Archbishop of Canterbury

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2009
Archbishop of Canterbury
Tue, 02-17-2009 - 11:53pm
From The Times

August 7, 2008

Rowan Williams: gay relationships 'comparable to marriage'

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams

(Paul Rogers)

The strength of Rowan Williams's views will astonish his critics


Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Rowan Williams believes that gay sexual relationships can “reflect the love of God” in a way that is comparable to marriage, The Times has learnt.

Gay partnerships pose the same ethical questions as those between men and women, and the key issue for Christians is that they are faithful and lifelong, he believes.

Dr Williams is known to be personally liberal on the issue but the strength of his views, revealed in private correspondence shown to The Times, will astonish his critics.

The news threatens to reopenbitter divisions over ordaining gay priests, which pushed the Anglican Communion towards a split.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Williams recommitted the Anglican Communion to its orthodox position that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture at the Lambeth Conference, which closed on Sunday.

However, in an exchange of letters with an evangelical Christian, written eight years ago when he was Archbishop of Wales, he described his belief that biblical passages criticising homosexual sex were not aimed at people who were gay by nature.

He argued that scriptural prohibitions were addressed to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety. He wrote: “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 about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness.” Dr Williams described his view as his “definitive conclusion” reached after 20 years of study and prayer. He drew a distinction between his own beliefs as a theologian and his position as a church leader, for which he had to take account of the traditionalist view.

The letters, written in the autumn of 2000 and 2001, were exchanged with Deborah Pitt, a psychiatrist and evangelical Christian living in his former archdiocese in South Wales, who had written challenging him on the issue.

In reply, he described how his view began to change from that of opposing gay relationships in 1980. His mind became “unsettled” by contact as a university teacher with Christian students who believed that the Bible forbade promiscuity rather than gay sex.

Dr Williams, who was ordained a priest in 1978, became a lecturer at Cambridge two years later and was appointed Dean of Clare College in 1984.

He told Dr Pitt that by the end of the 1980s he had “definitely come to the conclusion” that the Bible did not denounce faithful relationships between people who happened to be gay.

He cited two academics as pivotal in influencing his view. One of them was Jeffrey John, the celibate homosexual whom he later forced not to become Bishop of Reading after an outcry from conservatives.

In his 1989 essay The Body’s Grace, Dr Williams argued that the Church’s acceptance of contraception meant that it acknowledged the validity of nonprocreative sex. This could be taken as a green light for gay sex.

Liberals have been bitterly disappointed that a man whom they regarded as chosen to advance their agenda has instead abided by the traditionalist consensus of the majority.

In the correspondence Dr Williams wrote of his regret that the issue had become “very much politicised” and was treated by many as “the sole or primary marker of Christian orthodoxy”.

Asked to comment yesterday, Lambeth Palace quoted a recent interview in which the Archbishop said: “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.”



iVillage Member
Registered: 01-11-2009
Wed, 02-18-2009 - 1:05am

This past week my 12 year old was having a very very rough time, deeply deeply depressed in a way we've not seen in some time.

Avatar for maryrca
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 02-18-2009 - 10:42am

I hope so, too.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-06-2009
Wed, 02-18-2009 - 3:25pm

Bless him. I get the impression that he's a good man trying to do a very tough job. It's a hell of a thing to have a denomination split on your watch.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Sat, 02-21-2009 - 11:52am

"This past week my 12 year old was having a very very rough time, deeply deeply depressed in a way we've not seen in some time. Finally on Thusday night he called me into his room and told me he thought he was bisexual (actually he said biosexual, which is cute on a whole other level)."

I STRONGLY suggest you advise your son that just because he has "feelings" doesn't mean he has to act on them NOR that those feelings DEFINE who or what he is.

There are those who would convince him that feeling attracted to A girl means he's straight and that feeling attracted to A boy means that he's gay.

AND there are those who would try to convince him that feeling "gay" means he HAS to have gay relationships.

Teens have all sorts of feelings, some of which "stick" into adulthood and many which won't.

Talk to him about respecting himself enough to not have relationships with those who do not treat HIM with respect.

Remind him that he is in a state of flux and might not know for certain who he is until his twenties and that that is okay and a part of the range of normal for humans. It's also why he needs to respect himself enough to not get seduced into unhealthy relationships NOR locked into an identity that may not fit him later.

Remind him that you love HIM no matter what and will be there for him which ever direction his orientation ends up.

I'm very glad to hear that his church is being supportive of HIM.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-13-2008
Tue, 02-24-2009 - 10:51pm
Best wishes to your son, and great that at twelve he's got it out there on the table that the thought is under contemplation.

Full length fiction: worlds undone

"You have no power over my body..." ~ Anne Hutchinson

"You think you know, sir!" ~ Cornflake Girl ~ Tori Amos.

Full length fiction: worlds undone

"You have no power over my body..." ~ Anne Hutchinson

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-19-2009
Wed, 02-25-2009 - 12:56am

He doesn't act on his feelings and no one has suggested he is either gay or straight.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Sat, 02-28-2009 - 11:17am

I'm relieved to hear that.

Questioning and being open to the answers is good.