Too Little from Lambeth

Last week I encouraged readers of this blog to send a message to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, urging him to speak out publicly and forcefully against the genocidal “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009” pending in Uganda. This week I received an elegantly worded email reply from Lambeth Palace press secretary Marie Papworth, which impressed me till I discovered it was a form letter.

Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest in Pasadena who blogs at An Inch at a Time, posted this statement to members of the Facebook group “Anglicans who want THIS statement from Canterbury”. It includes Ms. Papworth’s message, below.

“Do you hear what I hear?” isn’t just one of the Christmas carols echoing in the airwaves this week-before-Christmas. It is also the question I’m asking about the responses we’ve gotten from Lambeth Palace regarding the “disconnect” between the Archbishop of Canterbury’s readiness to issue a formal statement on the election of a bishop suffragan in Los Angeles and his reticence to “go and do likewise” on the draconian anti-gay legislation pending in Uganda.

Like many of you, I received a “boilerplate” response in an email from Marie Papworth in the Lambeth Palace office. (text posted below) If you “heard what I heard” in that response, you heard words like “unacceptable” and “deep concern.”

My question is: how deep does concern have to be before the Archbishop of Canterbury uses his moral authority to speak out on behalf of gay and lesbian Ugandans who cannot speak for themselves? How unacceptable does it have to get before he says so?

And to be clear: a comment in response to a question from a journalist does NOT an “official statement” make.

Do you hear what I hear? In the email from Lambeth Palace and in the deafening silence on this pressing human rights issue I hear that speaking out to protect gay and lesbian lives in Uganda is less important than speaking out to protect the Anglican Communion from a lesbian bishop.

If you hear what I hear, you hear that the leader of the Anglican Communion is more concerned about preserving institutional unity than he is protecting innocent Ugandans.

If you hear what I hear, then I invite you to do what I’m going to do:

Send another email.
Write another letter.
Post another blog.

This Facebook group has grown to ALMOST 5000 members — a truly awesome accomplishment. Let’s use the power of our collective voice to keep urging the Archbishop to use the power HE has as the moral leader of this worldwide Anglican family of ours to speak the truth of God’s inclusive and abundant love for ALL people.

Let us urge him to send a word of hope to LGBT Ugandans who “mourn in lonely exile” that the Emmanuel whose coming we prepare to celebrate in a few short days came not just for the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Lambeth Palace warm … but for those who shiver in the cold of dehumanizing homophobia.

O come, O come, Emmanuel!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009 4:50 AM

Dear Canon Russell,

Thank you for your message and for taking the trouble to write about this deeply painful issue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that the Private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view. It is a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage. The Archbishop has publicly stated that “the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it can be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades”.

For its part the Church of Uganda has clearly restated its opposition to the death penalty. As the Ugandan Church continues to formulate its position on the bill as a whole, the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.

Marie Papworth
Press Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, London, SE1 7JU


So, what more would we like the ABC to say? Not to be nit-picky here, but to me, the word “severity” implies a legitimate spectrum of punishments for homosexuality. Rather than challenging the whole concept of persecuting people for their sexual orientation, the ABC appears to limit himself to guiding Ugandans toward the moderate end of that spectrum. And we’re supposed to be grateful that the Church of Uganda is opposed to the death penalty? Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table (Matthew 15:27) but apparently now it’s enough that he doesn’t shoot the dog.

One could argue that ++Rowan is trying to be discreet in order to work diplomatically behind the scenes. If he openly allies himself with the inclusive wing of the church, the Ugandans will write him off as a homo-lovin’ liberal and he’ll lose the power to influence this legislation. (That day Herod and Pilate became friends…)

Problem is, I haven’t seen this approach accomplishing very much. Meanwhile, the ABC is failing in his primary responsibility to his own flock. GLBT Christians in the UK, when faced with gay-bashing, familial homophobia, and economic discrimination, hear the silence from Lambeth as a sign that their dignity and safety aren’t important to the church–and maybe not to God, either. Dr. Williams, your millstone is ready.

10 comments on “Too Little from Lambeth

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  2. Rodi_iudg says:

    Good post! thank you

  3. RitEthige says:

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  7. maul says:

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  9. Frenchie says:

    Good point. I hadn’t tuhoght about it quite that way. 🙂

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