Justin Welby’s so-called apology 16 January 2016
This week had the potential to provide healing to thousands. All the LGBT Christians or non-Christians, or their loved ones, who’ve been hurt by Anglican churches in some way, finally receiving an apology.
For all the times they’ve been excluded from churches for turning up with their same-sex partner.
For all the Pride parades they’ve been picketed at by angry Christians.
For all the times the Bible they so treasured was used as a weapon to denigrate their love.
For all the times they were told they were “disordered”.
For all the times they were made to feel unworthy of God’s love.
What a wonderful opportunity Justin Welby had – to offer a heartfelt and full apology.
But when it came to it, his apology was far from full – and many struggle to believe his “sorry for all the hurt we’ve caused” was heartfelt.
If he’d said even a fraction of what I’ve described above, he might have shown some real understanding of what that hurt looks and feels like.
If he’d acknowledged that discrimination leads to serious harm – damage to self-esteem, lifelong suffering, suicide – he might have shown a smidgeon of the empathy that LGBT Christians are longing for.
He did none of that.
But then, how could he? It’s hard to show you really care about LGBT people and their suffering in one moment, and in the next chastise the US Episcopal Church for celebrating their love.
Sorry – he didn’t chastise them. This wasn’t a ticking off or punishment (the Communion doesn’t have that power). These were simply “consequences“.
Yet there are a few things I could do with some clarification on, if anyone would endeavour to help.
Firstly, what’s so special about same-sex marriage, that it leads to
sanctioning of consequences for priests and churches? It can’t be the violation of the definition of marriage as “lifelong union between one man and one woman”, or there’d be similar consequences for divorced priests, and all those naughty priests conducting weddings for divorcees.
Secondly, do any other behaviours that cause potential damage to the church warrant consequences? Imagine if, for instance, a representative of one of the Anglican churches walked out of the meeting because he didn’t get his own way?
It’s funny how those who support same-sex marriage are often accused of being militant for wanting to conduct same-sex marriages (not in any way forcing them on other churches) – yet attempting to have churches excluded, then walking out when it doesn’t happen, is perfectly reasonable.
Finally, does Welby’s regret over the hurt caused to homosexuals extend to Anglican churches supporting imprisonment of gay people? Or, in the grand scheme of things, is such support not nearly as heinous as marrying same-sex couples?
I’ve defended the church I love, and Welby who I’ve respected and admired, time and time again.
But this one I really can’t defend.
There’s no justification in treating the Episcopal church this way.
Those facing “consequences” are not naughty children.
They’re not militant, plotting, wilfully disobedient to God, or any of the other things they’re so often accused of being.
They’re sincere people, who simply want to embrace that greatest of God’s gifts to humanity: the capacity to love.