The text of a brilliantly scathing open letter from John Shelby Spong to Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, can be found here. Spong does an excellent job of documenting a whole litany of examples of Williams's failures of moral leadership on matters of sexuality and women's rights, as Williams continually capitulated to the religious right within his denomination. Spong points out that, for Rowan Williams, "unity was more important than truth." The final four paragraphs of this letter are as follows:
I think that Spong really highlights the problem of favoring maintaining denominational unity at all costs, even at the cost of standing in the way of moral and social progress. Spong in his letter makes a historical analogy with slavery at one point, and it is an interesting one. Some American denominations were split into two over the issue of slavery during the mid-eighteenth century. When we look back at those divisive times, it is clear that taking a clear moral stand against slavery was the right thing to do, even at the cost of denominational unity. Why should anyone allow the march of moral progress today to be dragged down by obstructionist reactionaries?
You continue to act as if quoting the Bible to undergird a dying prejudice is a legitimate tactic. It is in fact the last resort that religious people always use to validate "tradition" over change.
The Bible was quoted to support the Divine Right of Kings in 1215, to oppose Galileo in the 17th century, to oppose Darwin in the 19th century, to support slavery and apartheid in the 19th and 20th centuries, to keep women from being educated, voting and being ordained in the 20th and 21st century.
Today it is quoted to continue the oppression and rejection of homosexual people. The Bible has lost each of those battles. It will lose the present battle and you, my friend, will end up on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of morality and the wrong side of truth. It is a genuine tragedy that you, the most intellectually-gifted Archbishop of Canterbury in almost a century, have become so miserable a failure in so short a period of time.
You were appointed to lead, Rowan, not to capitulate to the hysterical anger of those who are locked in the past. For the sake of God and this Church, the time has come for you to do so. I hope you still have that capability.