THE Archbishop of York has replied to an open letter calling for repentance and apologies over the treatment of gay people by insisting that the Church of England has been combating homophobia for more than 50 years.
The letter, signed by more than 100 Anglicans including deans, archdeacons, members of General Synod, eight retired bishops, and the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, called for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to urge Anglican Primates at last month’s meeting to acknowledge that the Church has failed in its “duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world”.
In his reply, Dr Sentamu said that the communiqué issued by the Primates included an expression of sorrow for the treatment of LGBTI people, and that Archbishop Welby had added his own “personal, heartfelt, and unequivocal apology” at the press conference which concluded the meeting.
But these expressions of repentance should not be misconstrued as a rejection of the C of E’s teaching on marriage, which was currently under discussion through the Shared Conversations, Dr Sentamu wrote.
Nevertheless, the Church had repeatedly shown its opposition to homophobia and the mistreatment of gay people, going back as far as 1957 when Archbishop Michael Ramsey supported the decriminalisation of homosexual activity, ten years before it was finally passed into law.
Synod reports and motions in the 1970s and ’80s included language that admitted the Church had “sinned” against gay people and insisted they should not be denied human and civil rights.
In the 1990s, the House of Bishops’s Issues in Human Sexuality included a “call to penitence” because of the Church’s “ignorant, prejudiced, and oppressive” attitude towards homosexuals. This theme was continued throughout subsequent reports, Primates’ communiqués and the more recent Pilling Report (News, 28 November 2013).
“The Christian doctrine of marriage continues to be a subject of discord, but the rejection of homophobic prejudice is undisputed,” Dr Sentamu concluded.