Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2002

It will be known later this year who will succeed George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury. Three contenders are lined up and the favourite is a liberal who nevertheless seems to like Alpha courses. Here George Broadhead looks at Carey’s record at Canterbury.

Carey’s out – but who’ll be in?

by George Broadhead

The evangelical, homophobic Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has decided to retire in October 2002 after holding the office for over eleven years.

Carey’s appointment as Archbishop in 1990 after he had been Bishop of Bath and Wells for less than three years led The Independent on Sunday to comment that it was “indicative of the growing strength of the church’s evangelical wing, seen to be part of a worldwide conservative backlash in religion”. The paper described the new archbishop as “a charismatic evangelical who favours guitars, clapping and dancing over the more traditional forms of worship”. It may be of interest to GALHA members that Carey was first told of his promotion by the Prime Minister’s appointments secretary at Pratt’s Hotel in Bath – the venue for a recent GALHA weekend gathering!

Carey voted in favour of a motion on homosexuality carried overwhelming at the Church of England’s General Synod in 1987. The motion stated that sexual intercourse belonged “properly within a permanent married relationship”, that “homosexual genital acts” fall short of this ideal and “are to be met by a call to repentance”. Attending the 1988 Lambeth Conference (the worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops) as Bishop of Bath and Wells, Carey voted against a motion declaring support for the human rights of lesbians and gay men. It came as no surprise, therefore, when shortly after his appointment as archbishop, he declared “practising homosexuality” to be “a scandal”.

Speaking at the Anglican Evangelical Assembly in 1995, Carey told his audience that any speculation that the Anglican Church was about to accept the demands of the voluble gay rights lobby were totally misleading and caused “unwarranted suspicion and anxieties”. He said: “We recognise two lifestyles. One is marriage and the other is celibacy, and there can’t be anything in between. We stand firmly there.” Incidentally, at this same assembly, the then President of the Evangelical Alliance, Sir Fred Catherwood, spoke about the “devastating deterioration of the moral and social order”, which he attributed to the adoption of secular humanism, a “new faith” that “bred permissiveness and greed”.

When homosexuality was again debated at the Church of England’s General Synod in 1997 (ten years after the previous debate) Carey opined: “I do not believe any major change is likely in the foreseeable future and I do not myself share the assumption that it is only a matter of time before the church will change its mind.”

As if all this weren’t enough to convince lesbian and gay Christians that his homophobia was entrenched, Carey enthusiastically supported the anti-gay statement passed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference by 526 votes to 70. As well as declaring homosexual acts to be contrary to the Bible, the conference also set itself against legitimising or blessing same-sex unions or the ordination of those involved in same-sex unions.

Last year Carey used a TV interview with Sir David Frost to insist that the Church of England will not sanction gay marriages. He told Breakfast with Frost: “Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. People can have a deep friendship, and call it friendship, but we don’t have to muddy the waters in terms of calling it marriage.”

Not surprisingly, Carey took a firm stand against the lowering of the age of consent for gay men, playing a key role in the opposition to it in the House of Lords. And, despite all this hostility, he had the effrontery to claim in a Radio 4 interview: “We [the Church of England] are developing harmonious relations with all minorities, including the gay community.”

As to Carey’s successor, the Crown Appointments Commission, a sixteen-member body of bishops and church officials, will decide on the names to recommend to the Prime Minister, whose choice will be ratified by the Queen.

Among the possible candidates are the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres (54), who opposed the ordination of women as priests; the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali (52), who was born in Pakistan and caused a stir when he branded married couples who opted to remain childless as “self-indulgent and incomplete”; and the favourite, the Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams (born in 1954), a so-called liberal who is nevertheless known to be a supporter of the Alpha courses that have caused so much controversy because, among other things, of their blatant homophobia.

If Rowan Williams becomes Archbishop of Canterbury, he will be the first outside the Church of England to get the job for 300 years.

Commenting on the tasks faced by the next Archbishop, the Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, the former shadow Home Secretary and convert from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, warned that he will have to deal with issues such as homosexuality and whether to ordain women as bishops – issues that clearly have further potential for splits.

Let’s hope she’s right!

URI of this page :
Created : Sunday, 2002-05-05 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :