Don't let homophobia set the Anglican agenda, says bishop

By staff writers
October 12, 2009

Dr Peter Selby, the former Anglican bishop of Worcester, has told a gathering of Christians that anti-gay sentiment should not be setting the tone of discussions about Anglican polity and that the Archbishop of Canterbury has a responsibility to speak up for more than just holding church institutions together.

"If homophobia is contrary to the intentions of those advocating the traditionalist cause", as has often been said, "it has been allowed to provide a good deal of the fuel for the debate, and the Archbishop's personal opposition to homophobia does not exempt him from complicity in the way that energy is being used", Dr Selby told the Inclusive Church residential conference “Word on the Street - reading the Bible inclusively”.

The gathering also heard lectures from biblical scholars Dr Richard Burridge, Dr Andrew Mein and Dr Paula Gooder, who argued that those who oppose recognising the faithfulness of gay people have no monopoly on sacred texts - which actually point in the direction of God's embracing love and critique human attempts to manipulate God in favour of one particular group or class of people.

Other biblical scholars who have undermined the attempts of anti-gay activists to claim biblical warrant for their prejudices have recently included Professor Christopher Rowland, who holds the Dean Ireland Chair of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture at the University of Oxford, and Professor Deirdre Good, a New Testament specialist from General Theological Seminary in New York, with her book Jesus' Family Values (

Bishop Selby said: “Our main concern has to be that what is being proposed is no way to discern the truth about the matters in dispute, and we must be sure to make that point clear at every opportunity.”

Speaking about the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, he said: “The Archbishop has removed himself from his natural area of thought in the matter of sexuality, that is, his remarkable capacity to bring a godly wisdom to bear on secular developments, a gift we need more than any other in attempting to work out how to assess current developments in human attitudes and behaviour in matters sexual. Instead the issues that surround sexuality are now treated by him only as ecclesiastical problems, to be resolved as such.”

In a detailed analysis of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent 'Reflections on the US General Convention, Communion, Covenant, and our Anglican Future', he showed how the Anglican Covenant as currently proposed would send unintended messages of exclusion.

The full text of Bishop Selby’s address to the conference, entitled When the Word on the Street is RESIST can be found on the Inclusive Church website at

His analysis chimes significantly with that offered by commentator Savi Hensman in a research essay for the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, entitled 'A better future for the Anglican Communion?' (

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