Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams’ Leaked Letter Reveals Support for Same-Sex Relationships

In a bit of curious timing coming shortly after the close of the Anglican church’s Lambeth conference, correspondence from the church’s leading archbishop Rowan Williams to an evangelical Christian has surfaced. In it, Williams says that same-sex relationships may be comparable to those of married couples in the eyes of God:

Williams“In a series of letters from 2000 and 2001, when he was still archbishop of Wales, Williams wrote that scriptural prohibitions against homosexuality, such as those in Leviticus, were addressed ‘to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety in their experience’. In the correspondence, an exchange with an evangelical Christian, Williams argued that passages criticising homosexual activity were not aimed at people who were gay by nature. ‘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.’ He also expressed his optimism that the church might change its stance on homosexuality: ‘The church has shifted its stance on several matters, notably the rightness of lending money at interest and the moral admissibility of contraception, so I am bound to ask if this is another such issue.’ Publication of the letters comes days after Williams emerged unscathed from an important summit of the world’s Anglican bishops.”

The Times called it a “last ditch attempt to undermine” Williams’ position as mediator between two sides of the church, which has been split over its positions regarding gay and women clergy (more specifically the ordination of New Hampshire Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson), and the blessings of same-sex marriages.

As Lambeth Conference Wraps, Anglican Leader Seeks Covenant [tr]
Vatican Official Urges Anglican Bishops: Condemn Homosexuality [tr]
Anglican Bishops Propose Body To Force Gene Robinson Resignation [tr]
Sudanese Archbishop Demands Gay Bishop Gene Robinson Resign [tr]


  1. Christopher says

    I love that moment in the new film version of Brideshead Revisited when Sebastian’s sister calls him a pagan, and he replies “I’m not a pagan, I’m a sinner.” If, like Waugh, you take both your gayness and your Christianity seriously, there really isn’t any other honest answer. That’s why these attempts to explain what St, Paul REALLY meant in his letter to the Romans, or what the prohibition in Leviticus was REALLY against, strike me as pathetic. And patronizing. Don’t presume to tell me that my gay relationship is “comparable to marriage” so long as it’s character is one of “absolutely convenanted faithfulness”(?!?). Jesus. What fucking nonsense. And shifting the scriptural anethama to apply to straights who want “sexual variety in their experience” just demonizes the sex-positive and bi-sexual in place of gays. Look. I was born Roman Catholic and gay and I’ll die Roman Catholic and gay, and I don’t need or want any church’s approval or any re-reading of scripture to justify this tenuous co-existence. Me and my Jesus get along just fine (and, by the way, my personal Jesus is very, very fine). If you want to be gay and Christian find your own way, don’t wait for straight, uptight clergy members to dictate what that path should look like.

  2. Tom says

    I’m happy to read this and grateful that Williams is at the helm. No doubt, he must mediate between the fanatics on the right and those pushing for change and acceptance. We need more people like Rowan Williams who can chart a theological path forward that is loivng and wise.

  3. Alex Parrish says

    This merely reveals the basic dishonesty required of the clergy in the institutional church. That the archbishop feels that his personally-held beliefs must be subjugated in order to reflect the views of others in the church proves that there is no real leadership in the church — only ‘follow-ship.’ A leader would at least be free to state what his personal views are — even if he didn’t intend to press the church to accept them. A leader would stand up for what his heart and mind tell him is right and expose his views to challenge even if it conflicts with others views. The good shepherd doesn’t follow the sheep wherever they wander in their ignorance — he/she leads them. What a sad place the church has become. I would almost prefer that he state virulent gay-hating life-debasing views like the Roman Catholic church if that’s what he feels, rather than saying one thing and then failing to act upon it, or acting in opposition to what he believes. At least we would be clear where he stands. Shameful.

  4. Bill Perdue says

    Rowan Williams is a hypocrite, but that’s common with people infected with the disease of superstition. Superstition is what religion is called when it’s all gussied up and trying to look respectable. After disease, it’s humankind’s greatest tragedy.

    Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.
    Napoleon Bonaparte

    The howling madness that produced witch burnings, the Inquisition, anti-Semitism, the Crusades and a century of genocides against Armenians, European Jews, Russians, muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and non-muslims in Drafur also produced the murders of unknown tens of thousands of GLBT folk by christist and islamic thugs. That’s all the proof we’ll ever need to be the implacable enemies of superstition.

    When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
    Desmond Tutu

    Religious/superstitious people display symptoms of severe mental illness (hallucinations, conversing with invisible creatures), sociopathology (their penchant for killing people not similarly afflicted) and criminality (child rape and fraud). There is no reason why they should be permitted to have any voice in the affairs of sane people.

    Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything.
    Robert A. Heinlein

  5. Joel says

    The ABC is an embarrassment to right-thinking people and ought to be ashamed of himself. He’s allowing himself to be led by the nose by the primates in the Southern Cone and in Africa, rather than taking a principled, moral stand in defense of same-sex relationships.

  6. Sportin' Life says

    Tom, you’ve got to be kidding. Rowan Williams is an unmitigated disaster for gay people, for the Anglican Church, and for everyone. He’s a weak, pandering, dishonest fool.

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