Some people in the past have defended Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by suggesting that on the subject of sexuality he is caught between the disparate factions of the church, and that his response to the Episcopal Church's moves towards greater equality for gays and lesbians is nothing more than the actions of an impartial referee who is trying to keep the church from falling apart.
Pronouncements that Williams has made make it clear that nothing could be farther from the truth. Far from being an impartial referee, Williams has revealed an underlying allegiance with the conservatives. Among other things, Williams stated regarding same-sex marriage that
a person living in such a union is in the same case as a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond; whatever the human respect and pastoral sensitivity such persons must be given, their chosen lifestyle is not one that the Church's teaching sanctions, and thus it is hard to see how they can act in the necessarily representative role that the ordained ministry, especially the episcopate, requires. (emphasis added).His reference to "their chosen lifestyle" is telling.
It is also interesting to see what Williams's view on the role of the church with respect to human liberation and social progress is:
if the Church has echoed the harshness of the law and of popular bigotry – as it so often has done – and justified itself by pointing to what society took for granted, it has been wrong to do so. But on the same basis, if society changes its attitudes, that change does not of itself count as a reason for the Church to change its discipline.In other words, according to Williams, if society is more progressive than the church, if society develops a liberating impulse ahead of the church, if the church lags behind society, then that is not the church's problem! I have a very different idea; I think that religious faith should be at the forefront of human liberation and social progress. I am reminded of John Woolman, the eighteenth century American Quaker who, inspired by his religious faith, fought a lifelong struggle to oppose slavery. Woolman understood what Williams does not, that faith can and should be a driving impulse to support justice and inclusion. Williams places institutional inertia over these most important of human values. I want no part of Rowan Williams's religion.