You condemn it, Archbishop

It is often noted that the Scottish Episcopal Church is very much in favour of the Anglican Communion. What is noted in public slightly less often but which is no less important to remember, is that it is not in favour of the Anglican Communion at any cost. Our dismissal of the Anglican Covenant showed that very clearly.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s statements yesterday in a radio phone-in, which seemed to imply that opening marriage to same-sex couples would lead to murder in Africa, take us into a very murky ethical place. I have to admit that my heart sank when I heard it. We have had more than enough of this kind of thing from inhabitants of Lambeth Palace. It seems very clear to me that in this case, Justin Welby is wrong.

Generally speaking, I thought it was a poor radio performance. Personally I never do radio phone-ins. It is a format that is hard to do well with. The Archbishop seemed nervous (perhaps rightly) and ill-prepared.

The particularly offensive thing which he has said is to suggest that there should be no movement on opening marriage to same-sex couples in the church because that could lead to Anglicans being murdered in Africa. He told a story of standing beside a mass grave and being told that the people had been killed by local opposition forces.

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 a lot of them had been killed.

Inevitably, I’ve seen US friends posting a great deal online asking whether the Archbishop was trying to lay the blame for dead Africans at the doors of The [US-based] Episcopal Church. It is a repugnant suggestion and comes just before Justin Welby is due to visit that church next week. The Archbishop needs to justify his claim or withdraw it. It is a vile suggestion for a cleric to make of another part of the church.

I find the ethics of this very straightforward. It seems to me that the ethics of the Anglican Communion, of the churches in the UK, of the churches in North America, of the governments of the nations in which we live – these cannot be determined by those who bear the bullet and the bomb. The Archbishop of Canterbury seems to have been suggesting that our policies should be dictated by murderers.

In some ways this isn’t new. Justin Welby’s view is probably not that different to that of Rowan Williams and we’ve heard the same stuff coming from the Mothers’ Union for years. More than once I’ve heard it said that Rowan Williams was desperate for Jeffrey John to withdraw from being a bishop because he feared the consequences of violence in other countries. It can seem plausible put like that, can’t it? Who wouldn’t want to stop violence?

The trouble is, it is an attempt to deal with the reality and horror of violence by appeasing the violent. It is giving those who murder, a moral authority that they can never be allowed to hold.

Let us presume for a moment, for the sake of argument that the story told to Justin Welby is essentially true – that there is a mass grave in Africa caused solely by positive attitudes to gay people (a gay person?) in the US. If that is true then the only Christian response is to condemn the violence and do so publicly, loudly and endlessly. You don’t keep your mouth shut and try to turn the clock back on progressive attitudes on the other side of the world as a response to it.

The claim is that these people were killed because their opponents believed that if they left Christians alive then they would be “made gay”. If this is true then those people were killed as a result of homophobia.  It is homophobia of the worst, most violent sort that killed the people in the Archbishop’s story.

You condemn it, Archbishop. That’s what you are called to do.

This feels very personal for me. In my work at St Mary’s I encounter very frequently people who come from Africa including some of the countries that are being discussed around the world because of this current conversation. I also encounter  those who are gay and lesbian and particularly, I help those amongst them who want to get married, to get hitched. Am I supposed to prejudice the rights, livelihoods and wellbeing of one group over another because someone threatens one particular group with violence?

We are our own Anglican Communion at St Mary’s and I couldn’t possible care only for the rights of one group. We all have a right to life, to security, to live our lives to the full.

When you encounter violence, you condemn it, Archbishop. When you encounter murder, you condemn it, Archbishop. When you encounter homophobia, you condemn it, Archbishop.

You don’t appease it, Justin Welby. You condemn it.

Why should any of us in any land expect anything less of you?


  1. Junia says

    There have been people prepared to commit violence in the wake of the ordination of women, in response to churches being racially integrated, or because of interfaith dialogue- and there still are, in our own country. By the Archbishop’s logic Christians should adhere to the most conservative mores possible in order to appease violent misogynists, and disdain Muslims to appease the BNP. “Someone might get angry” is never a good reason not to do something.

  2. Christopher Hayes says

    Very well said, Kelvin.

  3. chigozie iwueke says

    Archbishop welby position is right for us down here in Nigerian we don’t accept gay practice.we Christians should practice what is written in the holy bible cos God condemns gay practice.

    • Joe O'Leary says

      Ever heard of David and Jonathan? One of the great samesex love stories — and it’s in the BIBLE. Please read it meditatively before replying.

      • Reading David and Jonathan as a same-sex love story is the same western cultural mistake that assumes that a male couple holding hands in India must be gay.

        • That cuts both ways – it could equally be centuries of homophobic cultural conditioning that allows anyone to think that David & Jonathan were “just good friends”.

  4. chigozie iwueke says

    The primate of our Anglican church in Nigerian made it clear to the church of England that they should show us were it is written in the Bible where a man should marry a man.biblical definition of marriage is the union between a man and a woman.please for the seek of God let us go back to our bibles.

  5. Rosemary Hannah says

    When I was at school I was bullied, very nastily bullied. It damaged me for life, not physically, because most though not all of it was emotional bullying. But mentally. For the rest of my life, I have been panicked by things other can cope with, avoided situations I needed to deal with and only slowly learned how to cope with problems that others found it simple to solve. The bullies always had a good reason. My shoes were wrong. I had no right to wear shoes like that. My tastes were wrong, my interests.

    Were they wrong? Well I liked history, architecture, drama, comfortable shoes. But the fact is, the bullies were looking for somebody to bully. The reasons they gave were only justifications – the anger eating them, the hatred they wanted to act out, was the real reason.

    Bullying is like that. And you never, ever, ever appease a bully, because the moment you, you strengthen their hand.

  6. Rosemary Hannah says

    @ chigozie iwueke – I do not think the Bible condemns homosexual practise as we now have it, but if you think it does, I can accept that is your view. What I cannot accept is people being tortured, humiliated and murdered because somebody thinks they are homosexual. I cannot accept people being murdered because somebody thinks other Anglicans in another place have a homosexual bishop.

  7. Richard says

    At every juncture in history appeasing the aggressor invariably has resulted in a one-sided escalation of aggression to the benefit of the aggressor. I do not doubt that the ABC was moved by his experiences in Nigeria. I do doubt the integrity of his statement as it would paralyse effective debate in the UK which would appease the right (and his own personal sentiment about being not pro-gay) to the detriment of the left and centre.
    What this latest debacle has done is to remind us how ineffective/non existent the WWC is.
    There is nothing Christian about crossing the road to avoid engaging with another’s suffering, and at this point it doesn’t matter what the source of the suffering is. What I find utterly repugnant is the speed with which the road was crossed and I suspect that that is because to do so, rather neatly, seeks to cut off debate about a subject evangelicals are so unreasonable about. And it’s a debate they will “lose”, ultimately. How many times have I read in recent months on Facebook and on Twitter the refrain from anti equality contributors, “We are tired of this debate. Let’s shift the focus to the poor, the hungry…” There’s nothing like changing the statement of the debate when you whiff the scent of defeat.
    Welby didn’t miss the chance to condemn, did he? He had no intention of doing so. That’s why I was so angry this morning when I heard about this.

  8. Chigozie I’m not Jewish, I’m Christian and none of my many Jewish friends (including Christian Jewish friends) believes what you do about what we call the Old Testament (including those who read Hebrew). I have many African friends and all of them have an AMAZING ability with languages even though they’re so humble they don’t boast about it. So here’s a challenge for you: learn Hebrew, then learn about all the different ways Jesus read the Hebrew bible. If you don’t have time for all that, read my little book ONLY SAY THE WORD (Google the title and my name). Lastly, don’t believe the word of a White man just cos he’s a pastor (or her written a book). If you don’t know who’s behind your country’s recent regulation then find out – and find out about your country’s history of religious colonisation. Africa was a more tolerant place before the White missionaries so it’s ironic that of my African Christian male friends the one who told me he was pushed downstairs by his brother, the one raped by policemen and the one who witnessed his boyfriend burned to death by a mob all said these violent people claimed to be Christian. That’s not very ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love your enemies’, is it, Bro?

  9. chigozie iwueke,
    can you explain to me why people think that our liberals views in the West are responsible for Christians being killed in Africa?
    After all, most African Christians are like you, deeply conservative about homosexuality and the churches in Nigeria and Uganda have been driving the anti gay laws in those countries.
    Christians and Muslims in most African countries are 100% agreed on this.

    So why would anyone there even think of killing your Christians?

  10. chigozie iwueke says

    Alan,Erika and Rosemary pls am not in support of killing of anybody jus because they r gay or lesbians but what my bible condemns is homosexual u guys should read through leviticus 18:22,1Corinthians 6:9-11,leviticus 20:13.1Timothy 1:10,Christianity without practising what is written in the bible is not Christianity.Christianity is jus Christ an Anglican and right from my days in Anglican children’s ministry we never learn that a man should marry a man but the bible made us to understand that man is between a man and a people brought the gospel to us in Africa made us known that some of our traditional Africa practices are condemned by bible which we dropped and today some of you in the west want homosexuality to be recognise in the church when the bible forbids it in total.homosexuality have no place in the church of Christ.

    • What else does it say in Leviticus Chigozie? Do you live or even try to live by all the laws written down in this book? Please stop taking scripture out of context.

      Oh yes, both Alan Mcmanus and I could show the Nigerian bishop examples of where the original Hebrew in the bible indicated the presence and acceptability before God of same sex unions…

    • Mr Iwueke, I understand that you’ve been TOLD that the Bible verses you listed (leviticus 18:22,1Corinthians 6:9-11,leviticus 20:13.1Timothy 1:10) condemn same-sex marriage, but MANY highly learned Biblical scholars DISAGREE with this. Can you not accept that Christians of good-will disagree? Do you insist that we submit to your reading of the Bible, or are we allowed to read and interpret it for ourselves?

      I grieve deeply for ALL victims of violence, whether that violence is anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, or anti-gay. Violence is NOT the will of God/Allah!

  11. Thank you for your comment, Chigozie. I don’t agree with it and a lot of people reading this here won’t either. You’ll find quite a lot of the reasons that I don’t agree with it by reading other posts and answers that people have given on the blog. (Search for LGBT if you are interested in similar posts).

    However, I think I need to make clear that the point of my original post was not about whether homosexuality was good or bad but whether people are being killed in Africa and thrown into mass graves because of the opinions or actions of Anglicans in the USA.

    For any subsequent comments on this thread, I would be grateful if people would refrain from posting single verses of scripture in comments as though they prove an argument. I’ve more respect for the Bible than to think that is ever true and I have a longstanding policy of not allowing such comments to distract us from discussing the topic in question.

  12. Paul Seymour says

    thank you of speaking the truth without complexity

  13. Kelvin, you wrote:

    “Inevitably, I’ve seen US friends posting a great deal online asking whether the Archbishop was trying to lay the blame for dead Africans at the doors of The [US-based] Episcopal Church. It is a repugnant suggestion and comes just before Justin Welby is due to visit that church next week. The Archbishop needs to justify his claim or withdraw it. It is a vile suggestion for a cleric to make of another part of the church.”

    I don’t think Justin mentioned The Episcopal Church ONCE in his interview. Perhaps you are the one who needs to withdraw the suggestion Justin was signalling out TEC?

    • No Peter. The Archbishop very clearly indicated that he was talking about America and the general context for this was whether or not Anglicans should affirm marriage being opened to same-sex couples. I’m asking the same questions that many others are asking and I stand by what I’ve said.

      • I’m afraid the only thing that jumps from “America” to “TEC are responsible” is your desire to be offended. If you think that’s what he meant, ask him to clarify.

        But you know what, when it comes to a choice between allowing someone in a civil partnership to be called “married” (but adding no legal rights whatsoever) or seeing hundreds of African Christians murdered, I feel 1 Corinthians 10 calling.

        • I don’t derive my ethics from the Bible, Peter. And even if I did, I don’t think that the Epistle to the Corinthians justifies appeasing terrorists.

          • “I don’t derive my ethics from the Bible”

            And there we have it.

          • Scripture, Tradition and REASON is our source of ethics as Anglicans, Peter O. Or do you accept Psalm 137:9, Sola Scriptura, for your ethics? [“Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!”]

        • Erika Baker says

          “when it comes to a choice”…
          Is there any actual evidence that such a linear choice exists?
          Has anyone done proper research into why (extremely conservative and anti gay) Christians are being killed in Africa and have they established a clear link to more liberal theologies by (slightly less anti gay) Christian churches in the West?

          As for marriages not giving partners more rights than CPs, that is only true with the UK. CPs aren’t portable, marriage is. As more and more countries have marriage equality this matters, because there are fewer with domestic partnership arrangements and these arrangements do not all have the same legal content or standing.
          It is only correct that the Government should try to afford all its citizens the same legal protection abroad.

          • Let’s take the second point first. Can you give me an example of a country where (i) a civil partnership in England and Wales would be treated domestically as a Civil Union and a same-sex marriage would be treated domestically as being as a marriage AND (ii) there is a substantial difference to the rights afforded by a Civil Union and a Marriage.

            As for the first point, I defer to the Archbishop.

        • Peter, forgive me if for a minute I get hung up on a technicality. If referring to married same-sex couples in England, the word married no longer belongs in parentheses.

          • Yes, you are correct. Why are you telling me this?

          • I guess Beth isn’t referring to parentheses at all but sneer quotes = “marriage” rather than marriage.

          • I’m very clearly not using them as sneer quotes. Can we all please learn some basic English syntax and get back to the point.

          • Apologies. I did, as Kelvin suggests, mean quotation marks in whichever form you were choosing to use them. You’re right, I suppose, that it isn’t the point, except that I call attention to it because by using them you perpetuate the idea that marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is somehow different to marriage between two people of opposite genders, which it isn’t, any more, and I think getting that part clear is half the battle to realising that it isn’t okay to tell people that their marriage to one another has caused people to be murdered.

          • Indeed – the difference between being married and being allowed to be referred to as being married.

          • So Beth, would you like me to call you “a woman who doesn’t understand when quotations are used to indicate speech” or “a woman who tries to read the worst possible motive into what someone she disagrees with writes”?

            Have I made my point yet? I’m still waiting for the withdrawal of the allegation that I used the construct “marriage” to demean same-sex marriage.

          • Peter

            I don’t think Beth’s hunch that you were using sneer quotes is unreasonable. I read it that way myself. After all the sentence in question reads perfectly well without them.

            But you know what, when it comes to a choice between allowing someone in a civil partnership to be called married (but adding no legal rights whatsoever) or seeing hundreds of African Christians murdered, I feel 1 Corinthians 10 calling.

            You must have had some reason for putting the word in quotation marks but you’ve now made your point that you didn’t mean it to be read in that way. Thank you for the clarification.

        • James Byron says

          Peter, would you suggest we appease a mob on an issue you disagree with (say a demand that Christians convert)?

          If not, this isn’t really about making sacrifices to appease terrorists, it’s using that as a pretext.

          • “Indeed – the difference between being married and being allowed to be referred to as being married.”

            It’s the other way round. It’s about being married and still allowing others to refer to us as being “married”.

      • Could he have been referring to Scott Lively?

        • Tim,
          he could have. Or he could have referred right back to the consecration of Gene Robinson, to TEC blessing same sex marriages, to the consecration of Mary Glasspool – in fact, to any decent, honest and honourable Christian response that ever came out of TEC.
          Once he refers clearly to Scott Lively we’ll know he’s finally got it.

  14. Chigozie I’m very glad to hear that you respect the commandment ‘thou shallt not kill’ and that you have shown yourself willing to enter into discussion over this very controversial topic. I pray that more of your countrymen follow your good example of respect for life, and of intelligent and informed discussion, in all its diversity.

  15. Erika Baker says

    Canada has marriage equality but no civil partnerships. When my wife and I visited friends there some years ago our relationship was not legally recognised. If one of us had been taken seriously ill the other one would not have been considered her legal next of kin.
    The same happened when we went to Spain on holiday after the introduction of marriage equality there.
    Thankfully, that will no longer happen once we have been able to upgrade our CP to marriage.

    As for deferring to the Archbishop, he hasn’t pointed us to any research either, just to some throw away comments he was told at a shocking graveside.
    Obviously, I want to engage with his argument as constructively as possible, but in order to do that we need first to establish whether he actually has a point or whether his understandable shock has clouded his rational thinking for a moment and he has responded emotionally without first ascertaining that what he was told is factually true.

    • Hincks vs Gellado rather settled the matter in Canada didn’t it? As for Spain, Civil Partnerships have been recognised there since 2007.

      • The point is what happens on the ground, in doctors’s surgeries etc. If you can’t tick the “married” box you get treated differently.
        Yes, you can quote laws and you can argue it all out later, but that cuts no ice when you’re faced with people who don’t know the law and whose friendly responses you depend on at the time.

        I’m really glad that this whole mess is now finally over and that married means married in name as well as in reality.

  16. Richard says

    “And there we have it”. (Mr Ould)

    I have been engaged in the thread of this blog but I’m confused by this statement. What is the “it” and what do we have?

    • Matthew Pemble says

      That Kelvin doesn’t get his ethics from the Bible.

      Just as a note, I don’t either. If I’ve got important questions to ask myself a book badly translated by 2000 years worth of church committees is hardly likely to be my first point of call. Especially as 2/3rds of it refers to people of the Jewish faith.

      Which I’ve been accused of being (a lapsed member of and incorrectly), once.

  17. “Can we all please learn some basic English syntax and get back to the point.”

    The point was not whether we “needed” marriage equality and it wasn’t even whether there was a direct link between a married gay couple in Britain leading to Christian deaths in Sudan.

    The point was “even if that was proven, even if there was such a potential link now, what would be the appropriate Christian response to this”?

    And that is a very serious question.
    And Kelvin’s point that you condemn violence unequivocally, wherever and however it raises its ugly head is a very powerful one.

    The second question is whether in the long term, it is better to give in to bullies and continue to treat your own people as moral inferiors, or whether it wouldn’t be better to push even harder for gay equality here to show that there is absolutely nothing to fear from gay people?

    If, as Tobias Haller suggests, the link between the position of the CoE and what is happening in Africa is homophobia, then one has to seriously wonder whether more homophobia here will be part of the solution or whether it won’t simply perpetuate the problem.

    • So you’ve now dropped the idea that your civil partnership wouldn’t be recognised overseas unless it was a marriage?

      • Er, no, I thought I made that point. Based entirely on my own experience (in Spain, where I even speak enough of the language to make the legal point at the time).

        I honoured your request to get back to what the original point of Kelvin’s post was about.
        Would you care to do that too?

  18. Allan Ronald says

    Syntax, Mr Ould, the grammatical structure of sentences, is not the same as punctuation (which covers quotation marks and parentheses among other points). Perhaps you need to learn that.

  19. peter chase says

    Several years ago I attended Synod of the Anglican Church of Cyprus and the Gulf when a priest condemned The Episcopal Church for inciting violence against Anglicans because of the Ordination of Gays and Lesbians in New Hampshire. I reminded the Synod that Matthew Shepherd (who had been confirmed in Cyprus) was a few years later the victim of a hate crime in Wyoming and that his murder was an example of the intolerance we should be condemning throughout the world. Instead of denouncing the oppressors, the church ends up condemning the victims of injustice whilst justifying the perpetrators of hate crimes.

  20. To pour oil on troubled waters, here’s a lovely contribution to this acrimonious debate: over on Peter Ould’s blog, there’s a nice young man who’s found healing in the form of his transformation from (basically) Blanche Dubois to John Wayne. Now we can all agree, surely, that this can only be a Good Thing. Why rub people’s faces in it and, anyway, who wants to depend on the kindness of strangers, when you can just shoot them? But how do we all do it? Here’s how
    Do try this at home – and why not sashay down to communion next Sunday just like this? 🙂

    • Alan – I’ve approved this comment but please post any further comments relating to Peter’s blog over on Peter’s blog. I’m sure he would prefer to engage over there.

    • Alan,

      When you write stuff like this, all you’re arguing is that you don’t want to listen to other people’s experiences and stories.

  21. Rosemary Hannah says

    I think the point could be made like this. We know that the Taliban dislike women and girls getting education. One of the reasons they say it scares them is the way some women behave in the West. They blame behaviours they do not like, promiscuity, public drunkenness, on women being educated.

    I don’t agree. I do not think an education encourages one to be legless on a Friday night. But the fact is, that is how the Taliban see it, and they harm young women going to school. In fact, among others, they shot Malala Yousafzai.

    Do you think that young women in our country should refrain from getting an education, so that the Taliban can see there is no link between Western excesses, and women being educated?

    And if you do not think this, somebody tell me what the difference is?

  22. I’ve just listened to the radio phone in.
    And I think what he said was an honest opinion that what the church in England does can have an effect on Christians around the world.
    It is one of the reasons in his -no- box, but it is not a tenable reason.

  23. Well said Kelvin.
    As for Peter Ould’s latter comment
    “When you write stuff like this, all you’re arguing is that you don’t want to listen to other people’s experiences and stories.”
    (please note that I am using quotation marks…and making this observation in parentheses!)
    Then I think we have all seen who does and does not listen to ‘other people’s experiences and stories’. And it is not the Very Rev’d Dean of Glasgow!

  24. Richard says

    Well said, Fr Steve. Following on the theme of not listening to others, JCF is absolutely right, of course.
    It’s the absence of reason which leads to the not truly listening part of a discussion, however long the debate lasts. I sent a message over on Twitter yesterday to Mr O. asking him what he thought God thinks of bishops who wear mitres in church, covering the same point made by JCF. Still no reply.

  25. Many thanks to all those commenting above.

    No further comments about the nature of homosexuality and no further comments about the nature of Peter Ould, please. There are other, better places online for that.

    And please, no further comments where one single bible verse is thrown about without context as though it proves a point. That applies to those lobbing them in any direction.

    The topic is, what the Archbishop said on LBC and what the implications of that conversation are.

  26. Erika Baker says

    If we’re talking about potential links I would also like to point out another possibility.
    Lgbt people in Africa have told us that their churches have used the Archbishop’s stance in support for their own. “Look, even the Archbishop in a much more liberal church is not treating gay people as equals. He knows they’re morally inferior”.

    Changing Attitude in Nigeria have begged the CoE for years to speak out clearly against homophobia and violence. They have been met with a deafening silence.

    If my Nigerian friends are to be believed the terrible laws might not have been implemented if the CoE had been much firmer in condemning anti gay violence and legislation years and years ago, if it hadn’t tried to appease Archbishop Akinola by refusing to invite Gene Robinson to Lambeth etc. Instead, they have given him an air of respectability which he should never have had and which he used very cleverly at home to lay the foundations for the current situation.
    Now it’s too late to do anything about it.

    There is a very genuine possibility that appeasing violent behaviour will only ever result in more violence.

  27. Richard says

    Absolutely, Erica. That’s what I was referring to earlier, about history having a tendency to repeats its errors. It will, however, be difficult to assess the extent of the negative impact of Justin Welby’s comments both here and abroad.

    On the issue of ABC’s comments, in case you haven’t seen this, here is a link to a California bishop in which he draws out some of the negativity and errors of ABC’s comments as he sees parallels between colonialism in USA and UK.

  28. Bernhard says

    You are very generous with other people’s lives.

    • I stand against murder and violence. I stand against murder and violence meted our in places of conflict in Africa, in places where kids get killed for being gay, in places where people are killed for their faith. I encourage my congregation to pray for peace and work to eliminate violence.

      I also know what it is like to enter a church next to someone against whom recent credible death threats have been made.

      I value life very highly.

Speak Your Mind