Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has been sent a number of offensive emails following his interview with the Daily Telegraph. A spokesman for the Archbishop said in a statement: “Amongst many positive emails that he has received, there have been a small number of abusive and threatening emails of a racist nature which North Yorkshire Police are investigating as hate crimes.”
The Telegraph interview covered a wide range of issues including his opposition to the idea of gay marriage and his support for civil partnerships, but not in church. The Archbishop said that marriage must remain the union of a man and a woman and that ministers did not have the power to overturn centuries of tradition. Dr Sentamu insisted he was not seeking to discriminate against same-sex couples, and said the Church did not oppose civil partnerships.
The press reports today link the racist emails with Dr Sentamu’s comments about gay marriage and civil partnerships, drawing the conclusion that they were sent in reaction to this specific issue.
Changing Attitude condemns all forms of discrimination, including racism and sexism as well as prejudice against LGB&T people. Those who have sent abusive and threatening emails to the Archbishop are not modeling the teaching and pattern of Jesus Christ, who embodied the infinite, intimate, gracious love of God. We have been victims of homophobic abuse and know what it can feel like to be on the receiving end of abuse and threats. We pray for Dr Sentamu, his wife, and the staff at Bishopthorpe. No-one should be subjected to hate mail.
The debate in the Anglican Church about human sexuality is totally polarized. People have been driven to defend extreme positions at either end of the spectrum. This is not where God calls us to be. God calls us to human relationship and attentive listening and engagement.
Human sexuality and in particular homosexuality is the issue that conflicts the church at the moment. UK law protects people who are subjected to hate mail whether the attack is racist, sexist or homophobic. The majority of young people do not understand why the church doesn’t get it, that prejudice because of a person’s sexual orientation is no different from racial prejudice.
The Church of England will be a safer and more Christ-like, Kingdom-oriented place for us all when it takes further steps to transcend racism, sexism and homophobia in Church life and structures.