Rowan’s Address to Synod

You can read the full thing here. For me, the key sections around human sexuality are these.

The debate over the status and vocational possibilities of LGBT people in the Church is not helped by ignoring the existing facts, which include many regular worshippers of gay or lesbian orientation and many sacrificial and exemplary priests who share this orientation. There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them; I have been criticised for doing just this, and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression.

This, you see, is where the Christian understanding of freedom has a distinctive contribution to make to the broader discussion of liberties in society.  Christian freedom as St Paul spells it out is always freedom from isolation – from the isolation of sin, separating us from God, and the isolation of competing self-interest that divides us from each other.  To be free is to be free for relation; free to contribute what is given to us into the life of the neighbour, for the sake of their formation in Christ’s likeness, with the Holy Spirit carrying that gift from heart to heart and life to life.  Fullness of freedom for each of us is in contributing to the sanctification of the neighbour.  It is never simply a matter of balancing liberties, but of going to another level of thinking about liberty.  And the ‘purity’ of the body of Christ is not to be thought of apart from this work.  It is not to put unity above integrity, but to see that unity in this active and sometimes critical sense is how we attain to Christian integrity.  The challenges of our local and global Anglican crises have to do with how this shapes our councils and decision-making.  It is not a simple plea for the sacrifice of the minority to the majority.  But it does mean repeatedly asking how the liberty secured for me or for those like me will actively serve the sanctification of the rest.

Now that strikes as me as being an argument built around 1 Corinthians 8 and 9. If that’s so, is Rowan subtly arguing a pro-gay line (this is the right thing to do, but don’t do it while others in the Communion are offended by it) or is the inclusion of references to purity and sanctification pointing the other way towards a more Romans 6 approach about how sin in our bodies destroys the corporate body (Romans 6 is replete with “we” rather than “you”). As one tweeting acquaintance put it, “‘…sacrificial & exemplary priests who share this orientation.’ & share their lives (& beds) with their partners“. The fact that Rowan didn’t say those words in bold might be the key to understanding this.

Perhaps though it’s just the master Hegelian presenting thesis and antithesis and letting the rest of us get on with it.


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