Andrea Minichiello Williams, a lay member of General Synod representing the Diocese of Chichester, was reported to have spoken at a conference in Jamaica at the end of 2013 to urge that country not to repeal a law dating back to 1864 which criminalised homosexual acts and penalised men so convicted with hard labour in prison for ten years. She was further reported as describing the suggestion that homosexuality was a natural disposition for some people as ‘a big lie’ and argued that homosexuality and paedophilia were inextricably connected. She has chosen neither to refute the comments attributed to her nor to question the accuracy of the reporting.
Her words brought condemnation from many quarters, including from the Bishop of Chichester, The Right Reverend Martin Warner. A motion in support of Bishop Martin’s public statement about Williams’ speech was overwhelmingly passed by the Brighton Deanery Synod with no votes against and a single abstention. This Brighton Deanery Synod motion was then debated by the Chichester Diocesan Synod on Saturday 8th November and again received virtually unanimous support with no votes against and six abstentions.
Bishop Martin’s statement anticipated the College of Bishops’ announcement in January that the Church needed to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke.
The Chichester Diocesan Synod motion reads:
‘This Synod, noting that the Brighton Deanery brings together churches ministering to the largest concentration of gay people outside London, similarly endorses Bishop Martin’s response to statements made reported to have been made by a Chichester General Synod member which might be considered to incite homophobia, and lead to verbal and physical attacks on lesbians and gay men, and supports Bishop Martin’s assertion that ‘the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.