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Archbishop Of Canterbury Compares Gay Relationships To Marriage

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 • 4:08 pm

In private correspondence, seen by the Daily Telegraph, Dr Rowan Williams, refutes the Anglican Communion’s traditional teaching that homosexuality is sinful.

Furthermore, he expresses his hope that the Church will change its position to be more accepting of gay partnerships.

His comments – made in a letter written shortly before he became Archbishop of Canterbury – will infuriate the conservatives who boycotted the recent Lambeth Conference in protest at the presence of liberals who elected Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop.

Leading evangelicals have claimed that he is in an “untenable position”.

“The Bible does not address the matter of appropriate behaviour for those who are, for whatever reason, homosexual by instinct or nature,” Dr Williams writes.

“By the end of the 80s I had definitely come to the conclusion that scripture was not dealing with the predicament of persons whom we should recognise as homosexual by nature.

“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 the about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.”

Although Dr Williams was known to have liberal views on the issue of homosexuality when he was appointed as archbishop in 2002, since moving to Canterbury he has tried to hold a traditional line for the sake of unity in the Church.

However, he makes clear in the letter that he believes that the Church could relax its strict teaching with time.

The entire article is available here.

46 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook

Surely it’s clear that reading Rowan *since* this correspondence that he has shifted his position in the past five years?

[1] Posted by Peter O on 08-06-2008 at 04:34 PM • top

Ruth Gledhill has more on this in the Times:

and also on her blog, where pdfs of the letters will be posted:

The Times also has this editorial:

[2] Posted by Micky on 08-06-2008 at 04:43 PM • top

Just another reason why the next leader of the Anglican Communion will be elected by the Primates and not the Prime Minister of England.

[3] Posted by David+ on 08-06-2008 at 04:46 PM • top

#1 What makes you certain he’s suddenly changed the personal opinion he’s held for over 20 years (at least)?

[4] Posted by Micky on 08-06-2008 at 04:48 PM • top

This really isn’t news.  His personal views have been well known.  Only the most optimistic institutionalist believed his personal views had changed, or would be subordinated to his sense of duty as the ABC.

[5] Posted by Going Home on 08-06-2008 at 04:51 PM • top

His comments – made in a letter written shortly before he became Archbishop of Canterbury – will infuriate the conservatives who boycotted the recent Lambeth Conference in protest at the presence of liberals who elected Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop.

...and that is why we are bringing it to the world’s attention!  We did not get enough of a donnybrook to report on during the conference, so we need to stir some up!

[6] Posted by West Coast Cleric on 08-06-2008 at 04:52 PM • top

Not that anyone has been waiting for me, an unknown layman in Ohio, to suggest that he resign—but really, he needs to resign.

[7] Posted by Nasty, Brutish & Short on 08-06-2008 at 04:52 PM • top

Err Fr. David:

That would require an Act of Parliament to change how the ABC is appointed.  However the current Prime Minister (himself a son of a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) Minister) has stated that he does not wish to be the one, and has appointed a special advisor on the matter of appointing bishops in the CofE


[8] Posted by Alasdair+ on 08-06-2008 at 05:02 PM • top

This is not news.  But it does explain the man’s cowardice and dishonesty over the last five and a half years.

[9] Posted by Christopher Johnson on 08-06-2008 at 05:07 PM • top


And it is principally because of this evident dishonesty that Abp. Williams ought to be immediately called upon by the entire AC to resign.  Oh, wait, revisionists won’t be among the recallers because they got nearly everything they wanted courtesty of the Fraud of Lambeth Palace.

Congratulations Abp. Williams, your dishonesty may be eventually credited by historians as the hatchet that slew the entity formerly known as the AC.

[10] Posted by Athanasius Returns on 08-06-2008 at 05:24 PM • top

Dr Rowan Williams, <i>refutes the Anglican Communion’s traditional teaching that homosexuality is sinful.</i>

Where is Sarah when one needs her.  To “refute” a teaching means to demonstrate or prove that the teaching is false, wrong.  Certainly even a Telegraph writer should know that.

Often where “refute” is used incorrectly, the proper word is “rebut”. However without seeing the letter we don’t know if +++Williams attempted to rebut arguments by opponents of the AC’s trad teaching or not.

Surely “denies” or some synonym is the right word here?

[11] Posted by Toral1 on 08-06-2008 at 05:32 PM • top

I believe ++Rowan to be a weak leader (as are most of the bishops in TEC) but that being said one must give him credit for recognizing that his personal opinion does not change 2,000 years of church history.

[12] Posted by JackieB on 08-06-2008 at 05:36 PM • top

Any hope for any meaningful follow-up to the Lambeth Conference is now gone.  I can only hope (imagine) that if the Primate meeting actually occurs, ABC Williams will be challenged by the GAFCON Primates.  I assume this is very welcome news to Katherine and her crew.  The creation (God willing) of a new communion not centered on Canterbury should be furthered by this news. BTW, I wonder if there will be any more invitations from Rome extended to ABC Williams.

[13] Posted by Tractarian on 08-06-2008 at 05:42 PM • top

In his public pronouncements since holding the office of ABC, Dr Williams has consistently upheld the teaching of the Communion as being Lambeth 1:10.  I am not sure what more one can ask of him and I don’t think one should make a window into the man’s soul.

I have also heard him consistently defend the church’s teaching on traditional marriage as the only Christian approach available for sexuality.

It is not Dr Williams who is undermining the Communion teaching.  It is TEC and ACoC alone who bear responsibility.

[14] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 08-06-2008 at 05:50 PM • top

Williams lacks courage and truthfulness but should show common decency and resign as ABC. Staying degrades both COE and the wider communion.

[15] Posted by stevenanderson on 08-06-2008 at 06:08 PM • top

You shall know them by their fruits.  TEC and the ACoC have, in fact, been undermining Communion teaching.  And Dr. Williams invited them to the Lambeth Conference anyway.

[16] Posted by Christopher Johnson on 08-06-2008 at 06:34 PM • top

In William’s answer as to whether or not he will uphold Lambeth 1.10 from 1998, his answer was that as the ABC he does.  He DIDN’T say what his personal opinion was.  This is akin to all those fraud bishops and priests who say they will uphold the Nicene Creed even though the don’t believe all of it.  How well has that worked for all of us?

I think it speaks alot to his approach to TEc and the AcoC the past few years.  He doesn’t want to discipline those whom he probably agrees with 95% of the time and those whom he supports in the CofE.  I don’t think should surprise anyone who knew of his previous “emissions” from The Body’s Grace and it certainly casts doubt on his role as an “honest broker” in these disputes.  He makes the right sounds, but is short on actions and consequences. This is not a surprise.  It explains alot.  He should resign.

[17] Posted by Bill2 on 08-06-2008 at 06:44 PM • top

It is odd to find myself defending him again but Dr Williams has been consistent in holding that he sees his job as providing space for those with opposing views to meet and talk, even if the final result will be some sort of division.  Looked at in this light his actions in inviting TEC bishops are consistent even though I do feel he has a lot of explaining to do.

His defence of the Communion teaching is usually predicated with “if that is where we are” but whatever his personal views are I would not use that as a rather elderly stick to beat him over the head with.

[18] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 08-06-2008 at 06:50 PM • top

Of course, having been asked to abide by moratoria, TEC has a bit of a high wire act as not abiding by them will be inconsistent with their stated desire to be in the inner section of the Covenanted Communion - although obviously I do not understand all the internal workings of its ‘polity’ [assuming for one moment that it does].

[19] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 08-06-2008 at 06:55 PM • top

Pageanmaster writes,

In his public pronouncements since holding the office of ABC, Dr Williams has consistently upheld the teaching of the Communion as being Lambeth 1:10. 

Sure, with such bold statements like, “I believe that Lambeth 1.10 is still the teaching of the Communion.”

I have also heard him consistently defend the church’s teaching on traditional marriage as the only Christian approach available for sexuality.

Words, words, words, but his actions have consistently favored the revisionists. (Yes, he didn’t invite Gene but I believe that he would have if he felt that he could have.)

It is not Dr Williams who is undermining the Communion teaching.  It is TEC and ACoC alone who bear responsibility.

Well, he certainly has undermined the attempts of the Communion to address the undermining by the TEC and ACoC.

He could use the bully pulpit. He quickly and vociferously denounced the Nigerian Bp Orama who was very much falsely quoted as saying that gays are not fit to live. (BTW, did Rowan ever apologize?) How about him condemning the deposition of Bp Cox? The impending deposition of Bp Duncan?

I don’t know whether he is a Chamberlain or a Quisling. Either way it’s not good.

[20] Posted by robroy on 08-06-2008 at 07:00 PM • top

bold For a fist full of dollars from KJS at 815, Dr Williams will say anything to make her happy.
Money = Power

[21] Posted by Tom Dennis on 08-06-2008 at 07:01 PM • top

#22 I wonder if he did get a fistful of dollars from TEC.  Reality is by inviting TEC half the Communion didn’t turn up and they bumped up the figures by including TEC bishops without jurisdiction and ecumenical partner bishops; hints are that TEC hasn’t coughed up.

[22] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 08-06-2008 at 07:14 PM • top

By the standards of ++Akinola, ++Orombi & co. the See of Canterbury is currently held by a ‘heretic’ - and yet none of them will break communion with him. Seems like they’re happy to overlook ‘heresy’ when it’s to their advantage - remaining in the AC. How honourable is that position?

[23] Posted by Micky on 08-06-2008 at 07:15 PM • top

#23 - It is mischievous to impute such a view of Dr Williams to +Akinola and +Orombi and unfair to Dr Williams.  Please be more accurate.

[24] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 08-06-2008 at 07:17 PM • top

The Telegraph article evidently was written to sell newspapers/boost readership.  Ruth G. has published contents of the ABC’s letters and it is noteworthy that in 2001 he said: “Most Christian homosexuals I know have no interest in ‘converting’ anyone to their orientation, far from it; nor are they asking for a charter for promiscuity. I should deplore either of those, and I have said publicly that anything that looks like pressure to adopt homosexual behaviour, especially in an educations context, is wrong in my eyes”  Now 7+ years later, surely he can see, and has allowed to be demonstrated to the watching world, that none of the above describes the real situation?  And, he being an intelligent person with a trained mind, will change that mind?

[25] Posted by TACit on 08-06-2008 at 07:18 PM • top

A man of his obvious intellect cannot write what he has written in a way that refutes thousands of years of understanding, without explaining how prophets, priests, kings, rabbis, church fathers, and everyone else could have been wrong. There is something else at work here - I do not know what. Somebody does.

I have an odd feeling that there’s something deeper here that we still don’t know.

So, he has believed one thing personally, and said other things while in his office as ABp of Canterbury. It explains how he could have allowed Lambeth to avoid open discussion, and a bona fide debate, of the Great Matter until the end, while at the same time there was a homosexual presence all over the campus.

I agree that he should resign.

[26] Posted by Ralph on 08-06-2008 at 07:22 PM • top

Lets be honest folks….does anyone really care what the Archbishop of Canterbury says or does? The world has changed in the last 400+ years, and England isn’t the center of the Anglican universe anymore.  GAFCON has arisen from the debris of this communion and shown that leadership can exist outside the British Empire.  As Williams himself said, “all the pieces are on the table” and he’s right…....but the pieces are GAFCON, the Southern Cone, and Common Cause.  Bring those pieces together and lets get back to business.  The ABC has shown himself to be a redundant player in the communion and TEC continues to pollute it.  The church is NOT a democracy folks….....God is in charge and we’d better stop “manipulating” his church and start listening to what he’s trying to tell us.  TEC…’re dying and you’re still not taking the hint.

[27] Posted by The Templar on 08-06-2008 at 08:21 PM • top

Just saw this on the Episcopal Church webpage:
“Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will conduct a live webcast to talk about the Lambeth Conference on Thursday, August 7 at 2 p.m. Eastern time (1 p.m. Central, noon Mountain, 11 a.m. Pacific).
Originating from the Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Ave., New York City, the webcast will be accessible through the homepage of the Episcopal Church’s website at
Questions will be accepted from the live audience and via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Phone-in questions will not be accepted.

[28] Posted by The Templar on 08-06-2008 at 08:42 PM • top

Well, I guess the one positive thing I can say for +Rowan Williams is that he did not succumb to blackmail when someone called or wrote him last week and said something to the effect of : “If you don’t say A and do B, I am going to give a copy of this letter to the press.”
‘Cause I can’t see anything to be gained by either him or Dr. Pitt handing it over to the Times at this point.  If Dr. Pitt wanted to damage +Rowan, the time to have released the letter would have been the day after the Lambeth invitations went out, or after the bogus JSC report on the HoB meeting.
  And certainly, I can’t see +Rowan releasing it himself.
  The firestorm has no doubt already started on the listserve and the revisionist sites, half thinking it wonderful that the ABoC is on their side, the other half screaming that he is a traitor to the cause.
  This is one more nail in the coffin of the Communion. By itself, the letter probably causes several thousands of people to avoid church next Sunday in the CoE and TEC. It could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some parishes.  Whatever credibility +Rowan re-established over the last few weeks is now shattered.  Now, in all likelihood, more letters will be dragged out of closets and desks, and soon the press will have its pillory set up.
  It doesn’t even make me angry anymore, just sad.  I will pray for +Rowan, because I think some judge him harshly.  Rationally, I can’t see that this was published other than as some personal vendetta by somebody.  That does not mean that he has been a neutral arbiter of disputes in the Communion- he has not.  But I agree with Pageantmaster above- the destruction of the Communion is not +Rowan’s fault- that fault lies with the radical progressives in TEC and ACoC who deliberately tore it apart.  +Rowan did what he could do to hold it together- he did not understand until it was too late what actually needed to be done.

[29] Posted by tjmcmahon on 08-06-2008 at 08:53 PM • top
[30] Posted by The Templar on 08-06-2008 at 09:05 PM • top

The problem is whether ++William’s dithering and indecisiveness was just his way trying to make the best of the bad situation, or being reluctant to break with his con freres.  Realistically, how can he lower the boom on people who act the way he’d LIKE to act if given half the chance.  It completely shatters his credibility and casts doubt on everything he does.

He has two choices now.  Come clean and resign or he may try to prove he hasn’t been hopelessly compromised and act like a leader and say that the Anglican Communion has said X and you have refused to it so you’re out or reduced to observer status and any parish or diocese that wants out will be granted protection.  If he just holds on, the situation will just continue down the same chaotic path.  Now MORE THAN EVER he will just be ignored.  He’s got to come down on one side or the other.

[31] Posted by Bill2 on 08-06-2008 at 09:20 PM • top

Now MORE THAN EVER he will just be ignored. 

“More than ever” is saying a lot, after the gay Eucharist, the sharia fiasco, etc.

[32] Posted by robroy on 08-06-2008 at 10:26 PM • top

Pageantmaster, I agree with you much of the time, but you are wrong about this. Your defense of the ABC is very similar to the defenses we raised to the “moderate” Episcopal Bishops years ago, e.g., they were not to blame, Spong is. Frankly, that has it up side down. It is not the radicals that have killed the AC, it is the institutinalists like the ABC who hid a personal sympathy to the revisionist cause under misleading public rhetoric and confusion.

To whom much is given…

[33] Posted by Going Home on 08-07-2008 at 01:14 AM • top

#35 Going Home
That’s alright - I have no idea of Dr Williams’ private thoughts, I can only go on his public comments oral and written in the last 5 years or so since he has been ABC.

This story came up in all the major UK papers: Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent.  Who has the capacity for getting stories out quickly to journalists?  Think of that +Dawani story.  Who is cross with Dr Williams now?  Who would want to get rid of him now?  In whose interests would this be? 

I am just very suspicious along with Fr Dean A. Einerson and Mark McCall on the T19 thread here

[34] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 08-07-2008 at 02:04 AM • top

His position was known from the start.
Which is why he got the job from our “Stonewall” prime minister.

[35] Posted by jedinovice on 08-07-2008 at 03:18 AM • top

I do believe it’s very important to read what Rowan has said publicly over the past half-decade. He has a very high ecclesiology, and meeting and sharing with traditional Christians from all over the Communion *has* affected his understanding on this issue. He has also since becoming Archbishop of Canterbury had the opportunity to meet a number of former homosexuals and this has also influenced his thinking.

The issue as people here rightly highlight is whether he can hold one position firmly in public and still believe another in private. I’m not as convinced as some here are that he can continue to be so double-minded.

Remember, there are an increasing number of revisionists who want to force the issue of sexuality, both within and without the Church of England. There are a number of the GLBT lobby who are looking to out gay clergy and bishops, whether with their consent or not. You all know the story of the CofE bishop who was “outed” at the start of the year, but (must of) you don’t know the second name that was pushed forward by some, but ignored by the press. There is a huge media battle about to be fought and some will stop at nothing to discredit opponents and to publicise the cause.

[36] Posted by Peter O on 08-07-2008 at 03:33 AM • top

Actually, this is good news.

After the Lambeth conference out it pops AGAIN that Williams, in essence, supports the gay agenda. For any GS/GAFCON thinking Lambeth means anything, this is a great and timely reminder why they must bypass the two faced Williams.

It’s beautiful timing.

You can’t trust a man who walks two paths.  To quote Eccesliasticus (and ignoring whether inspired or not - there’s wisdom here:

“Woe to them that are of a double heart and to wicked lips, and to the hands that do evil, and to the sinner that goeth on the earth two ways.  Woe to them that are fainthearted, who believe not God: and therefore they shall not be protected by him.”

Also, it has been found again and again that where there is a conflict between a man’s head and his heart, the man will always choose the heart.  Which is what Williams has done constitently.

To the Primates - take heed!

[37] Posted by jedinovice on 08-07-2008 at 03:35 AM • top

Trying to think who might have leaked the letters, I would not put it past forces in the Episcopal Church (or Integrity).  Could it be part of PB Schori’s wish to expose “hypocrisy” in the Church of England and deflect attention from the problems in TEC?  The TEC leadership did not get all it wanted from Lambeth and so highly-placed individuals may have retaliated.  I know there are other likely scenarios, too, possibly from within the Church of England.  ++Williams is definitely being squeezed on all sides.  I am only surprised that the press considers these comments such surprising news; of course, it’s the airing of the letters themselves that makes it current and newsworthy—and it should be quite a detective effort to trace their journey into the newspapers.  It looks like a well-coordinated PR effort.  What is the likely impact on the conservative cause?  A lot of the orthodox will not be surprised, but many moderates (especially in the Global Scouth) could have their eyes opened.

[38] Posted by Paula on 08-07-2008 at 03:45 AM • top

The British media - of all kinds, are near totally, 100* liberal.

The times has shifted dramatically from being right wing, to middle of the road, to rabidly left wing.  Half the members of the National Secular society write for it. It is massively pro-homosexual and anti-Christian.

The Guardian, Independent (it definitely is NOT!), the Mirror, are all radically left wing, nearly communist.

The Daily Telegraph is kind of right wing but become suddenly weirdly dislocated in it’s religion reporting.

The Express is moderately right wing but disinterested in religion.  It’s obsession is house prices. 

The Daily Mail is about the only consistent paper and the only one that supports the orthodox.  I used to think it was rabidly right wing but such is the shift to the left across England now it’s moderately right.

The Sun just backs the winner of the day whilst going on Moral Crusades with topless girls on Page 3.  But no-one buys the Sun to read anything.  It’s literally written for a reading age of 10.

ALL British Television is massively left wing, anti-Christian and pro-homosexual.  Indeed, pro-free sex all the time.

There is almost no right wing voice in the media at all and just about zero allies for the orthodox here.  I don’t think a Christian could get a job in any media format now.

Therefore, I suspect the left wing media here (they would not have exposed this to help the orthodox!) are pressuring Williams to be honest and get off the fence onto their side.  Everyone knows he’s a hypocrite from the eyes of both camps.  But also, the media are pushing HARD for total inclusion. This is a message to the country that “Look, Christians also believe homosexual practice is fine.  Remember that when a fundamentalist (a fundamentalist is any religious believer who disagrees with the gay agenda or actually believes in a God) tells you otherwise.”

It’s probably part of the long term brainwashing of the public going on here.
England is very much “All gay all the time” and the media are working with the Government social engineering project big time.

[39] Posted by jedinovice on 08-07-2008 at 04:08 AM • top

The main defense of Rowan Williams, both formerly by comm-con-ners and currently by Lambeth bureaucrats is that Rowan has put aside his liberal leanings as an Oxford professor for the sake of unity of the Church. We have,

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.

But the above letter was written when he was archbishop of Wales. So perhaps he should have written,

When I teach as an Archbishop of Canterbury I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why…but if I am just a priest, bishop or Archbishop of Wales, I can espouse views contrary to the clear teaching of the Church.

[40] Posted by robroy on 08-07-2008 at 05:06 AM • top

Hello #28, MP. You write, “It is a mystery to me how he keeps his personal beliefs to the side while trying to do the impossible task of keeping the AC together.”

For once we agree. However, I don’t see this as a sign of true leadership in the image of Christ. I don’t recall an example of Christ believing one thing and upholding something else.

That’s why I think he needs to turn the office over to someone who will be a shepherd. Let him continue to be a sheep in academia.

I still think there’s more to this than meets the eye, but I don’t know what.

[41] Posted by Ralph on 08-07-2008 at 07:23 AM • top

I don’t dispute the possibility that this letter was leaked by folks on the left to pressure the ABC. I also agree that the media is strongly on the side of the revisionists on this issue.

I also acknowledge the public statements and writings of Williams as ABC are different than when he was Bishop on this issue.

However, at almost every critical juncture, Williams has acted   in a way calculated to provide political support for TEC and its agenda within the AC.

I would much rather deal with an opponent that is open and candid about his or her agenda.  Give me Andrus over Williams any day.

[42] Posted by Going Home on 08-07-2008 at 11:33 AM • top

It has been said often enough and by many different people…WE ARE NO LONGER ONE COMMUNION…it cannot be put back together and as painful as it is (I have at present not officially left TEC) the choice really is to remain in that which is no longer a Christian “church” (there certainly are Christians in the Episcopal Church) or to regroup.

[43] Posted by ewart-touzot on 08-07-2008 at 12:59 PM • top

“It is not Dr Williams who is undermining the Communion teaching.  It is TEC and ACoC alone who bear responsibility”.

Yeah, but the leader is working real hard to let them do it.

[44] Posted by Passing By on 08-08-2008 at 11:45 AM • top

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