Dear Dr Sentamu
I have read your opinion piece in the Guardian about same-sex marriage and although I did not go on from there to read your full paper on the subject, I presume that the extended article does not include your recantation, apology for upset and acceptance of equal treatment in law. Normally I do not take much notice of reactionary old men; I see one every time I look in the mirror. However, I must make an exception in your case, as I did in a previous blog on this site with cardinal Keith O’Brien, a catholic fellow traveller of yours.
I must confess to a certain disappointment in you. When you first became the archbishop of York I thought that you brought a new breath of life into the Church. I admired your stand against president Mugabe of Zimbabwe, especially as he had been so dismissive of gay people, and I anticipated a modernising effect on the edifice with a concomitant challenge to the past. Of course, I was wrong. What we have in you is someone as out of touch as the sad lord Carey but with a political nous that he lacks. You are not in the same cadre as David Cameron who earnestly supported Section 28, condemning gay relations as “pretend” families, but now “because he is a conservative” is in support of same-sex marriage. No, your politics are firmly within the christian camp. A cynic might opine that you were more concerned about the dubious prize of the top job and appeasing those who might influence suggestions for that appointment, rather than making your church more inclusive. This same cynic might also conclude that keeping a steady ship, with a nod to the fundamentalist wing here and abroad would do you no harm even if your aspiration to succeed Rowan Williams is thwarted. When all is said and done, you, John Sentamu, owe your living and lifestyle to the church and it is not in your personal interest to challenge the status quo in any serious way.
When legislation pertaining to a particular sector of society is proposed then consultation with that sector should have greater weight than mere general opinion. There are examples, of course, where general opinion has been damaging to the interests of vulnerable groups, such as the shameful assault on welfare provision for the disabled. In the main, interested parties should expect their views to be more persuasive, especially if the proposed actions have little or no effect on others. It should be thus for the proposal to allow same-sex people to enter into civil marriage. As you accept in your Guardian article, one marriage has no bearing on another. The sky did not fall in when a previous archbishop helped create a whole new church to allow a king to divorce, nor when rape was outlawed within marriage. The idea that marriage is some exclusive club for one man and one woman ordained by a god is not even borne out in the Bible that you say must define the relationship. Just the use of a search engine will provide multiple examples of different marriage structures over time and I find it difficult to believe that someone who is a leader of thought has not used his time more productively.
The introduction of same-sex civil marriage will not cause any church to even blink an eye unless it chooses to do so. All the leaders of the main religions have pejorative things to say about gay people. Sometimes these are dressed up in fancy words of the “hating sin, but not the sinner” type, other times they are quite blatant about their dislike, disgust or hatred and what they would like to do with gay people. I don’t play in their yard but they insist in interfering in mine. We had the same tired rhetoric when civil partnerships were first introduced. Society was supposed to be going to hell in a hand cart then. What is it about gay people that exercises you so much, Dr Sentamu? Why do you find it so necessary to waste as much energy on this when you could be a constructive thorn in the side of this destructive government, rallying support for the weakest in society. That is the social pluralism you should be promoting.