Archbishop of Canterbury comments on listening to LGBT people

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made two statements recently in which he has affirmed both the need to respect the human dignity of lesbian and gay people and also his concern for the proper liberties of homosexual people. Changing Attitude welcomes the Archbishop’s restatement of the Anglican Communion’s commitment to listening which is patient, honest and where human dignity is respected in the context of safe space.

We also welcome his recognition of the need for credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people and his concern for situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten these proper liberties.

Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury

General Synod, Monday 26 February 2007

“… mindful of the full text of Lambeth 1.10, we should have done more about offering safe space to homosexual people – including those who have in costly ways lived in entire faithfulness to the traditional biblical ethic – space to talk about what it is like to be endlessly discussed and dissected in their absence, to be patronized or demonised. Again and again we have used the language of respect for their human dignity; again and again we have failed to show it effectively, convertingly and convertedly. This is not just about our fear or prejudice. It is also because we live in an environment that knows nothing of proper reticence in the public exposure and discussion of certain vulnerable places in our humanity. What then happens is that every attempt to ‘listen to the experience of homosexual people’ is easily seen as political, an exercise in winning battles rather than winning understanding. Remember, too, that in different ways this is an issue for our engagement with any and every minority group – how to secure patience and privacy and the space to be honest without foreclosing the outcomes of discussion.”

Press Release from Lambeth Palace
Wednesday 28th February 2007
Archbishop – Church must be ‘safe place’ for gay and lesbian people

“The commitments of the Communion are not only to certain theological positions on the question of sexual ethics but also to a manifest and credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people, a commitment again set out in successive Lambeth Conference Resolutions over many decades. I share the concerns expressed about situations where the Church is seen to be underwriting social or legal attitudes which threaten these proper liberties. It is impossible to read this report without being aware that in many places – including Western countries with supposedly ‘liberal’ attitudes – hate crimes against homosexual people have increased in recent years and have taken horrifying and disturbing forms.

“No-one … can be complacent about such a situation, and the Church is challenged to show that it is truly a safe place for people to be honest and where they may be confident that they will have their human dignity respected, whatever serious disagreements about ethics may remain. It is good to know that the pastoral care of homosexual people is affirmed clearly by so many provinces.

“Social, cultural and legal contexts are very varied indeed. And in the present climate of the Anglican Communion, there is inevitably a suspicion either that this is just window-dressing, or that it is a covert programme for changing doctrine and discipline. Real – and mutual – listening is hard to achieve. There are contexts where it is difficult to find a safe place for gay and lesbian people to speak about their lives openly. There are contexts where people assume the debate is over. The report shows that listening is possible, but also that there is a great deal still to be done. The work continues, but we have a solid start here.”

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