Christians need to overcome their own feelings of embarrassment, shame and disgust about homosexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has insisted.
Dr Rowan Williams acknowledged that the Church was still “scratching its head” about where it stands on issues like same-sex marriage despite its vocal public opposition to the Government’s plan to legalise it. In his most frank public comments to date on the subject, the Archbishop accepted that the Church was in a “tangle” over homosexuality. On one hand many Christians may themselves be “wrestling” with their own sexuality while others appeared to display only strong feelings of revulsion, he said.
The issue of women bishops – due to come to a head at the Church of England’s General Synod in York next week – was another matter which helped give the impression that sex was “the only thing the Church is interested in”, he remarked. His comments came during a discussion day for a group of Christian teenagers at Lambeth Palace.
The event – entitled “Help, my friends think I’m mad” – included discussions about how the Church is viewed by the outside world. Acknowledging that many people view Christians as “weird, “mad” and “primitive” he told them: “As somebody who doesn’t spend all his time with other Christians, I’m quite conscious too of the fact that people think that I’m weird and we’re weird.”
He acknowledged frankly that the attempts he has supported to find a compromise between traditionalists and supporters of women bishop had left the Church mired “in the middle of quite a lot of tangles”. He added: “Same with same sex marriage, where once more we’re used to being alongside people who are gay; many of our friends may be – indeed we may be – wrestling with that issue ourselves, and the Church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it.
“What’s frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience. “So whatever we think about it, we need, as a Church, to be tackling what we feel about it.”
It came as the National Secular Society published a legal opinion it had obtained on the Church of England’s recent submission on same-sex marriage, which suggested it could be a step towards disestablishment. The barrister Dr Ronan McCrea said the Church had “confused the issues” failing to distinguish between social, religious and legal aspects of marriage.
The forthcoming Synod meeting had been expected to see an historic final vote on ordaining women bishops. But following a last-minute concession to traditionalists, key campaigners for the change have now withdrawn their support believing it is a compromise-too-far. It is likely that the debate will be postponed ahead of a special emergency Synod gahering in November.
Dr Williams said he was “very committed” to having women bishops but openly acknowledged that it might not be possible to get agreement. “I share the frustration of a lot of people that we’re tangled-up in trying to get the maximum support for it in the Church of England and every move in one direction makes other people move away,” he said. “It’s like one of those terrible games you get in Christmas crackers sometimes where you have to get the little silver balls into holes – you always get two of them but then the other one goes off somewhere else.”
This article from the U.K. ‘Telegraph’, proves interesting – in the light of the audience the Archbishop of Canterbury is addressing. Christian Teenagers at Lambeth Palace were told of the dilemma in which the Church of England finds itself on important issues of Homosexuality, Same-Sex Marriage and Women Bishops. The Church, says Abp. Rowan Williams, has to sort itself out on these and other issues that impinge on the social consiousness of young people in the Church.
I guess the Archbishop of Canterbury realises that he is speaking to the future Church on these matters, realising that simple prohibition on grounds of traditional morality will not prevent young people from recognising hypocrisy where it is present in the Church’s current dealing with matters affecting their future as bearers of the Gospel heritage.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand