The Primates and Public Relations

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 23.13.21In my last post (I hope) on the Primates’ gathering, I want to reflect briefly on what has happened since in terms of public relations. Pete Hobson, Canon Missioner at Leicester Cathedral, commented on Friday last week:

So this is the actual final Communique. A clear and strongly-worded challenge to homophobic violence and prejudice. A call to action on climate change. A challenge to work against global violence and poverty. An encouragement to lively evangelism. And a lot more – even possible agreement on the date of Easter!!

Oh yes, and a consequence for one church that has chosen to act unilaterally on one issue against the expressed views of the large majority of the rest of the communion, (though clearly not a ‘suspension’).

What bit of that gets all the headlines and all the intense reactions?

The presenting reason for this was that Anglican Ink had leaked the Statement on TEC and marriage a day early, and it was decided to confirm only that, rather than release early the wider communiqué which put the statement in a much broad context. In particular, it meant that the statement about relations with TEC came before this important part of the communiqué when it was intended to come after:

The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.

The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.

The order you put things in makes all the difference.

Although the press would have you believe that the meeting was tense, and it was all a power-struggle not much short of an ecclesial punch-up (the media love to deal in binary conflict—it creates a story), the feel of the meeting is captured much better by other comments. Here are the reflections from Philip Richardson, Archbishop of New Zealand:

In the end, the 80 journalists and 15 TV crews who gathered for the final press conference looked for winners and losers. In reality, though, we were all losers – because we are still fractured, broken, still inclined to mistrust. But we are committed to staying with each other. We are committed to walking together, to trying to see through each other’s eyes, to stepping into each other’s worlds, and to keeping on keeping on until mutual understanding grows. … We were praying for their life and work and asking for the blessing of God upon them. We were archbishops from widely different worlds, some with views at extreme ends of a spectrum on various issues, serving and praying for each other.

Would that such humility were a constant in my Church and our world!

The comment from Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt, echoed this profound sense of shared relationship:

Once we decided on the consequences for the actions of TEC, we started to discuss other issues. The spirit in the room had changed 180 degrees. It was amazing and tremendously encouraging to hear the passionate discussion about mission and evangelism, the challenge of refugees, religiously motivated violence, and environmental issues. It was a real joy for me to witness the different Primates sharing on how the Lord is at work in their provinces and how their churches are growing. I felt that this is the Anglican Communion I love.

Justin Welby’s own reflection also echoes this:

The meeting reached a point on Wednesday where we chose quite simply to decide on this point – do we walk together at a distance, or walk apart? And what happened next went beyond everyone’s expectations. It was Spirit-led. It was a ‘God moment’. As leaders of our Anglican Communion, and more importantly as Christians, we looked at each other across our deep and complex differences – and we recognised those we saw as those with whom we are called to journey in hope towards the truth and love of Jesus Christ. It was our unanimous decision to walk together and to take responsibility for making that work.

At one level, I am not expecting the general media either to understand this or to highlight it. After all, ‘agreement breaks out between nice Christians’ hardly makes a news story. But if you want to see how ill-informed, uncomprehending and downright biased some of the coverage was, then it is worth watching Channel 4 News from last Friday. The meeting was, in ignorant error, describes as ‘leaders of the Church of England’ and the focus was not on the substance of the communiqué or the press conference, but on the anger of protesters alone.

Cathy Newman: So, Alex, a pretty acrimonious day in Canterbury, then?

Alex Thompson: Yes, acrimonious indeed, and I suspect Justin Welby is a pretty frustrated man tonight. He wants to talk about other issues…but the same old issue, gay relations, gay marriage, keeps on coming up and grabbing the headlines.

Er, and who, might we ask, is writing these headlines? Channel 4 News! I was so shocked by the ignorance and bias that I have complained to OFCOM, and if you are able to see the coverage, I would encourage you too as well. I have no idea who Channel 4’s researchers are, or what kind of briefing they received or had available to them. But what followed was even worse. Jayne Ozanne, until recently Chair of Accepting Evangelicals, was in debate with Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of Christian Concern—and both members of General Synod, so deemed in some sense to be representing the C of E.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 23.27.29Jayne made her points clearly, with passion but also with reason, talking of the the suffering of gay and lesbians Christians in Africa, talking of the inadequacy of many ‘traditional’ approaches to the issue, and talking of her own pain in confronting the issue in her own life. In response, Williams trotted out (not very fluently) a series of hideous platitudes concerning ‘what the Bible says’. There was no reference to the Primates’ communique, no expression of interest or concern, no concession of good points to Jayne. The issue here is not that the ‘revisionist’ arguments are so much more convincing, or even PR-friendly, than the ‘traditionalist’ ones. I think I have demonstrated that it is perfectly possible to defend the Church’s current teaching on television and sound reasonable.

So, here is the hard question for anyone connected with PR in the C of E: What on earth are you doing allowing Andrea Williams to speak ‘on behalf of’ the Church?

I can only envisage two possible scenarios.

  1. The news outlet did not ask for a spokesperson. I think this is relatively unlikely, as they usually need all the help they can get.
  2. They did ask, but no spokesperson was offered, so they had to rely on their own research.

If the first, why aren’t we being proactive in offering potential people to speak? Surely there is a briefing sheet with contacts that is given out to media? If the second—what on earth do we think is going to happen? I didn’t listen to it The Sunday Programme on Radio 4, but I understand there was ‘revisionist’ voice after ‘revisionist’ voice without any ‘traditionalist’ response. Now that I think about it, I cannot recall any other voice representing the ‘traditional’ position in any media discussion.

I guess many people, including many bishops, feel that talking about this issue is a no-win situation. But if there is never a better spokesperson that what we have seen, or if there is a simple absence of a voice explaining and speaking up for the Church’s teaching, then it is a guaranteed loser.

The question isn’t trivial. There are plenty of hearts and minds out there who are wondering what place the Church now has in civilised society. And if we cannot offer a reasonable-sounding defence of the Church’s teaching, we are hastening the day of decision. The current position is not indefensible—but it is simply not being defended.

Follow me on Twitter @psephizo

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, would you consider donating £1.20 a month to support the production of this blog?

Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media (Facebook or Twitter) using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Like my page on Facebook.

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal:

For other ways to support this ministry, visit my Support page.

Comments policy: Do engage with the subject. Please don't turn this into a private discussion board. Do challenge others in the debate; please don't attack them personally. I no longer allow anonymous comments; if there are very good reasons, you may publish under a pseudonym; otherwise please include your full name, both first and surnames.

64 thoughts on “The Primates and Public Relations”

  1. Hi Ian

    I basically completely agree, except that I dont think c4 did as bad a job as you suggest.

    They covered both TEC and the welfare of LGBT Africans (and this is what the bulk of the communique is about!) It was also clear to me that the “acrimonious day” was in relation to the protestors. Channel 4 has, and always has had, a special remit towards minority groups so I dont think they were *that* bad in covering this from a gay African point of view!

    I am in stunned agreement with you about Andrea Williams, but I think a lot of the problem in covering this issue in the media is that “moderate” conservatives are often unwilling to speak on it.

    I also agree with you about “Sunday”. A few weeks ago they allowed Chris Sugden’s statement that Africans needed laws to protect their children from gay people to go unchallenged so they are clearly having problems charting an unbiased course on this topic. (Again those opposed to same sex marriage were represented by an extremist)

    I think this is a particularly difficult discussion for the media to present in an unbiased way, especially when the government has a view! One good thing that c4 did – in light of the entirely male group in Canterbury – was to have a debate between two women and chaired by a woman.

    • For the record, Andrea was called by C4 in the morning and asked to go on. She said no, invite one of the Archbishops who were there. They rang back to say they had all gone hone. She said, then invite a CofE bishop. They called back several hours later saying noone was available. Hearing noone was going on, she agreed. It would appear bishops may have been told not to make any public statements during the Shared Conversations. Andrea has repeatedly urged Orthodox Bishops to speak up, but they are silent. They are happy and available to talk about Climate Change and Food Banks, but not Marriage. So instead of complaining about Andrea, what about writing to your bishop asking him/her to stand up for Truth. As the old PR saying goes’ In the absence of genuine leadership, people will listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone!’.

      • Paul, thanks very much for that. It is interesting, because I was contacted by a senior leader in the Church suggesting that my comments were unnecessary criticism based on ignorance. In particular, this person claimed that ‘Channel 4 did not ask us. End of’.

        My question in return was not ‘were the Church asked’ but ‘Was there some proactivity in PR, in the offering of briefings and the names of potential interviewees to the news outlets’. I didn’t get a reply, and your account (from Andrea?) rather confirms that this did not happen.

        On such a contentious issue, with the possibility of PR damage, surely such proactivity should be a matter of course…?

        • The real worry is that so many untruths/half truths have now been told around the Primates statement/communique that it is totally discredited isn’t it? The PR has been just disastrous. Notably conservative sites and people have now all gone quiet since Foley Beach’s revelations.

          • (Even the conservatives here have gone quiet about it. Clearly there is concern that Foley Beach has blown the whole thing out of the water…..)

        • Unless they thought the archbishop of Canterbury was sufficient? And/or that sending someone in to be interviewed would cause worse PR damage?

      • Paul

        Im not sure if you meant to reply to me? Im no longer a member of the Church of England and I have no idea anyway what my local bishops stance on sexuality is.

        A recent interview with Libby Lane strongly suggests all the bishops have been told not to talk about sexuality, which I think is damaging! If the bishops do not feel they can talk about their sexuality in church, how can they expect others to be able to?

        I would really have liked particularly the GAFCON primates to explain themselves to the worlds press.

        However we did get the official line from the primates and a press conference with three of the more centrist primates, so I dont think it is really fair to suggest there wasn’t an official COFE line on this.

        Obviously I do not agree with Andrea that being gay is sinful or that same sex marriage is sinful, however my biggest problem with her was that she simply had no answer to Jaynne Ozannes hospitalisation and tried to deny the violence against gay Africans. This falsely paints Christianity as compassionless and disconnected with reality, when I believe we are called to both.

        For most people watching this their main concern will be “human rights abuses” and a complicit church in subsaharan Africa and the damage that extreme conservative theology can do to individual gay people at home. I suspect most of the church governance stuff will have passed them by.

        What kind of message has this sent out to them? That conservative Christians turn a blind eye to abuse? That conservative Christians are disconnected wih reality?

        • Edit

          This falsely paints Christianity as compassionless and disconnected with reality, when I believe we are called to both…. Compassion and a realistic faith.

  2. “So, here is the hard question for anyone connected with PR in the C of E: What on earth are you doing allowing Andrea Williams to speak ‘on behalf of’ the Church?” Very well said.

  3. From my perspective as a non Anglican I think the whole situation has been handled with great wisdom by the ABC. It had the potential for a disastrous division within the Anglicanism but a road has been followed that allows for dialogue and yet still holds true to the traditional teaching of the church on marriage. I don’t think this was ever about marriage it was more about how the wider church responds when a part of it chooses to go its own way in contradiction to the beliefs of the church.

    On another note who are Anglican Ink and how could they be so irresponsible to leak the communique? Someone in the meeting needs a bit of a talking to!

    • Yes, I entirely agree with you there, as you can see from my other posts on this. But this has hardly been communicated at all in the wider media.

      Anglican Ink are a web news service based in the US. Link is attached.

    • “…who are Anglican Ink and how could they be so irresponsible to leak the communique?”

      I’m puzzled by this comment. It is not “irresponsible” for journalists to report the news. And the fact of the matter is that Lambeth Palace enjoys playing press games such as blacking out news. This often backfires, and not only with the Lambeth press office. By blacking out information and refusing to be transparent and forthcoming with what was really going on at the Primates’ Meeting, the press office virtually guaranteed that there would be leaks.

      The Lambeth press office should properly bear at least some of the responsibility for these leaks by their non-transparency and attempts to spin the news. It shouldn’t be blamed on Anglican Ink.

      • The real question, Wyclif, is which Primate leaked it to Anglican Ink. And what consequences will they accept for doing so?

          • I’m not so sure Pete. No respected journalist would have broken such an embargo, even if they had been given the material, and the suggestion is that they weren’t. And I doubt members of Lambeth Palace staff would have done so. Anglican Ink suggested earlier in the week that one of the Primates was leaking information and I think that is the most likely scenario, but we ought to be told.

          • Alas Pete I don’t! My understanding is that only Primates, and staff such as the Director of Reconciliation were present. If it is public knowledge, can you not tell me?!

          • Lol sorry for being so secretive, but I have no evidence that it was the individual Im thinking of apart from his behaviour after the meeting. There were at least two bishops at the meeting who are not primates of the anglican communion.

  4. The problem is that the media likes a fight; even the otherwise excellent Channel 4 news. The sense of disappointment on the Radio 4 Today programme when they bring on two ‘opponents’ who actually agree on the substance of what is being discussed. On the other hand, Andrea Williams, like Jayne, is on GS; she has been elected, so she does represent a certain Christian constituency.

    • Thanks, Andrew—but how can they not have *any* voice? Are you suggesting that they don’t have names that they put forward?

      Or that, having put names forward, Channel 4 ignored them?

      Or is there some part of the process that I have missed? When I was in BBC2 daytime, I was told that it was because there was no-one else in the C of E who was prepared to do it. I’d like to hear a contradiction of that, but I am not hopeful. And if that it true, it is both shameful and a disaster.

  5. Thanks for all the great work you do Ian. I think your questions about how the c of e and conservative Anglicans handle the media need further thought. Why have the house of Bishops been silent? Why is there so much media and tweets from Lambeth that seem calculated to downplay the significance of the action against TEC? These are serious questions which need answers if trust in the CofE is to not further erode.
    Im grateful for the tireless work Andrea Williams does on behalf of orthodox believers – I think that too much focus on her may distract from the more substantive questions you raise about wider leadership.

    • The calculated downplay of the significance of the actions against TEC is because the actions turned out to be outside the powers of the Primates. They can “require”, or as Justin Welby has moderated it down to “ask” TEC to vacate its seat on the ACC, but they have no formal powers to remove TEC from it.
      My real requestion would be who conceived these strange consequences. After all, the Primates must know that the ACC is an elected body and that they have no legal powers to interfere with it.
      Someone in that meeting must have known that.

      • Well said, Erika. But many American Episcopalians are tired of the double-standard. I think it’s time for us to defund the Anglican Communion. We can still financially support worthwhile projects anywhere, but the Anglican Communion bureaucracy should be a starved beast. There are “consequences” for bigotry, too.

        Kurt Hill
        Brooklyn, NY

        • To be honest, as a conservative Anglican, I’d welcome TEC withdrawing its funding from Anglican Communion bureaucracy. This would be appropriate given the current (and hopefully temporary) disciplinary measures. It might also help all the provinces to feel that they are equals, rather than having a sense that the West are always acting as hosts and the South always guests.

  6. Ian,

    To your question: What on earth are you doing allowing Andrea Williams to speak on behalf of’ the Church?

    I’m not sure whether Andrea Williams need permission, given their public visibility and leadership of well-known religious organisations.

    Both Andrea Williams and Jayne Ozanne are high-profile figures in the CofE. Andrea Williams, a lawyer and re-elected member of General Synod, who founded Christian Concern back in 2008 and she is also the founder and director of the Christian Legal Centre.

    Jayne Ozanne is Director of Fundraising, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Charitable Funds, a member of General Synod, a founder member of the Archbishops’ Council, who ‘came out’ in 2015 and now is the director of Accepting Evangelicals. Late last year, she engaged in a high-profile debate with Robert Gagnon.

    I might well disagree with both of them and recoil at Andrea’s facile caricature of scriptural truth, but I’m a comparative nobody. In contrast, they were both elected to General Synod by the Deanery Synod reps in their respective dioceses. Given the constituencies which they represent, I would expect them to participate vocally and influentially in the upcoming GS debates.

    For better or worse, Andrea and Jayne are leaders of the CofE. And their respective views are probably far more reflective of CofE churchgoers’ ethos and current level of bible literacy than most theologians or anyone who posts to this blog.

    Change only becomes critical when the cost of complacency becomes intolerable. As Jeremiah lamented, before the stormclouds of divine chastening gathered, threatening Jerusalem’s siege: ‘The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?’ (Jer 5:31)

    Ne’er a truer word spoke!

  7. At 71 I am still trying to take in others view and weigh it with what the church has came to be today.I am old fashioned so bear with me.

  8. I imagine C4 used Jayne and Andrea because they have appeared on the news elsewhere and represent forcefully the different “ends” of the Christian debate (so expected to make “entertaining” viewing?).

    If you ever debate with Jayne you need to have facts and issues at your fingertips beyond God’s Will (as seen in Scripture and in Nature)… In a debate with an America Bible scholar by moved the discussion on to the hurt (and suicide) of some gay people, and her happiness when she found a girlfriend. (NB 1. We all agree that some sexual behaviours are wrong – whether or not the people who experience them feel hurt about it. 2. Suicide is more prevalent among gay people than straight – but it is FOUR TIMES more prevalent among men than women!!.. and 3. Christian sexual ethics and morality is based on deeper and more serious questions than how happy something makes you feel…).

    ps I notice that to become a member of Accepting Evangelicals you dont have to assent to an evangelical statement of faith… so is it actually just “Accepting people-who-self-identify-as Evangelicals”?

  9. The important thing to bear in mind is that television is entertainment. Television news is entertainment.
    If I were a news editor I’d get people on who would argue passionately and keep my viewers watching.
    In the far-off days of primitive TV, sometimes programmes were aired which were pure intellectual discussion. Documentaries were like informative lectures. Not now. Documentaries have to have human interest, suspense, conflict. TV debates aren’t academic seminars because nuanced views don’t entertain.That’s why, surely, these two were chosen to debate. Whatever happened they would entertain.
    Apart from which, Andrea Williams is doing a great job in a pretty rough world. I certainly don’t want to knock her views or her work.

  10. I thought Andrea Williams was great, in that she cut straight to the heart of sexual morality. Yes, we all have sexual brokenness, and Yes! God has a plan for us, gifted to us in creation, called Marriage. And, yes, all sexual behaviour outside marriage is wrong, precisely because it is not marital. That is a message our the world desperately needs to hear: the good news of marriage. What we saw, shockingly, was a Christian, on telly, actually telling the truth!

    So why not instead ask the C of E, “What on earth are you doing allowing Jayne Ozanne to speak ‘on behalf of’ the Church?”

    • I dont think either AW or JO were there to speak on behalf of the cofe. They were both there to give opinions from their own point of view.

      Regardless of AW’s theology, her performance was terrible. She seemed unable to finish a single sentence and – at the same time – felt it necessary to shout over everything her opponent tried to say.

      In terms of theology, I think her biggest problem was she made out like Christianity is a fairy story and, consistent with that, failed to deal with the real – world consequences of that theology namely JO’s anxiety-based illness that nearly killed her and denying the horrific treatment of gay people in certain African countries. In a secular news context, these are the real issues, not a desire for universal conformity to a bizarre aestheticism.

  11. Ever since Justin Welby started apologising for the way the CofE has treated gay and lesbian people (20/04/14) I’ve been waiting to hear exactly what that ill-treatment was and apparently still is. It’s constantly repeated but never elucidated. I genuinely have no idea what is happening that is so terrible but surely no one is revisiting the secular criminal sanctions which ended nearly 50 years ago and which were nothing directly to do with the church?

    But when the brief Ozanne / Williams debate happened on Channel 4 news it was once again cast in the light of that repeated assertion which of course played straight into Ozanne’s oft repeated narrative. I doubt that any uninformed viewer was any the wiser about an issue which demands considerable thought and information if it is to be understood.

    As the CofE, from the top down, has continually failed to defend its teaching on the issue in terms of saying why that teaching remains sound (rather than merely saying it remains unchanged thus far), I wonder who it could pick from the hierarchy to argue for that position (or any position) with clarity and confidence. It is a mess, but perhaps CofE spokespeople on TV and radio have always been on the back foot. I don’t think coaching for media appearance would help so much as a real grasp of the issue under debate coupled with the ability to present it succinctly. Over to you Ian.

    • Don,

      I think that the CofE hierarchy is still reeling from what Welby described in 2013 as ‘the overwhelming change in the cultural hinterland.’

      “Anyone who listened to much of the Same Sex Marriage Bill Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland. Predictable attitudes were no longer there.
      “The opposition to the Bill – which included me and many other bishops – was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance and participation and majority since 1945.
      There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches”.
      He admitted that it had been “close to the bone” to evidence of young gay people driven to suicide because of uncaring attitudes from churches.

      While those, who opposed the SSM Bill, described marriage through biblical concepts, referring to age-old definitions from marriage jurisprudence, and describing procreation, consummation and adultery as essential to marriage, they hoped to thereby demonstrate the institution to be heterosexual in nature.

      Yet, they failed to show how, as a remedy for societal homophobia, granting the dignity of marriage recognition to loving same-sex couples could negatively impact the rights of others.

      I have heard very few clergy who are able to marshal a convincing argument that, although in favour of the Church’s current doctrine of marriage, also resonates with the secular values of the general public.

      Church leaders have simply failed to discover the public policy reasons for which Thomas Cromwell tasked all clergy with solemnising marriages in every parish in order to join couples in not only loving commitment, but also in readiness for the prospect of parenthood.

      Marriage anticipates and provides automatic contingency for the joint care of their natural offspring and without intrusion upon their family privacy.

      They also miss the fact that adoption, IVF and surrogacy remained subsidiary to responsible biological parenthood, until LGBT advocacy groups sought to amend marriage law so that it would confer automatic joint co-parenthood with no need for a biological relationship to the child, regardless of how it was conceived and without the explicit surrender of biological parenthood.

      They have never challenged LGBT groups, like the ILGA, to explain why they pursue parental rights through marriage ‘equality’ which have disadvantaged unsurrendered biological parenthood.

      In the end, the CofE bishops in the House of Lords merely argued from self-interest in support of their religious institution: that legal tradition showed that marriage was heterosexual (but not why), that same-sex marriage might provoke a constitutional crisis, or compel clergy to perform marriage rites in conflict with their consciences (ultimately averted through the quadruple locks).

      They largely argued for themselves, but didn’t show how the rights of responsible biological parents have been curtailed by according all the goods of marriage to same-sex couples.
      I suspect that on TV panel discussions, like Question Time, most clergy supportive of traditional marriage would flounder.

      Despite the general public accepting the Church’s unquestionable right to exercise religious freedom, few clerics could argue from a secular perspective without contradicting themselves by, on the one hand, claiming to be ‘stunned’ by the mutual commitment of same-sex couples, while, on the other hand, having to fight the media characterisation of traditional marriage being unnecessarily exclusionary and responsible for young gay suicide.

      As I’ve shown, there is a cogent argument for traditional marriage, by which the exclusion of same-sex couples is an entirely necessary and defensible prohibition.

      • David

        I agree that the parliamentary opposition to same sex marriage failed to explain why they were opposed to it.

        I think there are lots of problems with saying that marriage must be about raising children, but I think most pertinent to your argument is that both the Church of England and especially secular society would not buy the argument that marriage is about raising children.

        I think probably the reason that the Church of England has not campaigned against surrogacy and IVF is that they have been legal in the UK since the 1970s and 1980s, respectively and so they almost certainly did not see the link between them and the same sex marriage bill (2014). I thinjk it isn’t that most clerics *cant* manage to argue a secular case for banning gay people from marriage, it is that most clerics don’t see it as a societal evil in the way that you seem to. Forgive me, but your argument against same sex marriage is that you oppose some stuff that gay couples would be legally allowed to do regardless of whether they could legally marry or not? This seems to me to be even more bizarre than Andrea Williams “beautiful picture” argument.

        According to the house of bishops, they did not ask for the quadruple lock, but rather that came from the government and was possibly to appease worried MPs rather than the bishops. Ultimately in a democracy it is pretty difficult for a government to say “no” to something that a large majority of the public are in favour of *and* brings better rights and protections to a historically oppressed minority and you only need to see last week’s Question Time to see what happens if you go down that path as the DUP have (one guy said “you can hardly call yourself democratic” and really he is not wrong).

        I disagree that the media portray opposing gay marriage as causing youth suicide and I think we, the church, need to be better at talking about gay issues without making the entire discussion about marriage.

        • Pete J,

          My arguments here have always been much more nuanced than you would want to give me credit for.

          As was typical of the same-sex marriage debates, you’ve sought to summarise the traditional marriage position, as endorsed by the European Court of Human Rights, ‘marriage is geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood’ by resorting to and repeating the inane gloss: ‘marriage is mainly about raising children’.

          On TV, such a gross distortion of opponents’ view might provoke the audience to ripples of derisory laughter to ripple as they wait for the liberal ‘bright spark’ on the panel to trawl out the stale rhetoric of: ‘what about infertile straight couples, would you ban them from marriage too?’

          ‘Your argument against same-sex marriage is that you oppose some stuff that gay couples would be legally allowed to do regardless of whether they could marry or not?’

          Hmm, I wonder if you know something that your learned allies at the ILGA don’t. I mean, there they are fighting tooth and nail in Strasbourg for marriage to confer automatic presumptive parenthood of children born to either spouse by any means and regardless of genetic connection.

          Yet, unbeknownst to them, your sharp legal mind has discovered that they’ve already achieved this without recourse to marriage rights. Just think of how much your stupendous revelation will conserve the precious funds of LGBT advocacy groups everywhere, who campaign tirelessly for what you say they already have!

          And you’ve the temerity to call my argument ‘bizarre’.

          Again, I didn’t claim that the House of Bishops asked for the quadruple lock, but that it averted concerns over compelling CofE clergy to solemnise same-sex marriage. Your disagreement is that well-known ‘straw man’ fallacy.

          At the time of the SSM Bill’s reading, there was no large majority in favour of same-sex marriage. The polls conducted at the time showed a marked disparity of opinion between younger and older voters on this issue.

          As a result, the SSM Act 2013 was simple expediency: symbolic of commitment to modernisation and youth. It was largely aimed at doing homage In mistaken anticipation of the new dawn of liberal ascendancy.

          Actually, I’m all for talking about something other than gay issues and gay marriage.

          How about we give space to discuss something else for a few posts, like how the Church should bear witness to the gospel by overcoming its endemic ethnic and racial segregation? How does that square with statistical proof of the Church of England’s ethnically and racially homogeneous clergy and parishioners? Or is that also, as Welby put it, ‘close to the bone’?

          • David

            I wasn’t saying that marriage is mainly about raising children, you were saying that and I was disagreeing. If you don’t believe that then your secular arguments against marriage for gay people don’t seem to have any basis at all.

            As I have said many times, not only do I not necessarily support these surrogacy laws that you continually complain about, I don’t even understand why you are opposed to them. In the UK if you “use” a surrogate then the presumptive parents are the surrogate and her partner. The alternatives would either be confusion (not good) or that the customers were presumptive parents (also not good). Again, this really is about surrogacy (for straight people and gay people) and has nothing to do with marriage equality. I don’t see the link; I don’t see why you seem to think it is the fault of people like me!

            Again I am not using “straw men”, I am just misunderstanding what you are saying. If you are not saying that the bishops asked for the quadruple lock and you are not arguing against same sex marriage because of your problems with gay surrogacy/IVF, then *please* try to be clearer. The lack of clarity is no doubt because we are coming from totally different points of view on this and it is difficult to understand one another.

            The trouble is David, you say you want to talk about something else, but you are replying to a post by Don in which he is asking about mistreatment of gay people and youve turned it into another rant against surrogacy.

            I of course agree with you that there shouldn’t be segregation in the church. Actually in my area of the country we don’t seem to have that problem – ethnic minority representation amongst CofE churchgoers seems to be roughly in line with that of the general population, but I know it is a problem in other areas and in the clergy.

          • Pete J.

            Try to re-read what I’ve actually written. How does me describing how you’ve summarised the traditional position amount to a claim, on my part, that you hold that view of marriage.

            You should have a good read of HFEA 2008 before assuming that the elimination of ‘the need for a father’ for future donor-conceived children was not skewed by LGBT advocacy,

            My focus on this counters your own ‘ranting’ on about the perpetual guilt of society in victimisng of LGBT individuals.

            The notion that same-sex marriage is a harmless way to bestow dignity and social acceptance upon same-sex sexual relationships is completely false, when the ultimate intention is to undermine the responsible biological parent that they may co-opt to have offspring.

            So, here’s what? Agree with me that, as fellow citizens, LGBT couples should have their relationships formally recognised by civil authorities, but without the presumption of their joint parenthood through marriage and we can move on.

          • And just to answer the stock riposte: ‘what about infertile straight couples, would you ban them from marriage too?’

            My answer is that the right to marry is based on prima facie [at first sight] evidence without intrusion upon privacy for medical information. Absent such intrusion, and marriage being ‘geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood is equally applicable to infertile straight couples.

            In contrast, there is no prima facie fundamental possibility of parenthood which would make the presumptive parenthood applicable to same-sex couples.

            The World Health Organisation defines infertility as ‘a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse’.. On that basis, I doubt that anyone could argue for a serious equivalence of the plight of infertility and the inability of same-sex sexual activity to produce children!

          • David

            I have been talking here about the treatment of LGBT people because this is a thread about same sex marriage *and* the treatment of gay people (or rather the PR surrounding the latest announcement about them). It is not about surrogacy.

            I am prepared to say that I would personally prefer couples who can’t have their own children to adopt. I haven’t been in that position myself and don’t feel the need to condemn others for their domestic situation. I think *probably* surrogacy is more of a societal good that ill, but I have no real know,edge about it. I do not think being for or against surrogacy or IVF should impact ones view of same sex marriage as they are clearly different issues. You keep raising the fact that apparently gay rights groups support this presumptive parent thing – well gay rights groups argue for a lot of things! Thats why the word “rights” is plural.

            Im sorry I must seem very thick to you but I can see no link between what you are complaining about and either treatment of gay people by the church or same sex marriage.

          • Pete J,

            I think that you’ve inadvertently agreed with me, despite claiming: ‘I can see no link between what you are complaining about and either treatment of gay people by the church or same sex marriage’

            You see, you stated: ‘ In the UK if you “use” a surrogate then the presumptive parents are the surrogate and her partner. The alternatives would either be confusion (not good) or that the customers were presumptive parents (also not good).

            Your last alternative is exactly what is effected through same-sex marriage in the US, Canada, Netherlands and Australia. And, as long as one spouse is related to the child, the manner of conception is irrelevant.

            The presumptive parenthood through marriage of both same-sex spouses (not just surrogacy ‘customers’) is exactly what the ILGA is campaigning for across Europe as a right of marriage (not just gay rights generally): ‘Article 12 – Spouses and registered partners:
            ‘A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth shall also be considered as a parent, regardless of genetic connection.’

            You’ve as much as agreed that this presumptive parenthood, a right of marriage, is not good, when applied conclusively to someone unrelated to the child.

            Erika Baker, a regular Thinking Anglicans commentator, argues for this, when she stated in her Committee Stage Memorandum, MB 19, for the Same-Sex Marriage Bill :

            In order to help our children and grandchildren, and those of the other 8000+ same sex parents in this country, I would urge you to ensure that the legal situation of our children is exactly like that for any other child.

            That includes in particular that if they are born into a same sex household by whatever means or adopted by one, both their parents are considered in law as their true parents with equal parenting rights. Should those parents split up or should one of them die, there must be absolutely no question that the remaining parent has full parental rights exactly on the same footing that would apply to children in a conventional marriage.

            Civil Partnerships, which are in law almost equal to marriage, have confirmed again that “equal but different” never works but that it always means “different”.

            I urge you to ensure that the concept of full equality also applies to our children and that their legal standing will not be “equal but different”.

            So, it appears that you alone see no link between same-sex marriage and liberals seeking marriage’s age-old right, presumptive parenthood, to now be granted regardless of genetic connection.

            Mere coincidence? I think not. I rest my case.

          • David

            No the law in the UK as it currently stands is that the surrogate and her partner are the presumptive parents, not the biological parents. I think the alternatives are worse.

            Agreeing that same sex couples should be treated the same as opposite sex couples with regards to surrogacy is *not* the same as suggesting the requested change in presumptive parenting is *due* to same sex marriage. If you somehow succeeded in making same sex marriage illegal, it would have no impact on this since same and opposite sex couples could still use surrogates. If you made it illegal for gay people to be parents, it would have no impact.

            BTW Austrailia do not have same sex marriage. If they have this presumptive parenthood then it demonstrates that the two things are separate issues.

            I have said this before, but maybe you missed it. Gay people have different views on things, just as straight people have different views on things. It is very odd for you to assume certain views on mine based on my orientation – views Ive now told you at least four times that I do not hold!

          • Pete J,

            Your focus on surrogacy is misdirection.

            1. The regulations governing surrogacy only relate to HFEA-licensed clinic
            2. You’ve simply delete any reference to either IVF (where the marital presumption does apply), or informally co-opting a known friend to have a child without resorting to an HFEA-licensed clinic.
            3. It’s fatal to your argument that the drive for what is called ‘full marriage equality’ extends beyond licensed IVF/surrogacy to the presumptive parenthood of children conceived by any means, which includes reneging on prior informal arrangements to share parenthood with the biological father, as case law amply demonstrates.
            4. You are clearly not be aware that you can have common law and statutory presumptions. So, the Australian situation involves statutory presumptive parenthood, not the common law presumption of parenthood through marriage per se.

            Of course, it’s strange that you make no mention of the other jurisdictions, such as the US, where the age-old common law presumption of parenthood through marriage is misapplied gender-neutrally to children conceived by any means and at the expense of biological fathers. I guess it doesn’t serve your cause.

            Finally, I’m not claiming that you and every other LGBT person approve of ‘full marriage equality’. I am saying (and have said more than four times) that full marriage equality includes applying the common law presumption of parenthood to same-sex couples. It’s injustice is in re-defining co-parenthood from the spouse who is legally considered the other likely biological parent to merely the spouse married to the birth mother, regardless of biological connection.

            The UK has simply curtailed full marriage equality by withholding the common law presumption of parenthood from same-sex couples. It’s like granting a semblance of Brtitsh Citizenship without the right to vote.

            I reject your attempt to equate statutory presumptions (e.g. In Australia) with the common law marital presumption of parenthood as proof that the latter is unrelated to marriage. The latter is demonstrably the next logical step on the road to full marriage ‘equality’ , regardless of whether you agree with it or not.

            The issue here is not the mere result of being considered presumptive parents under very specific circumstances, but demanding that marriage should compel the State in all circumstances to treat one spouse’s lack of a genetic connection to the child as inconsequential. That’s what’s meant by full marriage equality.

            Claiming to disagree with that reality is cheap. What’s costly is to campaign against full marriage equality. Oh, but, of course you can’t, because you’re still undecided!

            I won’t waste further time on your love of lame riposte.

          • David

            I only mentioned Australia because it seems obvious to me if they can have he law you don’t like in a country that doesn’t even allow gay people to marry then the law you don’t like *cant* be caused by same sex marriage. Isnt that obvious?

            I dropped the IVF because it was a lot of typing and because it seems to me that surrogacy is going to be the case most open to disputed parenthood. There is also sperm donation, but you probably don’t have a problem with that?

            My issue is that you seem to be opposed to this presumptive parenthood for gay couples and not for straight couples. My issue is not “we must have the presumptive parenthood”, but more that gay and straight couples should be treated equally. So if we have a law that says the surrogate mothers partner is presumed as a parent, it shouldn’t matter if they are male or female. Does that make sense. Equality *doesnt* mean that you have to have this law, but if you have it and want equality it should apply equally to gay people and straight people. You have explained why the situation is different for gay and straight couples.

            It also seems a bit odd that you are again trying to tell me what I believe about this when I have been quite open and honest about my views several times. Not all gay people believe the same thing. Just because I don’t believe same sex relationships to be sinful does not mean I want whatever this law is (and you still haven’t explained it to me!). As far as I am concerned I am very happy with the legal arrangements as they currently stand, with the caveat that these are not laws that will ever apply to me!

            You say you don’t want to waste any more time on this, but you’ve now turned four *four* of Ian’s threads on other topics into a bizarre discussion on this where you keep accusing me of supporting some law and I keep saying I have no strong views!

          • No. It’s on ‘your love of lame riposte’ (as you’ve exhibited again) that I won’t waste time. You’ve again epically failed to understand the difference between statute and common law.

            From now on, we can both engage with others on Ian’s blog.

          • David

            As is obviously apparent I am not trained in law. However I can tell perfectly well that surrogacy/IVF etc are not the same thing as same sex marriage. There is a very clear decoupling. Nothing you have complained about can possibly be specifically a “gay” problem, yet you choose to blame people like me for it.

          • I was wondering how long it would take for you to play the homophobia trump card.

            This exchange has not been about IVF/surrogacy per se, but about willing natural parenthood being routinely usurped by conferring presumed parenthood on a spouse unrelated to the other partner’s child.

            In the jurisdictions discussed, they only happened after same-sex couples campaigned to be considered automatic joint parents through marriage of a child who was only biologically related to one spouse.


      • Thanks David. I agree with you about there being a cogent argument for the exclusiveness of heterosexual marriage. And I particularly regret the legal institution of the fatherless or motherless child attached to the rights of same sex parents. But I do wonder how Justin Welby was able to make his 2013 comment with a straight face: where had he been between say 1970 and 2013? Had he missed out on pop culture, the TV soaps, the red top newspapers, the entertainment world and general attitudinal change amongst his neighbours, work colleagues and friends throughout that whole period?

        In 2014 the shallow basis on which the Equal Marriage bill was publicly presented so riled me that I wrote out my own thoughts on the issue as a way of making myself think it through – both from a non religious point of view and the Christian one. I admit to discovering far more ramifications than I had realised and very soon was at 15000 words, and it was not remotely an academic work. The whole issue is far too complex and nuanced to be summarised in the kind of shallow soundbite that our current media demands but there is no excuse for being unprepared for the kind of emotional / equalities arguments which are constantly repeated. However, in fairness, it is much easier to write comments like this (at leisure) than to respond at split second speed on live TV or radio!

    • Don

      I agree with you it would be nice and very useful to understand exactly what Welby wants the CofE to repent from. I would suggest one of two things


      repenting from not treating gay people as well as laid out in Lambeth 1.10

      i.e. celibate gay people should be treated as well as straight people and should be allowed to be *fully involved* in the life of the church and partnered gay people should have their faith respected and allowed to attend church.


      repenting from negative treatment and/or ill judgement about our “condition”

      not having a church environment that is hostile to us
      not seeing an embodiment of sexual immorality instead of a person for whom Christ died
      not confusing us with paedophiles,
      not blaming all the ills of the church and society on us (e.g. heterosexual divorce rates, lack of church growth etc),
      not putting us through exorcism or sending us to reparative therapy,
      not treating us like there is anything wrong with us or that we have chosen to be like this,
      not banning us from activities or roles in the local church
      not yelling at us
      not telling us that we cannot be saved/God doesnt love us/we are unacceptable to God etc
      not opposing the “gay rights” that have nothing to do with sex (e.g. work, housing, goods and services etc)

      one good thing is that Ive neveer heard of violence being used in the cofe against a gay person, but I know it is elsewhere.

      • Thanks Pete – that’s interesting. But would you not think that there might be a problem with involving gay people in an area of church leadership where they would want to oppose what the church believes? Would you characterise such reticence as ill-treatment?

        Also, any minority people tend to be subject to some reaction by the majority; it’s human nature and not necessarily meant as a hurtful thing. I’ve been to large evangelical churches where successful middle class families with children are the favoured group and singles / older people / less well off people have to tag along as best they can – it’s not a great attitude but it’s human nature and sometimes you just have to toughen up, find your own niche, or perhaps find a church where you feel more at home.

        I would also suggest that there’s no such thing as ‘gay people’ or ‘heterosexual people’ – just people. Whatever personal problems or proclivities we have should not be allowed to define us or imprison us. If we constantly measure our welcome or involvement in a church (or any organisation) in terms of reaction to our self specified minority grouping we are likely to attribute every perceived negative experience in terms of a personal attack on our minority status.

        I would hope that no church would be inclined to react unkindly to something about you that is inherent to who you are but, if scripture teaches that something you intend to do falls outside of God’s wish for you, a kind and loving church may have to remind you of that. If they do so in an ignorant or deliberately hurtful way (you’ve described some), that is regrettable but my advice is to try and separate out the truth from the human failing in the way it may have been delivered – the truth will still set you free, and that’s so much more important than the less than perfect way we Christians sometimes relate to one another!

        • Don

          Not all gay people are in favour of gay relationships and there are also plenty of straight people that are. If there is a local church leadership position then surely it would be better to select the person by checking their beliefs are appropriate to the role, rather than banning someone based on who they are attracted to? I know of people who have been refused or removed from being in the worship band, leading a bible study and being on the flower rota simply because of who they are attracted to…yet they could become a vicar in charge of a whole church!

          Yes! I completely agree that, for example, single people are second class in some churches, but I would draw a line between a lack of inclusion and abusive towards a minority. Ive been both an (assumed straight) single person and an out gay single person in such a church. I experienced exactly what you described before I came out, but after I came out my treatment became so bad that I became scared to go to church. I disagree that the answer to hurt is for people to “toughen up” or find a different church. That may be a suitable solution for a secular organisation, but not the church of Christ, and NB it is not me calling the Church of England to repent, but the Archbishop of Canterbury!

          I completely agree that there should be no straight or gay, but unfortunately that is not yet the case in the church.

          Ive never heard a sermon on sexuality, so I can’t really comment what is and is not appropriate for that, but I think you can preach against same sex sex etc, but at the same time preach that all people have value.

          I have thought of some more since my other post

          Assuming gay people are inherently sinful in a way that straight people are not
          Interrogating gay people about their sex lives or celibacy if it isn’t also done to straight people
          Demanding gay people repent from something that we have no power to change
          Calling gay people “the enemy” and/or describing us as separate from the church
          Claiming we are a bad influence or confusing to children
          Saying we should be excluded from attending church

          These last three are courtesy of recent remarks by Franklin Graham (not an Anglican), but actually they are fairly typical of church leaders remarks!

  12. I always welcome Andea giving her views. It inspires me anew.
    Still, I am somewhat interested to know if there is a list of “acceptable” voices promoted by the PR teams at Lambeth/Church House, and is Ian on that list?
    Please tell.
    I suspect that the PR teams saw the game was up when Professor Norman Doe pointed out that the new Imperial Primates were naked or, at best, wearing stolen underpants.
    This eminent academic lawyer was the Primates choice to bring together what George Carey predicted would become the Fifth Insteument of Communion, he wrote the book on Communion law. So, his dismissal of the Primates attempt (yet again) to usurp the power that lawfully belongs elsewhere, must have sent a chill through the PR corridors.
    He was also one of the principal advisors on the Covenant, a document Gregory Cameron would say was specifically designed to prevent this type of Communique which had been seen to. Fail so instantly at Dar Es Salaam where threats of walkouts and outside interference brought the end to Primates Meetings.

    When this meeting was announced I had great hopes that Justin Welby would be able to find a new language to unite the Primates, a new way of listening that would build a stronger family of churches, so far he has only repeated mistakes of earlier men.
    This despite the Lambeth Conference consensus rejecting rule by Primates Communique. Indeed, in the teeth of that Instruments expressed view.

    One suspects that Norman Doe’s view will prevail. What that will brings to a Communion that has given the Covenat at best an “Amber light” one can only surmise. The Covenant or something like it is still a long term objective for many who would like to see the Primates return to their previous role and sustain the diverse and dispersed authority that is the mark of our tradition.

    We all wish Welby well, he is indeed in a complex and difficult position. I shall never forget his speech on the fatal amendment to Bill establishing equal marriage, he appeared to speak against the amendment and then voted for it.
    He is dealing with a whirlwind.

  13. Sadly it’s now beginning to look like the Primates did not actually agree anything at all – they were not there to agree it according to Foley Beach

    “Some have asked whether Archbishop Beach voted to approve the final Communique or the new members of the Standing Committee. Neither he nor a majority of the GAFCON Primates were? present for these discussions on Friday.”

    So was it all a PR stunt?

    • That’s interesting.

      At the press conference Justin Welby seemed to say that the communique was his wording and he didn’t speak for all the primates. So maybe that bit was *just* him?

      Having said that Foley Beach and Justin Welby were already in disagreement over whether Beach was a full member of the meeting or not, so maybe they were at different meetings?!

      • The concern, Pete, is that we were told the communique was unanimously agreed. We were told no one left the meeting, apart form the Archbishop of Uganda, and apparently the Archbishop of Canterbury had no idea why he had left, even though Uganda had made it clear to the media exactly why he had left. Now we are being told that Foley Beach and the majority of the Gafcon Primates were not even there to discuss the communique and had left the meeting on Thursday evening because TEC etc were not going to repent.
        So why the two contradictory stories?
        It’s beginning to look like Foley Beach or one of the Gafcon Primates leaked the first communique isn’t it?

        • Have we been told the communique was unanimously agreed or have we been told the statement opposing TEC was. I have to say it seems wierd to me that they were separate in the first place.

          In terms of the leaking “you might very well think that, I could not possibly comment”. On an entirely different note, you’ll notice that Foley Beach is not a primate of the communion and was present at the meeting.

          Although I can understand that these primates want privacy to discuss this stuff, I don’t now why there is such secrecy around what was discussed and decided. It’s all very feudal. We are used to being able to watch our secular leaders debating on the telly, so it is really frustrating to not even be allowed to know who has agreed to what!

  14. The spin appears to be unravelling.
    It is no more a meeting of minds than we have seen for the past twenty years.

    The same mistakes by different men, well, mostly. For in the shadows, that extraordinary man Peter Jensen is still exercising amazing power. Seeing himself as one of those most likely to be ejected from Communion councils he turned the tables and made the others rue the day. He still holds the Communion by the throat ……

    The PR guys have a great deal more to think over rather than who can make homophobia sound more palatable …..


Leave a comment