Thursday, August 07, 2008

London Times reports Rowan Williams says gay relationships "comparrable to marriage"

BB NOTE: Woke up this morning to this being one of the lead stories on the morning news. From here. Now when I heard this I thought - how old are these letters? Well, they are eight years old and they have "suddenly" appeared after the Archbishop of Canterbury was as strong as he has ever been for TEC to cease and desist its affirmed practices of ordinations and rites for non-celibate hom0sexuals. If this is what we call in United States politics "opposition research" and if this was a political operation in the US this is meant to discredit Rowan Williams for taking a harder stand - so hard that it caused the Presiding Bishop to snub a standing ovation following Rowan William's final presidential address at the close of the Lambeth Conference by standing with her arms folded while other Episcopal bishops walked out.

We remember how outraged former Newark diocesan bishop, John Spong, was and wrote a scathing public letter to Rowan Williams denouncing his betrayal of the liberal cause - that he was chosen to bring in full inclusion to the Anglican Communion. Rowan's change of heart - now that he's Archbishop of Canterbury and can no longer openly advocate views he might have held eight years ago - has embarrassed the progressives in the West.

Rowan Williams believes that gay sexual relationships can “reflect the love of God” in a way that is comparable to marriage, The Times has learnt.

Gay partnerships pose the same ethical questions as those between men and women, and the key issue for Christians is that they are faithful and lifelong, he believes.

Dr Williams is known to be personally liberal on the issue but the strength of his views, revealed in private correspondence shown to The Times, will astonish his critics.

The news threatens to reopenbitter divisions over ordaining gay priests, which pushed the Anglican Communion towards a split.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams recommitted the Anglican Communion to its orthodox position that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture at the Lambeth Conference, which closed on Sunday.

However, in an exchange of letters with an evangelical Christian, written eight years ago when he was Archbishop of Wales, he described his belief that biblical passages criticising homosexual sex were not aimed at people who were gay by nature.

He argued that scriptural prohibitions were addressed to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety. He wrote: “I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.” Dr Williams described his view as his “definitive conclusion” reached after 20 years of study and prayer. He drew a distinction between his own beliefs as a theologian and his position as a church leader, for which he had to take account of the traditionalist view.

The letters, written in the autumn of 2000 and 2001, were exchanged with Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist and evangelical Christian living in his former archdiocese in South Wales, who had written challenging him on the issue.

In reply, he described how his view began to change from that of opposing gay relationships in 1980. His mind became “unsettled” by contact as a university teacher with Christian students who believed that the Bible forbade promiscuity rather than gay sex.

Dr Williams, who was ordained a priest in 1978, became a lecturer at Cambridge two years later and was appointed Dean of Clare College in 1984.

He told Dr Pitt that by the end of the 1980s he had “definitely come to the conclusion” that the Bible did not denounce faithful relationships between people who happened to be gay.

He cited two academics as pivotal in influencing his view. One of them was Jeffrey John, the celibate homosexual whom he later forced not to become Bishop of Reading after an outcry from conservatives.

In his 1989 essay The Body’s Grace, Dr Williams argued that the Church’s acceptance of contraception meant that it acknowledged the validity of nonprocreative sex. This could be taken as a green light for gay sex.

Liberals have been bitterly disappointed that a man whom they regarded as chosen to advance their agenda has instead abided by the traditionalist consensus of the majority.

In the correspondence Dr Williams wrote of his regret that the issue had become “very much politicised” and was treated by many as “the sole or primary marker of Christian orthodoxy”.

Asked to comment yesterday, Lambeth Palace quoted a recent interview in which the Archbishop said: “When I teach as a bishop I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why.”


Anonymous said...

This "split" in the ABC's belief/employment system must require immense psychological energy and cause great stress. In the non-Church world one would hope to not work for an institution with which one disagrees. Perhaps he should not have accepted the post.

Douglas LeBlanc said...

I'm surprised this correspondence is treated as news. Rowan Williams spelled out his thought on sexuality rather clearly in his essay "The Body's Grace" in 1989:

I don't see how this correspondence qualifies as opposition research, considering that Dr. Pitt clearly wrote from a conservative perspective.

Anonymous said...

Possibly he had a 'Becket' moment?

What is lost in this debate is that homosexuals are no less loved by God and are called to His kingdom. It is courage to leave behind what Scripture identifies as sin, stop quenching the Spirit, deny the flesh and walk with Christ. Somehow that has been translated by the Woodstock generation holding sway in TEC as conditional through the false logic of what satisfies carnal desire is right.

I have more respect for the A/BC after Lambeth, and your reporting and expressing your spiritually motivated emotions.

Perpetua said...

Baby Blue,

I wonder if you could explain your theory on the motivation for the release of these letters now? This seems to be similar to the strategically timed release of the London gay wedding story. Both stories were damaging to ostensible allies of the LGBT movement. Yet,it seems to me that both may have been released by people in the LGBT movement. T J McMahon has suggested Blackmail???