Rowan Williams had a problem. He wanted to be seen to support the Church in Nigeria and other “global south” countries because they were black whilst keeping at least some of his cred as an intelligent, liberal academic. The Nigerians et al wanted to kill gay people, but intelligent, liberal academics and increasingly more and more of the English population thought such an attitude towards gay people was unenlightened, barbaric and as far removed from the teaching of Jesus Christ as you could possibly get. Williams obviously found walking his tightrope of hypocrisy very difficult indeed and it became downright impossible when both church and society started to cry out against the disgusting treatment gay people had suffered from because of the institutional homophobia of much of the Church of England over the centuries which, it appeared, showed no signs whatsoever of easing up.
It was at this point that Williams came up with a bright idea by which, he thought, he would be seen to be modern and caring and supportive of LGBT people whilst continuing to make sure that LGBT priests and bishops had to remain securely in their closets if they didn’t want to be unlicensed (priests) or exiled to a low profile post in Walsingham (bishops). We shall call this the “Rowan Williams, nothing I can do about it, honest guv, gambit.” It was, no doubt in Williams’ own opinion, a work of genius. The logic was as follows.
LGBT people are exactly the same as everyone else and there isn’t even anything intrinsically wrong with them shagging each other. However, the god of the hierarchy of the Church of England insists that you can only engage in nookie within a marriage so anyone who wants to become or remain ordained can only have sex with a partner to whom they are legally wed. Because, according to the same rather legalistic, if you ask me, god, although civil partnerships between two people of the same gender are pretty much identical to marriage they are not marriage because the god who created the universe in just a few days and women out of a male rib bone says that the word marriage can only ever apply to the legal partnership of two people of opposite gender. If people have sex outside of marriage, even within a partnership that is, for all intents and purposes, the same as marriage, they are being far too naughty to be allowed to be a priest or bishop. Therefore, as same gender couples cannot ever be married in the eyes of the Anglican Demiurge, LGBT people in same gender life long partnerships cannot become or remain priests or bishops in the Church of England.
This is not Rowan Williams’ fault, of course. He would love to have lots and lots of LGBT priests and bishops all out and proud in his church. It’s just those darn rules that, for some reason, that has never been properly explained, can never be broken unlike lots of other darn rules that have been over the years as the enlightened part of the human race started to demand some sort of logic in the major tenets of their religions. (Believing in the resurrection of the dead is one thing but believing that the loving Father of Jesus Christ would condemn up to ten per cent of the human race to eternal torment because they fancy people of the same sex as themselves is just too silly to be contemplated.)
Those homophobes within the Church of England and further afield who don’t like people calling them homophobes jumped on the “Rowan Williams, nothing I can do about it, honest guv, gambit” immediately and with gusto. It has, in fact, become the ipso facto official position of those in the hierarchy of the Church of England who don’t want to upset black people because they once were slaves. The new, Grand Tufti, the Grand Tofti Justin Welby, is employing it big time and with far more of a straight face and with far more enthusiasm than Williams (who is self aware enough to know when he’s talking bullshit) ever managed. And the report of the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission (which has a worryingly Stalinist ring to it) entitled “Men and Women in Marriage” that has just been made public tries to rubber stamp the cuckoo, cack-handed compromise once and for all.
The leader of the Faith and Order Commission, Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, has the certainty of knowing God’s mind on all things that is common in people of his churchmanship (stuffy evangelicalism) and I am sure that it is his influence (Rowan Williams always made sure the chairmen of his committees were manipulative and strong believers in whatever answer Williams wanted the committees to come up with) that allowed such arrogant tosh as the following to be released to a rapidly disbelieving world.
“It has seemed to some that the disagreement over same-sex marriage is a disagreement over mere names. But names govern how we think, and how we think governs what we learn to appreciate. When marriage is spoken of unclearly or misleadingly, it distorts the way couples try to conduct their relationship and makes for frustration and disappointment. The reality of marriage between one man and one woman will not disappear as the result of any legislative change, for God has given this gift and it will remain part of our created human endowment. But the disciplines of living in it may become more difficult to acquire, and the path to fulfillment, in marriage and in other relationships, more difficult to find.”
Of course, God has also given humankind (and penguins) the gift of homosexuality and lesbianism but that point seems to have alluded God’s spokesman in England completely.
You can read more about this, what may well be, church-wrecking report in Colin Coward’s more diplomatic, though equally disappointment riddled, article on the CHANGING ATTITUDE website.