other days, my mind is a perfect blank…

Q: You also need to be kind to yourself.

A: I do know about that, but you at least have to know when you’re going to bore people stiff.

- See more at:


Thanks to Marites N. Sisson, of the Canadian “Anglican Journal’, for this interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, during his visit with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Canadian Anglican Primate, in Toronto, during the course of a lightning visit to the Provinces of Canada and the U.S.A. Asked about his use of ‘Twitter’ as a means of  communication with people in today’s world, the ABC admits that he find this particular form of social media frustrating – as everyone expects a personal answer to queries that he can find difficult to answer ‘on the wing’.

On more substantive matters, within his orbit as Primus-inter-pares in the world-wide Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin has been obviously challenged by the questioning of his statement made in a recent LBC television interview in the U.K., that what the Church of England did about its acceptance, or not, of Same-Sex Marriage would endanger the lives of Anglican (or other) Christians in African countries, where such relationships are banned. Naturally, perhaps, as one of the points he made in his broadcast was that certain Church activity in North America had caused many deaths in parts of Africa.

In this interview, the Archbishop was careful to say that his reference to the connection between what the Anglican Church decided to do about Same-Sex Marriage, and the fact of murder of Christians in African countries was ‘not mere consequentialism’; “I’m not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn’t take action. What I’m saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally”. On the face of it this would seem to be a not unreasonable statement.

However, what seems to have missing in this context, is the fact that the criminalisation of homosexuals in African countries may not seem to prick the consciences of the hierarchy of the Church of England to the same extent. If the Church of England declares the fact that homophobia is a sin, why is it not – in the context of ‘mutual accountability’ suggested by the ABC – a matter that should be absorbing the efforts of the other members of the Anglican Communion in protesting against such persecution? What is the Church doing about bringing justice to bear  on the African Churches towards their treatment of those people who cannot help being homosexual?

The fact that the Anglican Church of Canada has now authorised the Blessing of Same-Sex Partnerships, in parishes where both priest and people are happy with this new arrangement, could not have been avoided during the talks between the two Archbishops. And very soon, in his talks with the Presiding Bishop of TEC, the Archbishop of Canterbury will have been very much aware of TEC’s historic stance on this issue. One might hope that something of the conversations will have helped the ABC to a better understanding of the situation of the Anglican Churches in North America; and how, if at all, this situation should be allowed to influence the Churches  of the United Kingdom and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion in their approach to same-sex relationships. Communication, after all, is not just on a one-way basis only.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Fine By Me: An All-Embracing Love

By Eric Immel, SJ on April 8, 2014 (The Jesuit Post)


With Open Arms

The first time a friend came out to me I was shopping for a Campbell’s Soup Can costume at a Target in St. Louis. As I searched for a means to disguise myself as comfort food he chose to reveal part of his true self to me. It might have been the environment or the context we were in, but I wasn’t alarmed by his revelation. Quite the contrary. It was an invitation to experience and understand my friend in a deeper way. Sometimes, we might need to keep ourselves hidden, but other times, the costumes must come off.

Growing up in Green Bay, I had a pretty homogenous worldview. For the majority of my youth I thought that every black man that I saw played for the Packers. It wasn’t until an embarrassing encounter in a Foot Locker (another story altogether!) that I learned otherwise. Admittedly, I had much to discover about diversity, difference, and privilege. My college years at Saint Louis University were filled with nights of deep discussion about race and sexuality, grounded in mutual respect, honest dialogue, and a spirit of reconciliation. It’s a classic tale, really–guy goes to college, gets rocked by the vastness of the human experience, and strives to go further still in how he engages the world.

While I had many gay friends at SLU, it was still a relatively closeted community. When I began working and studying at UW-Madison many of the students I encountered identified openly as Queer. Condoms were passed out ad nauseum by people wearing gigantic condom hats and there was a student organization called “Sex Out Loud.” Needless to say, it was much different than my preceding 17 years of Catholic education. My understanding of the students’ unique and often challenging circumstances with family and friends, their network at the University, and their efforts to educate others about Queer issues grew tremendously. I became an active supporter of LGBTQ student groups and programs, an ally, if you will. I quickly learned that being an ally comes with its own risks and challenges.

During Lent my first year in Madison there was a PR program through the LGBT Campus Center. The catch phrase for the campaign was “Gay? Fine by me.” I wore my bright blue t-shirt often and pinned a small yellow button bearing the slogan on my backpack. I believed in what they said. Since it was Lent I was attending daily Masses. One day I visited the chapel around noon and set my backpack down beside me in the pew. When the time came for the sign of peace an older professor type (a daily Mass regular) offered his hand. He pulled me close and said quietly, “You should be ashamed to wear that pin in here.” These words deflated me.

I abandoned daily Mass for the remainder of Lent because I was unwilling to remove the pin from my bag and also unwilling to face the shame I felt because of his comment. I looked at the world around me–Madison, the liberal capital of Wisconsin–and felt guilty for the comfort I experienced in that environment as a Catholic man. I deeply wanted to be supportive of the Queer community, but because of that one comment it seemed that my own faith community couldn’t affirm me in that desire. It was a hard time for me to be Catholic.


But my faith persists. I’ve since entered the Society of Jesus, and as a Jesuit scholastic I’m grateful to have heard other voices in the community of faith. I’m happy to seek out places of encounter, of welcome, and of dialogue. I’m back on campus at another Jesuit university for my philosophy studies. Recently there have been panels on Queer Theology, free showings of “Dallas Buyers Club,” and programs discussing LGBT issues and Ignatian spirituality. I regularly hear “Same Love” blaring in the gym. There are many people working to make this a place of welcome and understanding. There are still many tough questions to be asked and answered.

When I look to the history of my church I realize that we have a community of believers whose arms have been opened wider and wider by the movement of the Holy Spirit. These open arms are not new; indeed, the love Christ witnessed is this ‘same love’ we witness moving in our lives today; it’s a love of radical inclusion. We have a Pope who says in action and deed that our voices of judgement and exclusion have been given a pulpit for far too long. He speaks instead in a voice of mercy and forgiveness about a culture of compassion and encounter.

Every time I walk into our chapel on campus the image I’m met with is one of a God whose arms are spread wide, a God crucified for love. This God tells me that no one is turned away, not because of a pin on their backpack, who they hold hands with, or how they reconcile their own lives with a world that can at times bear hatred and discord. In that image lies a model for Christian love and my own hope. In this church I pray for the willingness to wrap my own arms around even those who withdraw in fear from the work being done and the hard work yet to do all in the name of love.


A dear friend of mine, educated by the Jesuits, keeps me up to date with one of their latest publications in the U.S.. This piece, an article by Eric Immel, S.J., describes the pilgrimage from ignorance of the phenomenon, to an accepting embrace of homosexual people – on the part of a young man who has now devoted his life to Christ in the Jesuit Order. It’s sheer humanity and Gospel inclusiveness, is a tonic for all who believe that LGBTI people are fellow children of God and worthy of respect and nurture.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand


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