Saturday, March 23, 2013

BBC INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN WELBY PRIOR TO HIS ENTHRONEMENT



Included in the interview are statements by Justin Welby that I find troubling.  The partial transcript below is mine, and I don't vouch for every word as correct.  One word is missing, because, even after listening a number of times, I could not understand what the archbishop said, so I left a blank. A reader supplied the word.

After the question about the decreasing numbers of the English who attend church, the interviewer asks:
Question: Could the source of that be that the church seems so out of touch with the mainstream on a number of issues, especially sexuality?

Response: The Church of England holds very firmly and continues to hold the view that marriage is a lifelong union of one man and one woman.  At the same time, at the heart of our understanding of what it is to be human is the essential dignity of the human being, and so we have to be very clear about homophobia.  You don't by muddling these ideas.  You don't suddenly provide the answer to dwindling congregations.  There's a very big difference between the ideals that we hold to that are essential to us and also pastoral practice.  In pastoral practice, you work with people as they are, as you hope they work with you, as you are yourself, and we are all conscious of our failings.  Anyone who goes around saying, I'm so ideal that I've got it absolutely right, and we can throw out those people we disagree with is completely out of order.  That's just not the way it works.
I confess my first reaction was, "And they let you get away with this?"  In the two questions and answers that I so laboriously transcribed, Justin seems to be doing what he said mustn't be done, namely muddling ideas.  To accept the idea that a straight person can have a marriage, but an LBGT person cannot, is homophobia, at least as I see it.  Why must the church hold "very firmly that marriage is a lifelong union of one man and one woman"?  Because of tradition?  The church changed its practice about a number of traditions.  To name only two: slavery and divorce.

Is it because of the few verses in the Scriptures that appear to refer to same-sexuality?  Surely Justin knows that the case against same-sex paetnerships and same-sex marriage in the Bible is quite weak.  None of the passages refer to faithful, loving, committed relationships of two persons of the same sex. Don't take my word for it; read Tobias Haller's book titled Reasonable and Holy.  Jesus never mentions same-sexuality in the Gospels, but he explicitly condemns divorce.  I'm mystified about what the church would allow in the way of pastoral practice.  It would seem very much like turning a blind eye, which Justin denied when the interviewer mentioned it.
Question: Do you worry sometimes that the concept of equality is beginning to displace Christian values?

Response: Equality as an aim and end in itself is something of a myth because people are not equal; they're different, and if we try to make them equal, we take away the extraordinary richness and diversity of human beings in all kinds of ways, and that's a huge mistake to make.  How you treat people can be equal without saying that you'll all be the same.
Balderdash!  Actually, a stronger word, not suitable for polite company, came to mind.  Justin Welby knows full well that those of us who advocate for equality for LGTB persons do not intend to "take away the extraordinary richness and diversity of human beings".  Why would he say such a thing?  We advocate for exactly what the archbishop says he wants: equal treatment under the law and in the church.

Since I had limited energy for transcribing, I picked out the archbishop's answers that troubled me most, but I believe the interview is a poor performance that sheds little light on Justin's admittedly evolving views on same-sexuality.  Unless he wishes to spend a good deal of his time answering questions about the issue, he must do better.

From the BBC.