The Archbishop of York reveals his failure to understand LGB&T Anglicans

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Archbishop of York says:

“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.” “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”

“… I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.

“It’s almost like somebody telling you that the Church, whose job is to worship God [will be] an arm of the Armed Forces. They must take arms and fight. You’re completely changing tradition.”

Dr John Sentamu wouldn’t be an ordained member of the Church of England and Archbishop of York if, in different ways, both church and state hadn’t radically redefined very clear social structures and changed centuries-old tradition and history.

He later says: “The Church has always stood out – Jesus actually was the odd man out. I’d rather stick with Jesus than be popular because it looks odd.”

Exactly, dear Archbishop, that’s what the Church is called to do – stand out – because that’s what Jesus revealed about God. Whichever group in society is the present ‘odd man out’, that’s the group the Church is called to stand with and campaign for. It’s taking the Church of England and the Anglican Communion for ever to discover that Jesus stands with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against archbishops and bishops and Church authorities, powers and traditions.

Dr Sentamu said that: “If you genuinely would like the registration of civil partnerships to happen in a more general way, most people will say they can see the drift. But if you begin to call those ‘marriage’, you’re trying to change the English language.”

No, there is no attempt to change the English language, and a lawyer ought to know better and use language more carefully. For the Church, it is the theology of marriage that will be changed and expanded. For the government, it will be the legal definition of civil marriage.

Dr Sentamu says:

“That does not mean you diminish, condemn, criticise, patronise any same-sex relationships because that is not what the debate is about.

Dear John, that is exactly what the Church does and you do. You act to diminish the place of LGB&T people in your own diocese. Thank goodness other members of your senior staff have the courage to stand against you. You have no idea of the effect your stance and the stance of the bishops in general have on LGB&T Anglicans. Our relationships are constantly diminished, criticised and patronised by bishops’ attitudes and langauge. Yet again you reveal in an embarrassingly public way that you really do not understand us.


  1. Jeremy Pemberton says

    Top of the news in the Daily Telegraph, and yet again the Church looks and sounds incoherent and special pleading to its own, and bossy and interfering to everyone else. If the consultation is about what the nation wants for CIVIL marriage and is not about religious marriage then what the ABof Y thinks is frankly TOTALLY IRRELEVANT. The sooner these bishops are pushed out of the House of Lords the better.

    I am fed up with the whole lot of them and the way they treat LGBT people. More power to your elbow, Colin. And what about some of the liberal ones standing up and being counted and saying no to this kind of nonsense?

    • Paul Pascoe says

      The church needs to be disestablished, because we can’t have unelected Bishops voting out such amendments to legislation. But how do we encourage liberals to be more vocal?

  2. Jeremy Pemberton says

    And as for very clear social structures – what about the enormous changes that have taken place over the centuries regarding the shape of marriage? – this kind of talk is embarrassing in its wilful ignorance.

  3. Christopher Bowman says

    To top the lot we know what Ugandan priests think of marriage it is a sham? Not dissimilar to those carried out in Yorkshire from a priest not too dissimilar in ideology to +Ebor? We are trying to move forward in this country – with or without a fossilised church – which may well have to be left behind & some of its Ministers will be guests of Her Majesty meanwhile! One does get fed up with the rhetoric etc etc..

  4. Kate says

    The Telegraph’s piece on gay marriage actually had a sister-article where Sentamu talks about racism in the church:

    ““I used to chair the committee for minority ethnic Anglican concerns, and we seemed to be making some progress but that now seems to be going backwards. Where we have lost out is black people who had been realised Anglicans, who are now joining Pentecostal churches. That’s a huge drain.”


    It’s extraordinary – and deliberately obtuse – that he’s unable to translate across from his own experience as a minority in the church to the experience of another minority. All point to an organisation that is allergic to the inclusivity which comes as standard in so much of the rest of society.

  5. David Chillman says

    I find it odd that the Archbishop is so adamant to ignore the reality that many Christians do not agree with him about homosexuality and yet, with regards to the question of Women Bishops, he (with the Archbishop of Canterbury) has written this: “The House (of Bishops) is also concerned that the Church of England retains its character as a body in which conscientious difference of theological judgement is fully respected. ”

    As has been pointed out on other websites, there is a strange hypocrisy going on. The Archbishops are keen to respect conscientious theological differences about the ordination of women, but clearly feel free to ignore or belittle those who conscientiously differ from them about the theological judgements concerning homosexuality.

    If the Archbishops were genuinely seeking to ensure “that the Church of England retains its character as a body in which conscientious difference of theological judgement is fully respected “, then they would create the possibility that those whose consciences lead them to welcome LGBT people could do so and conduct weddings for them. And what about those whose theological judgements have led them to conscientiously look for LGBTs to become bishops? Are they not to be fully respected either?

  6. Lesley Dennis says

    It saddens me that LGB&T people are constantly crticised and discriminated against by the Church of England, who should be following in the footsteps of Jesus – not condemning people but loving and accepting people for who they are, and celebrating the gifts that everyone has been given.
    If the law or the government were to have any say in the way the church runs its institution then the CofE would be in breech of the discrimination laws. However the government does not interfere with the way the Church chooses to discriminate against the LGB&T people in the clergy and the congregations so why should bishops of the CofE have the right to decide who may or may not be entitled to marriage? This is not a theological debate on the nature of marriage – it is about the human right to choose a partner – gender is irrelevant, love is of the utmost importance. As for traditoinal marriage – it was traditon to marry for wealth and power relationships – but hopefully that has changed through history!?

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