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Church – Archbishops in denial

April 2016

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has denied the Church of England is considering changing its doctrine to allow same-sex marriages.

In February, Archbishop Sentamu wrote a letter to ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex’ (LGBTI) activist and General Synod member Jayne Ozanne, on behalf of himself and the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he had said the Church of England (CofE) was set to discuss the issue of sexuality.

The letter, published in The Telegraph, led to claims in the same paper that the CofE was rethinking its stance against same-sex marriage, which Mr Sentamu was quick to deny. In a follow-up letter, he said he had written his first letter to Ms Ozanne in reaction to claims made by her that the church had failed in its ‘duty of care’ toward LGBTI individuals.

However, rather than signalling that the CofE would rethink its doctrine on marriage, in order to accommodate same-sex couples, as The Telegraph article claimed, Mr Sentamu said this was not the case. He wrote: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury and I have not “signalled” that the Church of England is “poised to rethink its centuries-old doctrine of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples”, as you report.

‘However it is true that discussions are taking place and will continue at next summer’s meeting of the General Synod, not to overhaul church doctrine, but to “help forge better understanding between different groups over the issue of sexuality”.’

Sentamu withheld support

However, Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, and General Synod member, said Christians should not be appeased by the Archbishop’s statement. She pointed out that during summer 2015, a gay pride festival was held in York, which received the blessing of Rev. Canon Michael Smith, the canon pastor of York Minister.

When a local vicar in the diocese, Rev. Melvin Tinker, spoke out against the festival, he received a hostile response, yet Archbishop Sentamu did not make any public comment in Mr Tinker’s defence.

Ms Williams said, ‘Here was an opportunity for the archbishop to affirm the truth of the Word of God, but he remained silent. Not only did he endorse a gay pride festival taking place in his own diocese, he also refused to defend one of his own vicars in holding to scriptural truth. After such an event, how can we trust the archbishop’s claim that the church’s teaching on marriage is not to be altered?’

Ms Williams has also penned a response to the archbishops’ joint letter,highlighting that the discussions taking place only serve to keep members of the Anglican Communion institutionally unified, without addressing the heart of the issue. 

In it, she wrote: ‘This letter was another opportunity for the archbishops to demonstrate appropriate leadership by reaffirming and promoting God’s clear vision for marriage. Instead, the letter suggests that the fundamental issue is an ongoing conversation, as yet unresolved, implicitly suggesting that God has been unclear.

‘The role of the archbishops is not to facilitate conversation but to teach the truth, refute error and discipline those who depart from God’s pattern in either teaching or lifestyle’.

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