Comments: Archbishop of Canterbury preaches in Nairobi

It seems, from George Conger's account, that the Archbishop delivered his sermon twice and that there were changes, apparently intended to smooth ruffled Gafcon feathers, between the two deliveries.

Conger reports "His sermons also sparked mixed responses. Following the first presentation, Archbishop Pete Akinola, the former Primate of All-Nigeria, told Anglican Ink Archbishop Welby’s sermon was “outrageous”. The Nigerian leader was incensed that Archbishop Welby had suggested there was a moral equivalence between the normalization of gay bishops and blessings by the Episcopal Church and the violation of ecclesiastical boundaries by church leaders from the Global South.

“Did you hear what he said? He is saying the sins of the Episcopal Church are as bad as border-crossing,” Archbishop Akinola said.

"However, after the second presentation, Archbishop Welby walked back his moral equivalency comments."

Posted by Roger Mortimer/Lapinbizarre at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 5:00pm BST

There's a lot of huffing and puffing around this latest GAFCON Conference, presumably in an attempt to make it seem more than it really is - that is simply a gathering of conservative bishops and clergy, certainly not an alternative Anglican Communion.

However, even for a natural conservative like Justin Welby it must have felt like going into a lions den of hubris, and some difficult inconsistencies.

GAFCON is really, if you trace it back to its root source, all about the civil war between conservatives and liberals currently being waged for the soul of the United States of America as the demographics of that previously WASP country change. Naturally conservative African Provinces have been recruited to the cause and have become the infantry whilst, to continue the military metaphor, GAFCON is the staff HQ reporting back ultimately to the Anglican Church of North America.

I listened to his sermon and In difficult (and not altogether rational) circumstances Justin Welby has done rather well.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Monday, 21 October 2013 at 10:35pm BST

I agree with 'concerned Anglican' that gafcon is really a reflection of U.S. political conservatism writ large - because of its effect upon the Africa-linked affiliates of American Republican politics.

the rise of ACNA and other North American churches of conservative ex-Anglicans, was spawned by gafcon Primates as quid-pro-quo for America's continuing support of their home-based mission.

The oddity in the mixture is the high-profile presence of former Archbishop Peter Jensen, from the Sydney Anglican Diocese in Australia; which, of course, has its own revisionist understanding of Anglican polity, that excludes women clergy and encourages Lay-presidency at the Eucharist.

While the gafcon leaders are trumpeting their understanding that gafcon in the future of the Anglican Communion, there is of course, the small matter of whether, or not, the rest of the Anglican Communion Churches agrees with them.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 12:44am BST

I'd beg to differ with Concerned Anglican; it was an awful sermon and attempting to take widely differing stances on homosexuality on different continents will only get Welby into trouble in the long run.

Thanks to this crafty Internet thing, Kenyans and Nigerians can easily find the text of Justin's EA remarks in September, just as I can see a video of him preaching in Nairobi, telling people that "kind of behaviour" (I think he means the gays) isn't the only thing that "dishonours marriage" but also the seemingly more mundane matters of wife-beating, adultery and pornography -see for yourself 23 minutes in.

Far from being a figure of hate, as he ludicrously claims in his sermon,Welby is in the middle of a honeymoon so rosy that such unlikely bedfellows as The Guardian and The Daily Mail all think he can walk on water. Which is just as well for him, as otherwise he'd probably be in a spot of trouble for comparing gays to wife-beaters.

At some point, the UK media honeymoon will end, and he'll need to be more careful as to how he tickles the ears of African congregations. In the meantime, he might pause to think about what it means to be an actual object of hate, perhaps like being a lesbian in Kibera?

And for all I've written, I actually want him to do well, and pray for him earnestly. He seems sincere, and kind. Am I just going soft in my old age and falling for the public school charm thing?

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 12:59am BST

I watched the video. Thank you, for presenting it for us to see. I agree, ¨Justin Welby has done rather well¨ (Justin Welby is a champ, he was in Guatemala and I see he still is doing his best to hold differences in tension with prayer).

Archbishop Akinola (emeritus) ought remember his extremist/divisive part regarding the massacre at Yelwa, stop with the ¨outrageous¨ mischiefmaking and pray for Anglican/others unity in silence:

Leonard Clark Beardsley
Leonardo Ricardo, Guatemala

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 3:26am BST

Archbishop Welby thinks he took a courageous stand against same sex marriage and experienced "hatred"from same sex marriage supporters. I wonder how this "hatred" compares to what is visited upon LGBTI persons in the countries represented by the prelates with whom he was visiting. Is this guy for real? Do we have another ABC who lives somewhere in a moral universe far from reality in which hate mail is equivalent to rapes, beatings, and murders? It's all hate right?

That wasn't bad enough. Welby goes on to refer to his opposition to same sex marriage as the Church's effort "to keep the marriage bed undefiled," as counseled in the Letter to the Hebrews. Of course, this partisan of biblical literacy fails to mention that the Letter to the Hebrews is referring to adultery. Evidently, Justin Welby believes that the love between two persons of the same sex defiles the marriage bed. How do get any more homophobic than that?

Let's not do what we did the last time with Rowan Williams. Let's not wait incredulously, hoping against hope, that the titular leader of the Anglican Communion will offer any good news to to the LGBTI persons living under the ruthless violence and hatred represented by those assembled primates at tea. Let's just face reality. Justin Welby is no friend or ally of LGBTI persons and our families, especially of those so unfortunate as to live in the GAFCON provinces.

Many of us in TEC gave up on the leadership of the CofE years ago. We will continue to work province to province, through the UN and NGO's, recognizing that the leadership of the Anglican Communion is no friend. It is a healthy thing that we can see clearly where Justin Welby stands, this early in his tenure in office.

Posted by Karen MacQueen+ at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 4:52am BST

"How these Christians hate one another" -- a sound scolding! But his tinny evangelical tone makes me miss his predecessor.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 4:55am BST

I'm not sure why Mervyn and Karen are surprised that an evangelical homophobe with a history of comparing same-sex relationships to adultery should turn out to be an evangelical homophobe who compares same-sex relationships to adultery. That's the way the CofE is going: it's how it spoke in parliament, it's how its synod votes, it's how a large portion of its worshippers think. Decent people shouldn't be taken in by the small, brave minority of people who will speak out with the CofE: the CofE is institutionally homophobic, and proud of it.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 11:24am BST

I haven't watched the video, but Church Times has this:

His opposition [to the bill] - "at great personal cost and being the object of much hatred" - was rooted in a desire to honour marriage, "not because we hate or fear anyone, whatever their sexuality". It was, he said, "not just that kind of behaviour that dishonours marriage", but also violence, adultery, and pornography.

With Karen and Mervyn I'm having trouble understanding this as anything other than linking homosexuality with violence, adultery, and pornography, as behaviors that "dishonour marriage."

This is just reprehensible.

And then we have the suggestion that "new structures" are needed. I don't think so--not if they are intended to enforce this moral understanding!

Why doesn't Lambeth just leave well enough alone? Why doesn't it just accept that various corners of the Communion are going to disagree strongly with each other, for decades to come?

Accepting that fact suggests that rather than build new structures, Lambeth should limit itself to a convening role, and wait the disagreement out.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 11:29am BST

Precisely, Karen McQueen. I rarely comment on CofE stuff, because they have, through the ABC, divorced themselves from TEC. The ABC is nothing to us.

It astounds me how someone who compares me to wife beaters, child abusers, pornographers - even murderers - can stand there with crocodile tears and trembling lip to ask why, oh, WHY? do I not want to be their brother?!

You threw me away. Enjoy my absence.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 11:54am BST

"With Karen and Mervyn I'm having trouble understanding this as anything other than linking homosexuality with violence, adultery, and pornography, as behaviors that "dishonour marriage."

That is indeed what he appears to have said. Most regrettable.

He is squandering his chance to be taken seriously.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 1:19pm BST

This is what he says in the recording of his sermon:-

“Let marriage be held in honour by all. Let the marriage bed be kept undefiled. For God will judge fornicators and adulterers”. Power - sex. In every church, in every time, this is a source of weakness. We are called to be faithful because God is faithful to us - the writer goes on to say that. In England, we in the Church, when the Government brought in the Same Sex (Marriage) Bill, which is now law, disagreed with it and spoke against it, because we seek to honour marriage, not because we hate or fear anyone, whatever their sexuality. To hate or fear is not the teaching of scripture. I spoke against the new law in Parliament, at great personal cost, and being the object of much hatred. But it is not just that kind of behaviour that dishonours marriage - violence in marriage, failing to respect each other, adultery, pornography, all dishonour marriage. In the church we need to repent of behaviour that dishonours marriage, and not pretend that we are right and the rest of the world, alone, sins.”

I think this is the first time he has said that same-sex marriage "dishonours" marriage.

In the House of Lords debate, he said "It is clearly essential that stable and faithful same-sex relationships should, where those involved want it, be recognised and supported with as much dignity and the same legal effect as marriage." and "It is also necessary to express, as has been done already, total rejection of homophobic language, which is wrong and, more than that, sickening."

That seems quite a long way from saying that same sex relationships expressed as marriage "dishonour" marriage - doesn't it?

I am also interested by the suggestion that he opposed the legislation "at great personal cost" and that he was the object of "hatred". It is true that he was widely criticised. But that is not the same as being hated. Perhaps he has rather a thin skin, and felt wounded by the criticism.

Posted by badman at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 2:32pm BST

Well at least our Abp did not come back waving a piece of paper and saying 'peace in our time'!
But, regrettably, in other respects, it bears some comparison with Mr Chamberlain's ill-fated visit to Munich.
One can only admire his desire to demonstrate the eirenic qualities for which many believe he was elected, but choosing to sup with the superannuated dinosaurs Jensen and Akinola seems ill-advised, as does saying that he wished he could have attended GAFCON.
If it was an attempt at appeasement, both Akinola and Jensen appear to have treated it with contempt.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 3:31pm BST

I don't think he was expecting his speech and actions in the House of Lords to come at great personal cost. He was visibly shocked when he realised that even there the majority of people believed his stance to be homophobic.

I'm not quite sure what the personal cost actually is. He hasn't lost his job or his position in the church. Some people who were only cautiously optimistic about him now dislike him. Ah well.

He's probably lost his influence in the Lords. The most astonishing thing about that is that he is surprised by it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 4:12pm BST

"at great personal cost"

Yes. This is the most outrageous part. What about the suffering of LGBT persons? Especially those of us who have been bullied, sacked, attacked, ostracized, and excluded from our full human rights? And what about the suffering of LGBT persons in some countries in Africa, especially the GAFCON provinces?

There is a "cost" in oppressing people. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he shuddered when he reflected on the fact that God is Just, of course, he was thinking about slavery. But yes, there is a cost to hurting others, it just isn't nearly as harsh as being on the receiving end.

So maybe we should give equality and justice a chance?

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 4:43pm BST

Justin Welby, like his predecessor, appear to have little savvy when it comes to the power and speed of the modern day media. Did he think he could make a speech in Nairobi, sucking up to most of GAFCON's well-known prejudices, and not have it reported back in the UK and the USA? It was both an insult to the LGBT community; and an insult to his audience - does he think they don't read what he says when he's back home? I want to like Justin Welby, but he's getting more slippery by the day.

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 5:51pm BST

".... at great personal cost"? Drama queen!

Posted by Roger Mortimer/Lapinbizarre at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 6:14pm BST

I'm quite tired of hearing what our church leaders are against when it comes to gay people.
I would much rather they stated telling us what they are for!

Is there a way of turning the debate to that question? It should be quite illuminating and it could provide a way forward and out of all this wearying negativity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 6:50pm BST

Nevermind the content of the sermon, I just reacted to this: "GAFCON vision for a renewed Church"

There's an oxymoron if ever I saw one.

But if Welby compared same-sex marriage to adultery and domestic violence: ANATHEMA.

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 7:54pm BST

In listing thse sins which "dishonour marriage", I think Welby was actually trying to challenge his audience. I think the suggestion was that these things are commonly done, even accepted, in the society to which he was preaching, and that his audience needed to recognise that if gay marriage was sinful (and I suppose I'd better say that I don't think it is!), they had to recognise that all these other things were just as bad. In other words a mote and beam point.

Posted by Helen at Tuesday, 22 October 2013 at 9:24pm BST

Now that I see the full text, it looks as though the Archbishop was using the vague phrase "That kind of behavior" in order to achieve some sort of plausible deniability back in the UK.

I don't understand why anyone thinks that people will tolerate such slippery wordsmanship.

Obviously his local audience heard "that kind of behavior" and understood the Archbishop to mean "homosexuality."

I will understand the Archbishop the same way.

Could a chaplain to the Archbishop please explain to him that homophobia is a sin?

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 1:51am BST

I agree with Helen, this was an attempt to put sin into context and not to pretend that there is this one unique sin of homosexuality that leaves all others in the shade.

It's still an unfortunate argument because, as our opponents so often remind us, we are not arguing to legalise and bless wife beating. It's not consistent with what we're actually saying about homosexuality.

A much more valid approach would be to say that some churches, having done the theology, have come to the genuine conclusion that marriage equality is possible and blessed by God, and while we do not have to agree with them, we should learn to respect their view just as we expect them to respect ours.

It's time this whole issue was removed from the critical list and a little more acceptance for local solutions for local churches put in its place instead.
It won't be easy but it really ought to be started now.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 9:17am BST

Oh, dear -- "at great personal cost" and "hatred" -- I think his predecessor never spoke in this self-serving and touchy way -- a whiff of vanity and wounded ego, methinks. And NO empathy with lgbt folk.

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 12:44pm BST

*In other words a mote and beam point.*

It's possible. But if so, it's spectacularly incoherent. The problem with arguing that "if you're going to condemn X, you should also condemn Y and Z" arguments is that if you are in favour of X, you are presuming people will react by saying "oh, OK, as Y and Z are OK, X is OK as well". But I doubt the CofE, and doubly so in Nairobi, is going to start claiming domestic violence, pornography and adultery are good things, so on this occasion Welby's argument reduces to "you should be condemning X as much as you properly condemn Y and Z".

So Welby's comparing same-sex marriage to wife-beating. It's impossible to see what else the speech can be saying. As wife-beating is, I hope, generally regarded as a bad thing, he's saying that same-sex marriage is, likewise, a generally bad thing, and indeed should be criminal (as domestic violence is).

When one makes the case that Archbishops of Canturbury are gay-hating bigots on Guardian CiF, Savitri Hensman is usually on hand to explain why it is that we are misunderstanding the deep thinking of theologians whose intellectual hems we are not fit to kiss, who are boldly opposing oppression even as we lesser people mishear them as promoting it. I think I've seen her around on TA, and it would be interesting to hear her explanation for this speech. Because to those of us who simply read plain English, it is an absolutely vile statement.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 23 October 2013 at 5:27pm BST

I agree with Helen and Erika, Interested Observer. It was a bad choice of analogies on Justin Welby's part though, even for someone who does not support equal marriage. I certainly do not regard him as a gay-hating bigot - there are plenty of people in the world who are actually working to have LGBT people jailed or killed, of whom he is not one. However I cannot recall ever suggesting that those making such claims about Archbishops of Canterbury were 'misunderstanding the deep thinking of theologians whose intellectual hems we are not fit to kiss'. Can you remind me of a single such instance?

Posted by Savi Hensman at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 12:21am BST

I've seen you, more than once, counter the proposition that Rowan Williams was soft on homophobic bigotry with reference to "The body's grace", which apparently demonstrates what a first rate thinker Williams is. If only people understood it, they'd see how wrong they are.

"The body's grace" is third-rate gibberish: it's ten pages of saying almost nothing, dressed up in faux-intellectual clothing.

For example "Solitary sexual activity works at the level of release of tension and a particular localised physical pleasure; but insofar as it has nothing much to do with being perceived from beyond myself in a way that changes my self-awareness, it isn't of much interest for a discussion of sexuality as process and relation, and says little about grace." That says nothing that "wanking is bad" doesn't, but takes longer to say it. It's cargo cult philosophy, looking as though it's wrestling with issues when it's really wrestling with itself.

The reason people can't get meaning from it is not because they're not up to understanding what it's saying; it's because there's no meaning there to find. Williams didn't provide an abstract, because he wouldn't be able to. Using that as a stick to beat people who see Williams as a man entirely relaxed about homophobia, is granting the man a free pass he doesn't deserve.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 24 October 2013 at 9:15pm BST

Whatever you think of the theology in 'The body's grace', Interested Observer, obviously Rowan Williams' intention in giving a talk for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement in 1989 arguing that a biblical sexual ethic allowed for non-procreative sex, including between members of the same sex, was to promote greater acceptance of same-sex relationships. And that was the effect, encouraging many Christians to join in acknowledging the good that could result from same-sex partnerships.

The previous year, Rowan had protested at the Diocese of London's treatment of LGCM and written in a Jubilee Group booklet, 'The past year has been a wintry one for the Church of England; a time in which it has often been difficult to believe that it is possible to be an Anglican with integrity... We have, it seems, been happy to collude with the paranoia of populist homophobia, fuelled by the AIDS epidemic and by myths of gay "propaganda" in schools — fuelled, that is, by tragedy on the one hand and lies on the other. Last November, the General Synod passed a resolution whose force remains ambiguous, declaring the undesirability of gay clergy being allowed to express and experience their sexual identity in the way most people do... To argue for the need for gay liberation in the Church is not to commend a policy of letting everyone go their way in a bland situationist paradise, but to ask that this issue become part of the collective and public reflection of the Church, something on which experience can be shared and supportive and challenging patterns evolved.' This had a major impact at the time.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Friday, 25 October 2013 at 12:01am BST

I agree with Savi Hensman, that Rowan Williams' 'The Body's Grace', gave great encouragement to people in the Church who happened to be blessed/cursed with intrinsic LGBT-ness.

I really believe that he was bludgeoned into a seeming turnaround by the homophobia of the gafcon primates at Lambeth. This experience undoubtedly un-nerved him - to the point where he had to effectively withdraw the candidacy of Jeffrey John for the role of bishop in the Church of England, aided and abetted by the nervous nellies in the C.of E. House of Bishops.

Rowan's concern for institutional unity overcame his quest for justice for LGBT people in the church. Who knows, future Anglicans may be grateful that he 'kept the Communion together' for so long - even though it was virtually torpedoed by his illustrious predecessor. In the meantime, Gafcon enters into a triumphalistic phase.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 26 October 2013 at 9:54am BST

Whatever Lord Williams said in his address to LGCM in 1989 his actions and words have shown him to go back on that position. Indeed, I seem to remember him denigrating his previous opinion as those of a youthful theologian and not to be owned by a mature archbishop.

Posted by Commentator at Saturday, 26 October 2013 at 10:59am BST

Certainly Rowan Williams failed to follow through on his promising earlier opposition to homophobia, for which I have frequently criticised him, including in Guardian 'Comment is free'. Labelling him as a 'gay-hating bigot' however would have been inaccurate and unjust.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Saturday, 26 October 2013 at 11:41pm BST

"Labelling him as a 'gay-hating bigot' however would have been inaccurate and unjust."

I would agree. The problem is that he sided with bona fide gay hating bigots in Uganda and Nigeria, in the name of "unity." Where "unity" with the more inclusive TEC was clearly not a concern. It put him on the wrong side of the narrative of the moral arc of the universe bending towards justice.

The gay hating bigots have caused much suffering. It's always nice to see compassion for the suffering rather than support for the oppressors, especially in a Christian religious leader. Speaking as a sufferer in this case.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 28 October 2013 at 4:58pm GMT
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