Rowan Williams sorta kinda speaks on the Ugandan bill

In an interview with the Rev. George Pitcher of The Telegraph, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sorta kinda opposes the ugly anti-gay bill now being considered by the Ugandan parliament. For some reason, he remains unable to speak the simple sentence: “I oppose it”. Nonetheless, he wouldn’t even go this far when the Church of Nigeria twice pushed anti-gay legislation, so perhaps this is a kind of progress, for a man who says homophobia is wrong, but apparently believes that policies that benefit the most virulent homophobes in the Anglican Communion are matters of church order and therefore to be judged by a different standard.

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.

There is also this, and the question is whether it is fair to call it a lie, or does a milder word like “disingenuous” better suit the offense:

Fast-forward a couple of days to the Archbishop’s study at Lambeth Palace, another ancient room but a less tranquil atmosphere. Dr Williams has admonished the Episcopal Church (again) for another provocative act in deepening Anglican schism. “It confirms the feeling that they’re moving further from the Anglican consensus,” he tells me. Can there ever be a consensus in which biblical traditionalists can be in communion with homosexual bishops? The man who has committed his archbishopric to unity pauses: “I’m not holding my breath.”

There is no consensus in the Anglican Communion on this issue. Everyone knows this. There have been statements from various meetings, none of which have the authority to speak for the Communion, on the issue, but that’s it. This notion that some authoritative body has spoken definitively on this issue in a way that must be obeyed is false, because no such body exists. The archbishop knows this, but it suits his purposes to behave otherwise.

One other note, this is the interview in which the archbishop complains that the Labour party treats religious people as “oddballs” and doesn’t take them seriously. Isn’t it possible that the Labour Party has observed that the leadership of the Church of England places trivial matters of church order over essential concerns about human rights, and doesn’t want its own moral authority dissipated in the same way?

Dr. Williams, by the way, is coming to speak at the Desmond Tutu Center in New York City on January 26. His topic: human rights.

Write your own punchline.

Meanwhile, UK Methodists have become the largest Christian denomination in the UK to officially condemn the Ugandan kill gays bill. The Church of England has no official position.

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