Nine Articles: Based on the ABC’s Interview April 4, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury Links Attacks on African Christians to Pro-LGBT Churches

PHOTO CREDIT:  Catholic Church
in England & Wales (flickr.com/catholicism)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby,  today claimed on LBC radio in England that he had stood by the grave of more than three hundred Christians in Africa who had been killed as a result of “something that had happened in America.” One is likely to conclude, as the interview continues, that “something” referred to the growing acceptance of LGBT people and our relationships by American churches, with the Episcopal Church the largest among them.

This is a very serious claim. Clearly Christians are being killed in religious and ethnic violence in many parts of the world, but this is for many complex reasons. To claim that these people died specifically because of same-gender marriage in America requires significant documentation. Who said that this was the motive? Was it the murderers? Or was this an interpretation offered by the relatives of those who died?

During the Middle Ages, half the population of Europe was wiped out by the Black Death. Jews were accused of poisoning the wells. A moral panic took hold amongst the remaining Christian population and Jews were massacred.

 The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall preaches at Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd in Philadelphia in 2013. PHOTO CREDIT: Christian Paolino

Is it possible that the Archbishop is being caught up in a moral panic? Accusations that Muslim believers will kill Christians who are associated with a “gay church” have been with us for many years, but we have yet to see clear evidence that this is so. To blame deaths in South Sudan, or Nigeria or the Congo solely on our weddings is to ignore the many other reasons that hatred and civil war exists in those places.

By promulgating the view that it’s all “the gays” fault, the Archbishop is actually feeding the wave of homophobia that is sweeping other African nations which have strong Anglican presences – Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya.

Welby said that he was told when he was visiting South Sudan, “Please don’t change what you’re doing [not marrying gay or lesbian couples] because if you did, we couldn’t accept your help and we need your help desperately.” Yet, the Church of South Sudan IS accepting help from the Episcopal Church, despite our very public progress on LGBT inclusion, including the blessing of same-gender relationships.

If the Archbishop is as keen on listening to the experience of gay and lesbian people in his own country and throughout the Anglican Communion as he says, then he needs to reconsider the effect of such remarks, both on those who leave the church and turn their backs on God because they are not fully welcome, and on those in Africa and other countries who have no doubt that their sexual orientation or gender identity is the reason they are meeting with violence and death, while the church looks on.

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, President of Integrity, is a native of Great BritainShe serves as Rector of St. Benedict’s: Los Osos in the Diocese of El Camino Real and is the author of A Thorn in the Flesh: How Gay Sexuality is Changing the Episcopal Church.

 

Archbishop of Canterbury chooses pathetic over prophetic:  

Rev. Susan Russell

Posted: 04/04/2014 5:11 pm EDT Updated: 04/04/2014 5:59 pm EDT

The “breaking story” in Anglican news circles is a radio interview with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tying the persecution of African Christians to the fuller inclusion of LGBT people by “the western church.”

….My reaction: Sad but sadly not surprising.

The sad part is, how can our hearts not break when members of our human family fall victim to the scourge of sectarian violence?

And yet, how can we remain blind to the reality that being blackmailed into bigotry against some members of the human family only serves to feed the pathology of demonization of “the other” throughout the human family?

The “not surprising” part is that this is the same kind of rhetoric we have been getting for years from the leadership of a Church of England that seems incapable of leading.

Where is the lament from the ABofC for LGBT youth who choose suicide over bullying? For those who live in fear of arrest or assault because of their sexual orientation or gender identity? Or for those who are dying the slow death of internalized homophobia not only condoned by but contributed to by “the church?”

The prophetic response to the tragedy in Nigeria would be refusal to allow those inflicting violence to frame the debate and a renewed, articulated commitment to work to form alliances across differences to respect the dignity of every human being.

Instead, we get from Canterbury this pathetic response, once again making LGBT people the sacrificial lambs on the altar of sectarian politics.

La lucha continua — the struggle continues. Kyrie eleison.

 

Abp Welby: Anglican Communion sexuality decisions can mean African Christians suffer   Anglican News Service

Posted on: April 4, 2014 3:57 PM

Abp Welby: “We can’t make sudden changes on sexuality issues”
Photo Credit: LBC
Related Categories: Abp WelbyGlobalsexuality

By ACNS staff

The Archbishop of Canterbury revealed today that Christians in parts of Africa face abuse, violence and even death because of decisions on sexual equality made by Anglican Churches in the West.

Justin Welby, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, made the comments in an hour-long phone-in programme on LBC radio today.

In particular he was was responding to a question from Kes, a Church of England priest who had called in to ask why English clergy were not allowed to decide for themselves whether to marry gay couples.

“Why we can’t do it now is because the impact of that on Christians in countries far from here like South Sudan, like Pakistan, like Nigeria, would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here,” he said.

“At the same time we have to listen incredibly carefully to the LGBT communities here and listen to what they’re saying and we have to look at the tradition of the Church, the teaching of the Church, and of Scripture which is definitive in the end, before we come to a conclusion [on the issue of same sex marriage].”

When challenged by the LBC presenter James O’Brien about the Church of England’s decision not to perform same sex weddings, Archbishop Welby stressed that it had nothing to do with avoiding upset to African Anglicans. Rather it was about not putting them in danger.

“It [the issue of same sex marriage] is something I wrestle with every day, and often in the middle of the night. I’m incredibly conscious of the position of gay people in this country, how badly they’ve been treated over the years, how badly the church has behaved. And, at the same time I’m incredibly conscious of what I saw in January in  South Sudan, in the DRC, and other places. You know, it’s not a simple issue,” he continued.

“Personally…I look at the Scriptures, I look at the teachings of the Church, I listen to Christians around the world and I have real hesitations about [same sex marriage]. I’m incredibly uncomfortable saying that because 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.”

One reason why not, explained the Archbishop, was because doing so could put Christians in danger elsewhere. He explained that he had seen first hand, at a mass grave in South Sudan, the lethal fallout from a decision on sexual equality taken by Christians in another country.

He said he had been told that the excuse given for the murder of hundreds of South Sudanese Christians had been: “If we leave a Christian community in this area, we will all be made to become homosexual, and so we’re going to kill the Christians.”

Archbishop Welby concluded, “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.”

Watch the video of the phone-in here /multimedia/video-ask-the-archbishop-with-justin-welby.aspx

 

African Christians will be killed if C of E accepts gay marriage, says Justin Welby   The Guardian

Archbishop says he has seen mass grave of Christians killed by neighbours who said they feared being ‘made to become gay.

Justin Welby

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said the church’s statements in England went ‘around the world’. Photograph: Rex

African Christians will be killed if the Church of England accepts gay marriage, the archbishop of Canterbury has suggested. Speaking on an LBC phone in, Justin Welby said he had stood by a mass grave in Nigeria of 330 Christians who had been massacred by neighbours who had justified the atrocity by saying: “If we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians.”

“I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact,” Welby said. If the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, he added, “the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes round the world.”

This reasoning has until now been kept private, although both Welby and his predecessor, Rowan Williams, anguished about it in private.

Welby also condemned homophobia in England. “To treat every human being with equal importance and dignity is a fundamental part of being a Christian,” he said. Although he continued to uphold what he called the historic position of the church, of “sex only within marriage and marriage only between a man and a woman”, he agreed with the presenter, James O’Brien, that it was “completely unacceptable” for the church to condemn homosexual people more than adulterous heterosexual people.

African churches do not share this opinion, and the Anglican churches in both Uganda and Nigeria have given enthusiastic backing to laws which criminalise even the expression of support for gay marriage. Despite these confusions, Welby denied that the church was woolly in its preaching in a testy exchange with the former Conservative cabinet minister Ann Widdecombe, who left the Church of England over its support of female priests in 1992, but phoned in on Friday to attack it. “I think the opponents of women’s ordination are wrong theologically,” he said.

Welby refused an opportunity to criticise Iain Duncan Smith on welfare reform, but he was unequivocal in support of the church’s work with food banks and against inequality. He cited statistics showing that a third of those coming to food banks were entitled to benefits which had not actually been paid and another third were in employment, but for them “the month is a bit longer than the money”.

“Whatever the causes, those are the people we are dealing with. They need to be treated with human dignity and they need to be loved. I do want to live in a country where the economy works in a way that means that food banks are no longer necessary,” Welby said.

In remarks which showed the clear influence of Catholic doctrine, he said that food, house prices and energy costs were all moral issues that could not be left entirely to the market. “How much you charge for essentials is always a moral issue,” he said.

Archbishop Justin gets handbagged by Ann Widdecombe

Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby made history by becoming the first holder of that Holy Office ever to participate in a live Q&A session on national radio. It was, despite much of the post-interview negative media coverage, an undoubted missiological success. It may have caused a bit of grief for the Archbishop’s Director of Communications Ailsa Anderson, and it may have been a testing time for Press Officer Ed Thornton. But if the Archbishop is to be effective in his ministry, he must communicate the Faith succinctly, incisively and frequently by all means possible. And Lambeth Palace staff have to learn to live on the edge with all the comms expertise and sound-bite savvy of a political media machine. Spontaneous Q&A is raw, authentic and well worth doing, despite the personal costs and predictably distorted media reaction. So more, please.

But what shall we call this new media phenomenon? ‘Ask the Archbishop?’ ‘Grill Justin?’ ‘Quiz Welby’?Whatever the emerging brand, the Lambeth Palace media operation needs to be swift in its spiritual counter-response to the world’s knee-jerk response. It is axiomatic in politics that a lie is half way round the world before the truth has its boots on. When it comes to religion, the world spins whole revolutions in honour of the lie while the truth disappears into the stratosphere.In an intense and sometimes fractious hour, Archbishop Justin covered a vast array of political topics and social-justice issues, as well as profound theological reflections about Christ and the nature of God.There has been an array of blogging responses for those who can be bothered to consider the politico-spiritual depths of the exchange (full transcript here). For those who can’t be bothered – which will be most of the world – the sound-bite impression from the media coverage is that the Archbishop of Canterbury got a good handbagging from Anglican-turned-Roman-Catholic Ann Widdecombe on abortion and women priests, and was then lured into admitting that the Church of England will not introduce same-sex marriage because it would lead to the mass slaughter of Christians in Africa. These distortions have been lapped up by the world while context, meaning and truth are lost in the ether.His Grace will not deal with the same-sex marriage issue for two reasons: firstly, he is thoroughly sick of the issue; and secondly, a magisterial response and exposition has been written by eminent theologian Andrew Goddard over at Fulcrum. Do read it, for it is the definitive theological rebuttal to those crass assertions that Archbishop Justin’s teaching is “scandalous”, “severely mistaken” or “dangerously sloppy”.

LBC doubtless admitted Ann Widdecombe into the debate because she is one of the most high-profile defectors to the Church of Rome, her religio-political objective now being to deride wishy-washy Anglicanism at every turn and laud the absolute rock of theological certainty afforded by the successor to St Peter. “The Church of England never seems to know what it thinks about anything,” she declared, with all the righteous zeal of an ex-smoker preaching the eschatological judgment of lung cancer. Archbishop Justin graciously later acknowledged via Twitter her “effectiveness”.

His Grace would have handled her questions slightly differently, probing why manifestly second-order theological issues such as gender or sexuality – the zeitgeist obsessions of the world – should trump primary theological contentions such as the essence of soteriology, the nature of ecclesiology or the meaning of communion. Does the appointment of women priests really outweigh salvation by faith? If the ordination of women as priests should become a cause of schism and the impetus to abandon the Protestant-Anglican understanding of salvation to embrace the Sacrifice of the Mass, as it was for Ms Widdecombe, what hope is there ever for fuller visible unity?

Are issues about authority in the Church as theological in the same sense as the bigger issues on which there is already clear ecumenical agreement? If they are, how exactly is it that they make a difference to our basic understanding of salvation and communion? And if they are not, why do they still stand in the way of fuller visible unity? Can there, for example, be a model of unity as a communion of churches which have different attitudes to how the papal primacy is expressed?’

The central question, of course, is whether and how we can properly tell the difference between “second order” and “first order” issues. When so very much agreement has been firmly established in first-order matters about the identity and mission of the Church, is it really justifiable to treat other issues as equally vital for its health and integrity?

There are two issues which divide as authority – the nature or indeed the very possibility of the magisterium; and primacy – the extent to which the integrity of the Church is ultimately dependent on a single identifiable ministry of unity to which all local ministries are accountable. The Church of England repudiates the language of rule and hierarchy established by decree, with fixed divisions between teachers and taught, rulers and ruled, advocating instead filial and communal holiness held in a universal pattern of mutual service.

During his conversation with Ms Widdecombe, Archbishop Justin said: “I’m not the Pope: I can’t declare infallible doctrine.” And later he explained: “We’re not a political party: when we do something (which some members don’t like), we don’t say you’ve got to quit.”

Quite.

The Church should be concerned with repentance, love and mutual reconciliation; not pride, power and ever-increasing division. The pattern of Church leadership built upon papal primacy is allied to juridical privilege and the patterns of rule and control to such an extent that it fails to achieve what it sets out to do. Of course, this is a slightly sensitive discussion, but the question of altar fellowship and of mutual recognition of ministerial offices should not be unconditionally dependent on a consensus on the question of primacy.

The historic Anglican via media seeks a restored universal communion which would be genuinely a community of communities and a communion of communions. This is not expressed as a single juridically united body, and therefore one which does indeed assume that, while there is a recognition of a primatial ministry, this is not absolutely bound to a view of primacy as a centralised juridical office.

The corporate reading of Scripture, obedience to the Lord’s commands to baptise and make eucharist, or the shared understanding of the shape and the disciplines of what we call filial holiness, do not need any further test, and certainly not any imposed by a universal primate.

And so the Church of England repudiates those Roman Catholic theologians who assert that the ordination of women priests or bishops makes the Anglican Communion simply less recognisably a body doing the same Catholic thing. For many Anglicans, not ordaining women had a possible unwelcome implication about the difference between baptised men and baptised women, which in their view threatened to undermine the coherence of the ecclesiology in question. The same unwelcome implications may be drawn from not admitting women to the episcopate.

The challenge to recent Roman Catholic thinking on this would have to be: in what way does the prohibition against ordaining women so enhance the life of communion, reinforcing the essential character of filial and communal holiness as set out in Scripture and tradition and ecumenical agreement, that its breach would compromise the purposes of the Church as so defined? And do the arguments advanced about the ‘essence’ of male and female vocations and capacities stand on the same level as a theology derived more directly from Scripture and the common theological heritage such as we find in these ecumenical texts?

Even if there remains uncertainty in the minds of some about the rightness of ordaining women, is there a way of recognising that somehow the corporate exercise of a Catholic and Evangelical ministry remains intact even when there is dispute about the standing of female individuals? In terms of the relation of local to universal, what we are saying here is that a degree of recognisability of ‘the same Catholic thing’ has survived: Anglican provinces ordaining women to some or all of the three orders have not become so obviously diverse in their understanding of filial holiness and sacramental transformation that they cannot act together, serve one another and allow some real collaboration.

It is this sort of thinking that has allowed Anglicans until recently to maintain a degree of undoubtedly impaired communion among themselves, despite the sharpness of the division over this matter. It is part of the rationale of supplementary episcopal oversight as practised in the English provinces, and it may yet be of help in securing the place of those who will not be able to accept the episcopal ministry of women. There can be no doubt, though, that the situation of damaged communion will become more acute with the inability of bishops within the same college to recognise one another’s ministry in the full sense. Yet, in what is still formally acknowledged to be a time of discernment and reception, is it nonsense to think that holding on to a limited but real common life and mutual acknowledgement of integrity might be worth working for within the Anglican family? And if it can be managed within the Anglican family, is this a possible model for the wider ecumenical scene? At least, by means of some of the carefully crafted institutional ways of continuing to work together, there remains an embodied trust in the possibility of discovering a shared ministry of the gospel; and who knows what more, ultimately, in terms of restored communion?

At what point do we have to recognise that surviving institutional and even canonical separations or incompatibilities are overtaken by the authoritative direction of genuinely theological consensus, so that they can survive only by appealing to the ghost of ecclesiological positivism? These issues may all seem, to the eyes of a non-Roman Catholic, to belong in a somewhat different frame of reference from the governing themes of the ecumenical ecclesiology expressed. If the non-Roman Catholic is wrong about this, we need to have spelled out exactly why; we need to understand either that there are issues about the filial/communal calling clearly at stake in surviving disagreements; or to be shown that another theological ‘register’ is the right thing to use in certain areas, a different register which will qualify in some ways the language that has so far shaped ecumenical convergence.

These are political matters which there is no point in approaching theologically, which is quite possibly why Ann Widdecombe finds them so very attractive.

For those of us who are not Roman Catholics, the question His Grace would like to put to Ms Widdecombe and her co-religionists, in a grateful and fraternal spirit, is whether this unfinished business is as fundamentally church-dividing as our Roman Catholic friends generally assume and maintain. And if it isn’t, can we all allow ourselves to be challenged to address the outstanding issues with the same methodological assumptions and the same overall spiritual and sacramental vision that has brought us thus far?

As Archbishop Justin said: “I’m not a Pope and I can’t say what the Church is going to do. It’s something we decide collectively, the Church together and we’re beginning that process.”

It is good for the Archbishop to be handbagged by assertive women. But he needs to develop a way of responding robustly by swinging his manbag.

Here is the blog of the priest who started it all by asking a question:

Rebel Rev lives up to her name

It’s with a mixture of emotions that I write this blog. I am happy that I am me and able to vocalise what many feel but are too afraid to say. I am sad and I am angry. What has led me to such a place?It’s been a strange week. I was on a course and minding my own business when I had a call from BBC Radio Kent. They asked if I was prepared to make a comment about the Equal Marriage Bill that was coming into being that weekend. Many same sex couples were getting married at midnight Fri/Sat. Of course I was happy to make my views known. I made it clear that it was incomprehensible to me that I could bless an inanimate object, I could bless an animal, I could even bless a tank going off to war if asked but I couldn’t bless the union of a loving same sex couple. I think this is outrageous and not in keeping with my reading of the bible.

Just the previous Sunday we had the gospel reading that gives us the story of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. This is the longest conversation recorded in the Gospels. In every aspect of it, Jesus is pushing boundaries and crossing cultural divides. He doesn’t condemn the woman and debates theology with her. He breaks many taboos of the day. Isn’t that something to emulate?

After my interview on the breakfast show I was then contacted by BBC Southeast and asked if I would do an interview for the news. I of course did this too. Any opportunity to push for change has to be taken. Any opportunity to challenge oppression and marginalisation has to be taken. Any opportunity to point out the inconsistency with the God of love and the church’s position has to be taken. I was also asked to do an interview for a local paper. All of the presenters and journalists I spoke to thought my position refreshing and there needs to be more priests like me. My stock answer to this is there are more priests like me. The problem is it’s often the anti voice that shouts the loudest. I’m also very aware that many of my colleagues who may agree with me are afraid of speaking out in case they lose their jobs.

Over the course of the next week I was reminded of my duty to uphold the churches current teachings. I also had people refuse to meet me because of my outspokenness. What a shame. Their loss, but I respect their right to a different opinion.

Next I discovered that Archbishop Justin Welby would be taking calls on LBC with one of my favourite presenters James O’Brien. I emailed them a question and was invited to ring in and ask the question. I was slightly worried about the timing as I was taking a service in church for most of the phone in. I managed to get out just in time and asked the Archbishop the last question of the show. In a nutshell I was asking why, as priests, we couldn’t bless same sex couples and use our own conscience like happened when the remarriage of divorcees came about in church. This could be the case while we waited for a synodical process to go through that could change the rules to allow equal marriage in church.

I was shocked and saddened by Justin’s response. Much has been publicised and blogged about Justin’s answer by theologians and people far and wide in the Anglican Communion. As the person who asked the question and a bog standard priest in the Church of England I feel extremely let down by my institution and the Archbishop.

He said that we couldn’t move forward with a more liberal agenda in the UK without it having a devastating effect on people in Africa. He told a story about standing at a mass grave and had been told the people were killed because of the liberal changes in America. That’s like wondering why a woman in a violent relationship who is murdered didn’t leave, instead of asking the murderer why he killed her. Violence always needs to be condemned. The Archbishop didn’t do this. Murder and homophobia are the issues, not liberalism in the UK. Can you imagine what would have happened if Gandhi had given in to the violence and not challenged the marginalisation and oppression at the salt mines? How different would the world be if Wilberforce wasn’t listened to because the slaves might have been further abused? What would have happened if the civil rights movement hadn’t progressed because people were scared of the violence of the KKK? Women are killed and maimed today because they are being educated. Just ask Malala. Does that mean we shouldn’t educate girls? Apartheid was atrocious in its outpouring of violence. Should we not have campaigned because more black people would have been killed? What Justin said put the power in the hands of the oppressors and those who wield violence.Let’s be clear, it’s not only Africa that kills people because of homophobia. I live in London, a very cosmopolitan city, yet my neighbour was killed in a homophobic attack. I had a friend who took his own life because he couldn’t cope with coming to terms with his sexuality in the face of homophobia from his family, friends and church. There are many people hurt and trapped by homophobia and a lack of acceptance in the UK.

If God is love, we should be free to express that and surround all people with love. It is wrong to withhold God’s blessing from anyone who is living in loving, faithful and committed relationships. I didn’t set out this week to start a potential international incident or bring the Anglican Communion into disrepute. I have read blogs from priest in America who are very upset by Justin’s response. They are wondering why the finger is being pointed at them for violence in Africa. I didn’t set out to challenge the institution. I did, however, set out to stand up for love and condemn oppression and marginalisation. The Archbishop really missed the mark by not condemning the violence and hatred in Africa.

I really hope that in a small way people may see little chinks of light and love when they see that there are ordinary priests working to make a change to unjust rules. The Archbishop recently said that his reading of the bible commands him to be outspoken. Well I read that bible as well and am proud to have a hoodie that says “Jesus was a rebel too”. Those of you reading this that don’t go to church, please don’t judge God by the actions of Christian’s or the institution. I hope always to stand up for love and I can’t see the wrong in that.

And this, which came later, is my favorite:

A word on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statements

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made public statements that reveal at best a lamentable naiveté and at worst both homophobia and colonial thinking. Archbishop Justin Welby has claimed that the Church of England, if it marries gay and lesbian people there is responsible for the deaths of homosexuals in Africa.

The archbishop was shown the mass grave of Christians from a village in Africa, killed, he was told because their neighbors did not want to become gay by association with people whose religion supported rights for LGBT people. It is clear that the archbishop was shocked by the brutality behind this mass murder, and the very scale of the killing. I too am overwhelmed by it. In the face of tragedies larger than a human can take in, I think we often go to answers and solutions that we know, that are familiar. Here, I think the archbishop fell back on a solution that was already unjust, but familiar to him: retrench around marriage as only between a woman and a man. Don’t inflame violent people further.

Welby’s argument is parallel to saying that the segregation laws in the United States that obtained until the mid-60s and the disenfranchisement of women in the United States until the 20th Century should have both been continued if someone claimed that blacks and women in other countries would be endangered by moves towards greater justice here.

In a very simple world, with very few variables perhaps we could credit Archbishop Welby’s reasoning. If the only factor in the safety of African LGBT people was the maintenance of unjust laws in England and the United States, I hope we would all pause to absorb this and see what could be done about it. But our world is an exceedingly complex place and this simplistic logic of the Archbishop’s only privileges the colonial power position Great Britain once held with respect to her now-vanished empire – the Africans pay close attention to everything the center of the empire thinks and does.

Instead, Africa is a continent of countries, each with its own history apart from and intertwined with former European empire masters. Surely there are at least as many factors at work within Africa itself influencing the safety of LGBT people (and Christians in general, as Welby argues) that counterbalance whatever focus Africans may have on England.

The Archbishop could be helpfully involved in Africa on behalf of the safety of vulnerable LGBT people if he wished to be, in ways that did not continue the oppression of LGBT people in the United Kingdom. He could support the ministry of the retired bishop, Christopher Senyonjo in Uganda, a courageous and nearly lone voice in the religious leadership of that country. Archbishop Welby could speak clearly to the Churches in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria among others about their open support of legislation that criminalizes even the very being of LGBT people.

If I am right and empire thinking underlies the archbishop’s remarks, his proposed way forward – continue to oppress LGBT people in the UK – will fail to keep African’s 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.

Twice in the hour-long phone-in program in which the archbishop made his remarks, Archbishop Welby used the modifier, incredibly to describe how the Church must attend to the witness of the LGBT community – listen incredibly carefully and be incredibly conscious. To remember a great line from The Princess Bride, I’m not sure the archbishop knows what incredible attentiveness means.

We should remember that the archbishop has made his views on same-gender marriage clear. In an address to the House of Lords he reiterated, as he did in the radio interview most recently that marriage is a sacred institution reserved for heterosexuals. In fact, in this most recent interview the Guardian wrote that the archbishop did not want LGBT people to be treated with any greater severity than adulterous heterosexuals are treated. The core idea here if anyone cares to look closely is that same-gender relationships are sinful.

Today, local media in the diocese I serve showed one of my priests, a partnered, gay man being led away by law enforcement officers for an act of civil disobedience on behalf of immigrants in danger of deportation. Such acts on the side of justice are, I’m happy to say, commonplace in this diocese, done all the time by gay and straight folks. Faithful, rather than sinful seems a better word to describe this priest and the many like him here.

Archbishop Welby asserts that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, and says that scripture supports his position. I would hope for a better reader of scripture in the spiritual head of our Church. Let me point to this coming Sunday’s Gospel, the Raising of Lazarus from the Dead, in the Gospel of John as a good place to look for guidance on the issue of the safety of Christians, both straight and LGBT in Africa and elsewhere.

Jesus is so deeply moved – by the death of his friend, by the oppression of his people, by the suffering of the world – that he risks everything to go to the cave where Lazarus is buried to raise him back to life – Thomas says, “Let us go with him and die.” In order to raise Lazarus from the dead Jesus has to go right into the turbulent political waters in and around Jerusalem, where his life is danger, and where he will shortly be betrayed, tortured and killed.

This courage and compassion should be my guide, and I suggest our guide as we identify with Christ, as Christians. There are other scripture passages that might point us to how to view the question of same-gender marriage; the Raising of Lazarus from the Dead gives us guidance on how we should act when we confront injustice, evil and sin.

+MHA

 

Heard Around the World: An Open Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

image

Dear Most Reverend Sir,

I greet you in the loving name of our Courageous Lord and Reigning Savior, Jesus Christ. I hail from the Diocese of West Missouri of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. I write you this letter in response to your recent comments regarding marriage equality and its place in the Anglican Church (of which, as you know, the Episcopal Church is a part). More specifically, I write this letter in response to your comments regarding the effect that the American Church’s stance on marriage equality has had on Christians in Africa.

In your recent LBC radio interview, a woman inquired as to why the issue of marriage equality wasn’t being left up to the “consciences” of individual clergy the same way that remarriage after divorce was a few decades ago. In response you made a statement that I want to use as the thesis of this letter. You said “what we say here is heard around the world.” Most Reverend Sir, there are some who will lambaste this comment as egocentric at best, or the dying vestige of a Church struggling to identify itself after the death of the British empire at worst. As a scholar of precolonial West African history, I could use this as the locus of my argument against your comments, but I will not.

Instead, I’ll actually agree with you, but from a different angle. I don’t believe that the majority of the world is waiting with baited breath to see what riveting spirituality is coming from Lambeth. Rome? Maybe. Lambeth? Probably not. Before becoming an Episcopalian, I couldn’t have even told you where Lambeth was.

But I do believe that when a group of people choose to act on courageous love and death-defying faith, that is heard around the world. I’m too much of a student of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement to think and believe otherwise. When Dr. King arrived in Montgomery, Alabama to organize the bus boycott, he was fully aware that his presence would cause hardship for those African Americans who lived there and throughout the South. But he still showed up. He still organized. He still marched. If he had let hardship and the “shadow of death” deter him, Most Reverend Sir, there’s a good chance that I, an African American, would still live in a nation where segregation is the law of the land. Dr. King, dared to love courageously.

I understand that being British, your cultural and spiritual ties to Dr. King don’t run as deeply as mine, so I’ll appeal to a common courageous lover that both you and I have an affinity for – Jesus Christ. He too arrived with a message that wasn’t very popular. “Love God,” he said, “and love your neighbor.” He went around Roman occupied Judea and dared to preach and teach about another kingdom where love and justice, not oppression and inequality, ruled the day. It was a message and a ministry that ultimately got he and his apostles killed. Yet, when faced with the reality of the pain of the cross, our Lord said “thy will be done.”

It seems to me, Most Reverend Sir, that your most recent comments essentially blaming the American Church for the death of African Christians are couched in cowardice, not Christian courage. Rather than looking to our Lord as an exemplar of courage, it seems to me that you have chosen to allow terrorists to dictate the practice and ministry of the Church. If they can dictate this then what is next? Shall we go back to men only in Holy Orders because to ordain women would upset some sacrosanct cultural paradigm? Is the Church not supposed to be the group of people found guilty of “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) for the sake of the Gospel?

Perhaps the most telling part of your interview was where you stated that you had “hesitations” about whether marriage equality and scripture could coexist in the Church of England. Herein lies the crux of the whole argument. As with most well-meaning Christians, you appeal to scripture and the traditions of the Church when they suit your cause, but depart from them when you deem it necessary. For example, you hesitate when it comes to affirming marriage equality, but affirm female bishops within the Church of England, though the plain letter of scripture suggests in 1 Timothy 2:12 that women shouldn’t teach in Church nor hold authority over a man. Funny thing, that scripture.

Most Reverend Sir, I do believe you to be a pious and good Christian whose conscience is truly vexed by this situation. But, I also believe that in the face of evil and injustice, you have chosen to respond from a place of fear rather than faith. In a time where the world is starved for prophetic and loving actions, you have chosen to take the light of the Church and hide it under a basket. Might I suggest, Most Reverend Sir, another way forward.

I had a professor in seminary who told me that “real ministry leads ultimately to the cross.” Might I suggest that the way forward is through the cross. That thing that you wear around your neck isn’t a “good idea” or some ancient, twisted “marketing-strategy-gone-wrong.” It’s our calling. It’s our destiny. There is no Easter without Good Friday; no resurrection without death. Maybe years of “Christendom” and imperialistic Christianity have diluted this message. Maybe that’s the reason so many in our world today can so easily walk away from the faith – it promised them everything without asking them for anything in return. Faith that asks for nothing in return is not faith, but a phantasm or a fantasy. That, as I’m sure you know is not the faith of the martyrs; that is not the faith of our Lord. I believe that it is through courage that the Church shall be reborn. It will be because women and men were willing to lose their lives, not preserve their lives, for the Gospel’s sake that we will experience the resurrection that is going to accompany this protracted Calvary voyage. Was it not St. Ignatius who reported to have said while he was a waiting by is own martyrdom “My birth is imminent. Forgive me, brethren. Do not prevent me from coming to life”? The time has come for the Church to come to life.

What Jesus’ interaction with the cross teaches me is that courageous love is possible, and even necessary, in the face of such vehement hatred and evil. Moreover, his triumphant victory over the death of the cross teaches me that ultimately it is courageous love that wins in the end. I’m sorry that we live in a world where evil is still present, where we must choose daily to persevere against such evil, and where too often lives are lost at the hands of such evil; but, the lesson of the cross is this – evil may win the day, but the victory belongs to God.

If you are truly grief-stricken over the possibility that affirming marriage equality in England will bode negatively for Christians in Africa, I encourage you to look at this through the eyes of courage, not cowardice. Look injustice square in the face and dare to preach courageous love until “Justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Declare to Pharaoh “let my people go,” and if he rebuttals with “more bricks without straw,” still choose justice. Stand up for the least, the lost, and left out and let the God of the Oppressed, the same one who subjugated mighty Pharaoh, fight the battle.

But, if you are still unconvinced that marriage equality has a place in the Church [of England], then say that. Own the truth of your struggle without scapegoating and blaming others. Say that scripture teaches that marriage is between “a man and a woman” and, in addition to pointing out how you’re wrong, I will thank God that you have no canonical authority here.

It is true that we live in a community, Most Reverend Sir, and we are called to care for one another; and it precisely because we live in community that we are called to walk in courageous love. You stood by the graves of hundreds of martyrs who you say were killed because marriage equality is being embraced in America. You mentioned how that image has seared its way into your soul. I’m so deeply sorry that you have had that experience, but clergy throughout the world stand by while the souls of faithful LGBTQ Christians continue to be martyred by a Church who continues to pay only lip service to justice and mercy, a Church who keeps saying “wait” and “listen” and “discern” and with each passing day slips further and further past the point of irrelevancy. At some point the Church has to choose to be courageous or it shall cease to be the Church at all.

What we say here is heard around the world. We can either speak a word of fear or a word of faith. Frankly, Most Reverend Sir, the world has had enough fear. Choose faith.

Signed,
The Reverend Marcus Halley, a servant of Jesus Christ.

WORLD NEWS 4.13.14

What the Archbishop of Canterbury Should Have Said About Gay Rights

Justin Welby said the Church of England can’t rush on gay marriage because it could could become a rationale for violence against Christians in Africa. But that lets the murderers win.

I admire Justin Welby. The committee to nominate the next Archbishop of Canterbury was obviously thinking outside the box when they went beyond the usual deep-thinking, theological wizards and academicians to nominate this thoroughly 21st-century Christian to lead the Church of England. Welby spent most of his adult life in the business world, getting ordained as a middle-aged man, and serving as the Bishop of Durham for just over a year before becoming Archbishop. He is a man of deep faith and brilliant intellect, with a healthy dose of modernity and realism. I think they made a great choice.

Which is why I was stunned to read an account of Archbishop Welby’s response to a call-in show questioner about the newly-implemented marriage equality law in England. In response to a question about why the Church of England does not allow its clergy to officiate at civil same-sex marriages, Archbishop Welby responded:

“I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact,” Welby said. If the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, he added, “the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes ‘round the world.”

Welby was referring to violence against Christians in Africa that the perpetrators have justified in connection with supposedly gay-friendly activities by the Anglican churches in the United States and Canada. He said he had been warned during a visit to South Sudan that Christians could face violence from Muslim neighbors who believed that having Christians nearby would make them gay.

In response to subsequent questioning, the Archbishop has tried to walk back a bit from this statement, or at least adding some qualifiers, indicating that at the very least, such international concerns should be taken into account when discerning the church’s response to the issue of marriage equality. That’s all well and good, but I fear that the damage was already done by his original statements. After all, it was not the caller who brought up Africa, but Archbishop Welby himself, arguing that such considerations were relevant to the Church of England’s lack of support for marriage equality. It was the Archbishop himself who linked this caller’s question to the situation in Africa.

While we deeply grieve the deaths of Christians anywhere, we should also grieve and oppose the oppression, violence and deaths perpetrated on LGBT people around the world.
It is absurd to buy into a group of murderers’ rationalizations for their actions, unintentionally giving legitimacy to the perpetrators’ reasons for murder. The Archbishop certainly knows that the reasons behind such violence are complicated and numerous, including both religious and long-standing cultural conflicts. Surely, these Muslim extremists were looking for a “reason” to murder their Christian countrymen, and as is so often the case, they used “let’s blame the gays!”

The Archbishop should also know that you don’t resolve the anger and violence of bullies and hostage-takers by giving in to them. They will be emboldened in their tactics and will only demand more and more. I’m reminded of the abused wife who blames herself for her abuse and resolves to try not to do anything to provoke her husband because she is “responsible” for her own mistreatment. Her liberation is dependent on her rejecting the notion that her behavior is the cause of the violence against her. Similarly, Archbishop Welby would have done well to put the blame directly where it belongs—on the murderers themselves—instead of insinuating that indeed, Anglicans working for LGBT rights elsewhere “caused” this atrocity.

So how might the Archbishop have responded differently? Perhaps something like this: “Look, the church must consider many things in discerning whether a change is warranted in our consideration of blessing the marriages of same-sex couples: what scriptures says, how the church’s historical understanding has developed, and our own experience of gay couples’ relationships. We are in the midst of that discernment right now. In addition, we must always be aware that our decisions here in England are being watched by the world’s 80 million Anglicans and their enemies; sometimes being used as an irrational and unwarranted excuse by those enemies for violence against Christians. I have seen the graves of those who have suffered because of these unjust and irrational connections between LGBT people and murder, and it breaks my heart.

Even so, we cannot give in to the violent acts of bullies and must discern and then pursue God’s will for all of God’s children. Violence and murder of Christians is deplorable, but so is violence against and murder of LGBT people. And as the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, permit me to point out, it is not helpful for some of our own Anglican archbishops, bishops and clergy to join in support of anti-gay legislation and rhetoric in their own countries, thereby fueling the hatred and violence against innocent LGBT people, who are being criminalized and murdered for who they are. These are complicated issues, and with God’s guidance, we will discern what is right to say and do.”

The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury is a complicated and delicate one. I pray for him every day, that he might find the wisdom both to facilitate the unity of the Anglican Communion and to lead us toward the greater truth of God’s love for all of God’s children. I do not envy him this ministry of reconciliation, which is fraught with complexity and nuance. But it is not helpful when he feeds the notion that one part of the church should say no to its discernment of God’s will for the Church’s witness because the context and understanding of God’s will are different in other parts of the Communion.

While the Archbishop is right to point out that LGBT activists in the Church should be aware that their words and actions can cause unintended harm to others around the world, he should take his own advice and realize that his words can likewise cause harm—to the millions of LGBT Anglicans and wider LGBT community around the world. While we deeply grieve the deaths of Christians anywhere, we should also grieve and oppose the oppression, violence and deaths perpetrated on LGBT people around the world. After all, they are victims too.

The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson is the recently retired IX Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @BishopGRobinson.

tutu

 

And, finally, here is a scathing article by a person outside of the “religious community.”:

 

Head of Anglican church: We must discriminate against gays lest someone think we’re gay and bash us  (America Blog)

In a horrific statement, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that Anglicans must discriminate against gays, lest bigots in Africa think Anglicans themselves are gay, and then gay-bash them.

Yeah, he really did.

The archbishop says that some Anglicans were massacred in Africa because – get this – their murderers allegedly thought they were gay.  Thus, the archbishop says, it’s really complicated for the church to consider becoming more pro-gay, and especially pro-”gay marriage,” because, you know, what if people then try to kill even more Anglicans for doing the right thing?

Yes, because everyone knows that Jesus’ principal message for those confronted with dangerous exposure was to have you “deny” it, preferably three times.

That’s like getting beaten up because someone thinks you’re black or Jewish, and the lesson you take from that isn’t a lesson of tolerance, it isn’t a lesson that perhaps those communities are under attack more than you previously recognized, and perhaps you should double up your efforts to help them.  No, the lesson the head of the Anglican church (the Anglican Communion, they call themselves) is to distance yourself from the embattled minority, lest the bad guys attack again.

This is a church we’re talking about.  This is the head of the church.  Could Archbishop Justin Welby have said anything less Christ-like than this?

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican church (photo by Ellif)

In an interview on LBC radio, Welby said that if the Anglican church accepted gay marriage it would be “absolutely catastrophic” for Christians in Africa.  Why?  Welby explained that he had recently visited south Sudan where he saw 369 bodies in a grave.  They were allegedly Christians who were killed because the locals feared that “if we leave a Christian community here we will all be made to become homosexual and so we will kill all the Christians.”

Welby, apparently swayed by the unassailable logic of bigots, suggested that the Sudanese Christians were killed because America is too pro-gay, or something.

He said this in response to a caller asking about the Anglicans embracing gay marriage: “The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here. 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. And they were attacked by other people because of that.”

Members of an English church were killed because some American states have finally legalized gay marriage?  Really?

Welby makes me think of the time back in high school when I asked my friend Keith Spirgel, who was one of the only Jewish people I’d ever met (west upper-middle-class suburbs of Chicago, late 1970s, not a lot of Jews), why people hated Jews so much. Keith was so normal, and fun, and smart, and kind – it just didn’t make sense to me, at age 14 or so, why people had a problem with Jews.  I still remember Keith’s answer: “I have no idea.”

Zoom forward four or so years to college. I was attending the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and was riding in an elevator in my dorm, a dormitory that had a lot of Jewish residents. Some kids got on the elevator, they seemed a bit drunk, and one of them turned to me and called me a “kike.” They thought I was Jewish. (I’ve always had dark curly hair, and this was the early 80s, when big-hair was still in.) I was just supremely offended, and hurt. I remember saying “I’m not Jewish,” and then at the same time thinking, “it doesn’t really matter if I am Jewish.”  But I actually felt as if he had offended me as a Jew, for the first time I understood what it must feel like to be hated for who you are.

That run-in with a bigot, which still sticks with me today, didn’t make me less interested in working on civil rights issues.  It actually really ticked me off, and inspires me to this day.

For the leader of an entire faith to make this kind of comment is simply unbelievable.  Over the years, the Anglicans (aka Episcopalians, as we call them in America), have had more than a few run-ins with their own bigotry.  And I’ve always suspected that at its core the Anglican Communion was just as bitter, nasty and hateful as the Catholic church, the Mormons and all the rest.  And Justin Welby just confirmed it.

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