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Same-sex marriage, Africa, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments

by
17 April 2014

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From the Revd Brian Cranwell
Sir, - I have just read what I believe to be the most uninformed and uncharitable attack on a senior churchman which I have ever read in this paper.

In attacking the Archbishop of Canterbury by accusing him of "allowing himself to be subject to moral blackmail" (News, 11 April), the Revd Andrew Cain shows complete ignorance of the pressures, prejudices, and sacrifices endured for their faith by our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.

Groups such as jihadists in West Africa or Sudan, justifying their persecution by distortions of their own faith, or dictators such as Yoweri Musuveni in Uganda (who is intolerant of any political criticism), see homosexual marriage in our churches as providing them with a ready excuse to pursue their persecution of Christians, by persuading their own followers that this is being encouraged for all.

That is not to say that some bullying and corrupt bishops do not exist: I have known one or two in Africa; but most are hard-working with limited resources, unpaid in times of famine, and faithful to their flocks.

Whether one agrees withsuch unions in the Church or not, there seems to be a delicious irony in asking for their introduction. Having spent the past 20 years successfully clamouring for equality of civil rights in such partnerships, many, not all, now want to join an institution that from time immemorial has been for heterosexuals!

BRIAN CRANWELL
9 West View Close
Sheffield S17 3LT


From the Revd Andrew Cain
Sir, - So, our Bishops are now arguing for the retention of civil partnerships. Apart from the very noticeable anomaly that they now fulsomely support what they bitterly opposed when they were being introduced (every working bishop in the House of Lords voted against), and have used them to browbeat and to insult clergy and laity ever since, they have also now made yet another significant error of fact.

They are keen to support civil partnerships in part because "there is no presumption that the relationship is sexually active." The Bishops and their advisers should have read the legislation introducing equal marriage more carefully, and they might then have avoided some of the agonising and public shame that they are now experiencing. Same-sex marriage does not presume or require consummation.

Such a requirement was specifically excluded from the legislation - partly because when one of the senior Lords argued for it in private talks, he was told quietly that to do so would be "to legislate for buggery". He pretty soon backed down, and the law was passed without it. Gay and lesbian couples who marry cannot be "presumed" to be sexually active: that is entirely a private matter for them, and no part of the legislation, unlike previous marriage legislation.

Had the Bishops and their advisers noticed this, they might have saved themselves yet further embarrassment, and have found themselves at least some leeway in facing the undoubted troubles that they have brought on themselves.

ANDREW CAIN
St Mary's Vicarage
134A Abbey Road
London NW6 4SN


From Heather Ford
Sir, - How, as Christians, can webe complicit in oppressive administrations and regimes? That is exactly what we are doing if we agree with the stance taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury in suggesting that an Anglican Church's celebrating same-sex marriage would contribute to Christians' being killed in Africa.

There is no doubt that Christians around the globe face intolerable persecution because of their faith. History has demonstrated, however, that it is the very act of standing in the face of humanitarian atrocities and directly challenging oppressive actions instead of being complicit in them that brings about change.

Where would we be if those brave men and women who stood up to apartheid in South Africa, worked underground for the resistance movement to fight Nazism in Europe, or worked towards democracy in Burma had been complicit? It was because they took a stance against these regimes, many at a cost to their own lives and those of their family and friends, that things changed.

H. FORD
49 Denton Avenue
Leeds


From Penny Gardiner
Sir, - Let us hope that it takes the House of Bishops every bit as long to decide what to do with the clergy who either enter into or bless same-sex marriages as it has taken over the question of women bishops.

PENNY GARDINER
20 Southcot Place
Bath BA2 4PE

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