Comments: God, Gays and the Church

More of the same from Ruth Gledhill. The attitude was best summed up, I think, by Jay Fout on his Gower Street blog (

"the media and its audience cannot be expected to take the time and mental effort to understand something complex or nuanced, and so it was the archbishop's own fault that he was misunderstood."

Posted by Justin Lewis-Anthony at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 12:22am GMT

Once again this is just Ruth Gledhill stirring an already stirring pot. It is the sual stock phrases: "common to many of Britain’s liberal elite" and "The Archbishop, whose liberal stance". Easy to write and meaningless.

Williams's theology represents a kind of conserving in the detail postmodern theology. It might be more story based than objective reality (but he tries to force one to become the other) but this is a theology of groups and packages whole. This, when it is extended to other faiths, becomes their packages and represents their communities, and so all start running in parallel. He fails to see the actual liberal and secular role, what the Lincoln bishop in his sheet today called cosmopolitan rather than this understanding of multicultural.

Incidentally, this evening I was asked by a couple of folks to explain the difference, and yet they had not understood the Bishop of Lincoln's piece either, saying they had got the cosmopolitan and the multicultural the wrong way around.

(Go past my shut up Carey rant to see John Saxbee's output)

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 12:39am GMT

"The Right Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester and fifth most senior clergyman in the hierarchy, will give warning that the Church’s integrity has been “gravely undermined” by its implicit acceptance of same-sex relationships."

I think the Church's integrity is already undermined by its policies of segregation, and by teaching that segregation is divinely mandated.

Much as I complain about ++Williams, I think the whole controversy over his remarks about Sharia law will ultimately prove to be a tempest in a teapot. When that day comes, there will be a lot of very embarrassed people, but one of them will not be ++Williams. He has much to feel embarrassed about, but pointing out the obvious is not one of them.

Posted by Counterlight at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 2:42am GMT

"Bishop Scott-Joynt condemns the fact that personal experience appears to be given the same weight as Scripture, tradition and the Church in the debate over homosexuality…"

Translation: "I condemn the fact that too many people aren't listening to what I, Bishop Scott-Joynt, *SAY* are 'Scripture, tradition and the Church' in the debate over homosexuality!"

Won't get fooled again, +Winchester. "Public advocating and vaunting" are here to stay, while your days of kicking us back into the closet are OVER.

Come, Liberating Lord Christ! :-D

Posted by JCF at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 3:28am GMT

Is this the same Michael Scott-Joynt who, according to Wikipedia, "chaired a committee in 2000, which urged a lifting of the ban on remarriage of divorcees whose former spouse was still living. The report insisted that the Church of England was not abandoning its position that marriage is for life, but rather acknowledging the situation of many within society whose former marriages had long ceased to have any real existence."

It never ceases to amaze me how many of these stern moralizers have no trouble at all with adultery.

Posted by JPM at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 4:43am GMT

When you remember in what glowing terms Ruth Gledhill described Dr Williams prior to his selection for Canterbury, especially with regard to his intellect, this is rather surprising...I've been really disappointed by The Times in the past week: appalling reporting (with some exceptions) and ridiculous comment.

Posted by Daniel at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 8:09am GMT

whatever else ruth gledhill may get right or wrong, i think she is correct in pointing to rw's arrogance. please may we expect an apology today for bringing the c of e into disrepute by not being more circumspect in his way of doing things? may we expect a statement that he may, just may be wrong? may we expect a statement that he may, just may, have made an error of judgement? may we expect a wide consultation with serious anglicans, in private, as to whether they think it would be helpful for the c of e if he stood down? i expect not. he has for too long been the pampered darling of the liberals, whom he has betrayed so comprehensively, that he has lost all sense of his own stature, if he ever had any notion of that.

Posted by poppy tupper at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 9:34am GMT

I have to agree, I've been very surprised (and disappointed) at how Gledhill has handled this story. Rather than provide a nuanced view, she seems to have glibly gone along with the media frenzy, which has all the nuance of a bull in a china shop.

Posted by Dave Rattigan at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 9:36am GMT

Ruth Gledhill really is the consummate drama queen (narrowly pipping even the Bishop of Rochester in the screaming theatrics department). If there isn't some impending crisis in the Church, she is determined to imagine one. Yesterday I heard her on Radio 4 comparing Rowan to St Thomas Becket - I suspect she'd like nothing more than a bit of blood to be spilled on the altars. Nevertheless, I suspect that the Synod will have much more pressing, humdrum things with which to concern itself than the views of the endlessly chattering MS-J.

If I were the Times I would send Ruth back to reporting on the mating habits of flamingos.

Posted by MRG at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 9:54am GMT

"the Church’s integrity has been “gravely undermined” by its implicit acceptance of same-sex relationships"

See, that's odd. from what I hear, the integrity of the Church has been undermined by its explicit acceptance of the principle:

"Don't do it if the Bible says it's wrong, except divorce, oh, and except usury, oh and except killing other people, oh and stealing other people's children and beating them if they speak their own language. Well that last one's not spelled out in the Bible, so it must be OK. Oh, and slander and reviling, Paul wasn't really serious about those. And he doesn't mention using propaganda against your opponents, so that must be OK too. Oh, and if you coerce and fringhten people into becoming Christians, that's fine, after all you're just saving their souls. Matter of fact, there's not much the Bible says not to do that you actually CAN'T do, unless it's something to do with sex, and even then, it isn't so bad as long as the person you are doing it with is a member of the opposite sex." Yeah, I kinda think that caused perhaps the smallest bit of damage to the Church's integrity before the whole "gay thing" came along, unless every person I've ever met who hates the Church has been lying to me.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 12:10pm GMT

“Although he is a holy and spiritual man, danger lies in the appearance of the kind of intellectual arrogance common to many of Britain’s liberal elite. It is an arrogance that affords no credibility or respect to the popular voice.”

I find this amazing! I want to place the word “hack” in somewhere and turn this analysis back on Ruth Gledhill and those of her profession she represents, but I just can’t be bothered.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 12:40pm GMT

Well said, Justin Lewis-Anthony. The press are quite happy to have a massive audience and some influence in forming the opinions of that audience; but should they make any effort to gain the appropriate amount of understanding for such an office? They (or some of them) say no (privileges without responsibilities); we say yes (with privilege comes responsibility).

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 1:10pm GMT

There is a specific and complete answer to Justin Lewis-Anthony which is that the media spend most of their time reacting to other media. I'm sorry this is the case. But it is a fact and not one anybody knows how to change. Almost all of the story arose from the interview on World at One, not from the lecture. In every newspaper office in the country there are people whose job it is to listen to that programme in the hope that it will have a story. All they need is one soundbite and they will fall on it like Piranhas.

People have been nice about the piece I wrote. But I had two hours to do it in, and no text of his lecture. I did, just, have the transcript of his talk, and I knew more than most journalists what he might have been talking about. So I was able to guess, mostly accurately, what his lecture would say, or at least what he was trying to say. That's not the way most of the media works, nor could it be. It's one thing to say that's a dreadful state of affairs -- and it is -- but at the same time it is something that everyone anywhere near the business understands and which anyone in public life has to understand.

It is if you like a structural sin.

Posted by acb at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 1:48pm GMT


You are quite right - very well put! It's never quite heterodoxy when it's something "THEY" think is valid or justified, is it?

As to this...

"Bishop Scott-Joynt condemns the fact that personal experience appears to be given the same weight as Scripture, tradition and the Church in the debate over homosexuality…"

The good bishop appears to be sitting on a somewhat different three-legged stool. Reason anyone? Reason?

Posted by christopher+ at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 2:47pm GMT

While Ruth is needlessly stirring the pot and giving vent to her own biasses, her criticisms of Rowan's Lambeth are not without merit.

However, I'd more attribute it to a perverse naivite rather than arrogance.

At some point, Rowan needs to get a grip on the fact that he is not talking to a classroom of divinity students, nor to a clergy retreat.

He also needs to learn that reporters are not looking for (and sometimes not even capable of) nuance.

Despite its own lousy reputation, public relations is actually about helping people ensure that the public hears what they're trying to say.

Rowan. Get some good PR advisors and bloody listen to them.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 3:16pm GMT

I was going to point our that the Bishop of Winchester's remark:
"the Church’s integrity has been “gravely undermined” by its implicit acceptance of same-sex relationships"
really ought have been:
"the Church’s integrity has been “gravely undermined” by its refusal to bless same-sex relationships"
but I see that others have preceded me.
What an interesting concept of "integrity" Bishop Scott-Joynt must have ("Four leg good, two legs bad!" where four legs = divorce & two legs = gays)

Posted by Prior Aelred at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 4:24pm GMT

Sometimes Ruth Gledhill really does come over as not very bright.

Ignorance is no excuse, Ruth, and nor should it be something we promote.

We need to move past soundbites - I thought the mission of the Times was to explain - not to carp because it may take a bit of thought to fathom out whats being said?

That isn't to encourage obfuscation, but come on, Ruth, get the brain into gear? Or maybe the Daily Mail beckons?

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 5:20pm GMT

"It is if you like a structural sin."

And I think it has been since the beginnings of the popular press in the eighteenth century.

Posted by Anthony W at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 5:27pm GMT


You should watch the episode of "Mythbusters" when they let the bulls loose in a China shop. They were more like ballerinas and not one bit of china was broken.

The disappointed scientists had to go in with hammers and enthusiasm and do what the bulls had failed to do for them.

I always giggle about proponents of structural sin, especially those who hark back to Eve's big mistake. They repudiate the very point of Jesus' incarnation and sacrifice and thus their theology implodes upon itself.

It's no wonder they have to use so much bravado, marketing, censorship, lobbying and repression; they really can't win in a fair fight.

Some journalists think news is making sales, some journalists think success is getting the "leaks" early. It's called sensationalism. It's certainly not the quality journalism that changes the world, they are merely flotsam tossed from one storm of gossip to the next.

Posted by Cheryl Va. Clough at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 7:47pm GMT

Poppy - I sympathise with your frustrations, especially at the way in which RW is pampered by liberal Anglicans in spite of his deeply reactionary agenda. But his position is no more illiberal than that of many conservative prelates, and they would never dream of apologising for taking such positions. I think that liberal minded people stick by him rather because he is more generous, subtle, and measured in the way he pursues that agenda than any of his rivals are likely to be.

It is absolutely baffling that Ruth Gledhill believes that Williams takes a 'liberal stance' and is part of a 'liberal' elite. She need only have read her colleague Matthew Parris' remarks, or better still the careful analysis of Simon Barrow, or looked at the way in which different Muslim groups reacted to his lecture, to see that his suggestions and agenda have given succour to the most reactionary forces in religion.

Posted by John Omani at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 7:56pm GMT

John: I don't think its as simple as that. He is trying to work through how a pluralist society should operate in terms of the place of religion in the civil law. I don't think there is a simple liberal-conservative divide.

For example, some conservative Christians think that we should stress theocracy and the primacy of Christianity, and Muslims should be told to become Christians. They believe in public religion as long as it is Christianity.

Liberals appeared to react quite differently to the idea of exemptions and where they should lie and what the boundaries should be. More broadly, there are liberals who are religious pluralists, others whose primary concern is the nature of Islam which they view as an unwelcome threat to liberalism

I think the secularist pluralist approach is the only one which can work. Plurality and freedom to practice private religion, but no favour or legal exemption in the public sphere.

I think that's where we are heading. RW doesn't like it and nor do many others in the church, but I think that approach would be supported by most people. I have been quite surprised and think that it has provided a very sound and popular argument against any attempt to argue for exemptions. The Governments refusal to give in the the RC's over adoption was a hopeful sign for the future. I think any attempt to introduce the same sort of thing for any religions in the future will be opposed.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 11 February 2008 at 10:38pm GMT

I note the book contains: "academic contributions from experts in the fields of psychology, psychotherapy...".

In the light of their contribution to the Listening Process, The Royal College of Psychiatrists might question the use of the words "academic", "experts", "psychology" and "psychotherapy".

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 1:29am GMT

'I think the secularist pluralist approach is the only one which can work. Plurality and freedom to practice private religion, but no favour or legal exemption in the public sphere.'

I completely agree. My frustration is that RW will not take the opportunity to explore this option, and yet, as Simon Barrow noted, this could be the most hopeful and genuinely cohesive move of all.

Posted by John Omani at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 7:33am GMT

Reading the comments of contributors here about the Bishop of Winchester's approach to Holy Scripture in relation to divorce and re-marriage as opposed to same-sex couples, I do so hope that there will be equal openness and clarity on the floor of General Synod should he rise to address the Synod. I trust that all those reviewing his book will do likewise.

Posted by Commentator at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 12:38pm GMT

I agree, John, but to me it simply says why the church is utterly irrelevant to contemporary society and is simply not on the same wavelength. Conservatives will welcome this, of course, but in this instance, the arguments are not being framed in the way they like because all religions are seen as valid in RW's thinking.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 3:39pm GMT

Merseymike, John Omani & Simon Barrow (at one remove) -- "the secularist pluralist approach" is the obvious one to me, probably because I'm on this side of the pond -- trying to come up with special categories for every conceivable religious point of view is manifestly impossible.

Liberal secularism can have its blind spots, but not only is it self-correcting, it provides the most just & level playing field for people to exercise their religious convictions (or lack thereof).

Posted by Prior Aelred at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 4:07pm GMT

The "intellectual arrogance" of the "liberal elite" only manifests itself when the patience of the above is exhausted with the willful, deliberate and proud ignorance of those too stubborn to study, learn and love the living God that encompasses us all.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 7:06pm GMT

It appears that G,G&C is only available through The Latimer Trust, and has not been distributed to the wider booktrade (or what's left of it). Dunno though, the Brewers might stock it???

Posted by ezlxq at Tuesday, 12 February 2008 at 11:21pm GMT

The book is available at a discounted price here:

Posted by Neil Barber at Wednesday, 13 February 2008 at 4:52pm GMT

For those who bothered noticing, +Rowan already handled the handling of the sharia issue with far more grace than anyone else making their feelings felt, taking a bit of the blame for the mess himself: . As far as I'm concerned that effectively closes the matter.

As for `"the Church’s integrity has been “gravely undermined” by its implicit acceptance of same-sex relationships"'

Yes, quite. If you want integrity, wake up and accept *ex*plicitly.

I wonder if that's what he meant? ;)

Posted by Tim at Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 1:30pm GMT

"taking a bit of the blame for the mess himself"

Yes, that's good.

But really "taking a bit of the blame" would surely include taking some action to minimize the likeihood of suck cock-ups in the future.

Rowan Cantuar clearly doesn't get that effective communications for a public figure differs from effective communications for an Oxbridge Don. Reports indicate that his communications / public relations support is understaffed, marginalized and largely ignored.

Yet Rowan does not seem to grasp that the constant series of firestorms might possibly be related to the lack of (or ignoring of) effective communications counsel.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 14 February 2008 at 4:46pm GMT
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