Thursday, November 17, 2005

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams on Homosexuality

[Abp. Williams' own words will be in green; emphases and colors added]

1) From: BBC Sunday Interview (2 March 2005):

Interviewer: Some of your critics have said you have decided to put unity before truth. In other words they say that Dr Williams the theologian holds a different view on these issues of homosexuality for example from Dr Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury. Is that true?

ABC (Rowan Williams): I have said that I do not think you can really separate unity and truth. Anything put forward within the church is one that is put forward for discernment, the discernment of the whole body as best as possible. So that I am not there to advance personal views or a private agenda. I am there to see what discernment the whole church comes to. If the whole church maintains its current discernment, well that is the church’s right, the church’s liberty.

. . . Interviewer. Do you think that a priest living in a loving, committed, and physically expressed same-sex relationship is living in sin?

ABC. The view of the communion, the view of the Church of England bishops as a whole, is that this is not something that the church can publicly recognise as acceptable. That is the view which as archbishop I must maintain.

Interviewer: And do you privately think that it is a question of living in sin?

ABC. Privately is privately isn’t it? I’ve seen that there is a case for thinking about our discipline. That’s been said. That’s been discussed. But the church has not changed its view on that.

*****

2) From: Religious Tolerance.org: "The Church of England and Homosexuality":

2002-JUL: Comments by the Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams: He attacked the current ban which prevents sexually active homosexuals from ordination. He noted that the church has accepted stable same-sex relationships within the laity but not the clergy. He said: "If the Church's mind is that homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful, then it is intrinsically sinful for everyone. It is that unwillingness to come clean that can't last. It is a contradiction." He also stated that the Bible does not necessarily support a ban on committed same-sex partnerships. [see footnoted further reference]

. . . 2002-OCT: Conflict over the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: . . . The Reverend Richard Kirker, general secretary of the lesbian and gay Christian movement, welcomed Williams' support for homosexual rights. Kirker said: "Dr Williams' commitment to justice and dignity for all people including lesbians and gay men gives us great heart. Under his leadership homophobia will be challenged and intolerance rooted out."

Some conservative elements from within the Anglican Community are displeased with the selection of Williams. Most vocal among the opposition is "Reform", a conservative Evangelical network of more than 500 clergy and the Rt Rev Wallace Benn -- suffragan Bishop of Lewes. They said that they would not welcome Dr. Williams because of his "non-biblical" views. Reform has stated: "Even shortly before the appointment, he publicly said he is 'not convinced that a homosexual has to be celibate in every imaginable circumstance'." Williams has admitted ordaining as a priest a sexually-active homosexual. They have asked him to resign "for the sake of the Church's gospel witness and unity" unless he is willing to condemn any and all sexual behavior outside of a one-man, one-woman marriage. This, of course, would include sexual activity within a loving, committed gay or lesbian relationship. They have asked that he affirm and defend church teaching:

To "abstain from sexual relations outside holy [heterosexual] matrimony",

To support "appropriate discipline" where necessary and

To ordain only those who uphold and live by this teaching.

Rev Richard Kirker, spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said: "The presumptuous self-righteous tone of Reform simply beggars belief and will, I suspect, make them even more isolated than they already are in the Anglican Church."

3) Entirely predictably, Williams' internally-incoherent, relativist stance on homosexuality has been reflected in other issues, even as serious as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dr. Garry Williams, lecturer in Doctrine and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College, London, UK, wrote an in-depth study of Williams' theology. He wrote:

It is still less satisfactory that Williams seems to down-play the importance of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, even though he holds to it himself. In his volume Resurrection (London, 1982) he presents as competing alternatives an objective and a more subjective account of the event. He favours the former, but he writes that, even in the midst of that discussion, he is ‘not particularly concerned’ with arguing for the objectivist view. He identifies the very question ‘What happened to Jesus?’ as part of the trouble with the modern debate on the resurrection (p. 119).

This rather laissez-faire attitude in print twenty years ago lends credibility to more recent reports of comments made by the archbishop in America and Uganda concerning the permissibility of denying the bodily resurrection and the virgin birth (available online in the Virtuosity archives for August). If this evidence together represents the archbishop’s present thinking, then what he has said on these subjects may amount to little more than an advance promise to fail to exercise doctrinal discipline.

(No Good News: A Reply to Alister McGrath’s Assessment of Rowan Williams’s Theology)


Again, we see that Abp. Williams personally accepts the physical Resurrection, yet will allow himself to talk in these wishy-washy terms. With regard to homosexuality, however, he dichotomizes himself as a "personal theologian" vs. "bishop" with one side favoring same-sex partnerships and the other denying it because of the lack of worldwide Anglican consensus, which is hardly any different from the "pro-choice" mentality, in the opposite direction:

Abortion "Pro-Choice" Schizophrenic Mentality:

1. "I personally oppose abortion"
2. "I favor legal abortion every time"
[assumed premise: my personal views have little or no relationship to my public, public policy ones]

Archbishop Rowan Williams' Dichotomy on Homosexuality:

1. "I personally favor same-sex relationships as moral"
2. "I must, however, not impose my view (as bishop) on the church-at-large until there is consensus"
[assumed premise: my personal views have little or no relationship to my public, public policy ones]

Either one believes that consensus suggests truthfulness or one does not. The Catholic does. We believe that the Church Universal comes to conclusions because they are inherently true and orthodox. But apparently Anglicanism is perfectly comfortable with schizophrenic expressions such as this, where private judgment and a more conciliar, consensus view exist side-by-side in paradox, if not outright contradiction. If the larger view were true, and Williams accepted that, then he ought to modify his own view, in order to be in conformity with the larger one.

If the consensus view isn't true, on the other hand, then that should be irrelevant to Williams, and he should press ahead with his individual view, which he regards to be the truth. Either way, it is a contradictory mixing of Protestant private judgment and Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox Church-wide consensus or Tradition, as well as a mixing of liberal and traditional theology. The liberal mindset (both political and theological) is nothing if not internally contradictory and incoherent.

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