Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, appears to have put his foot in it.
Protesters showed up outside York Cathedral with one 18 year old handcuffing himself to a light post. It wasn't the usual "Occupy" protest. Instead it was to protest the Archbishop's remarks in an interview with the Daily Telegraph about Tony Cameron's government considering the legalization of gay marriage (British conservatives really are different from American conservatives). Here's local coverage of the protest.
The offending words in the interview focus upon these sentences:
“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.
“We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.
“It’s almost like somebody telling you that the Church, whose job is to worship God [will be] an arm of the Armed Forces. They must take arms and fight. You’re completely changing tradition.”
This is the same Archbishop Sentamu who, with his fellow Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, thoroughly alienated Episcopalians in the USA by lecturing at them like an irritated head master. How dare they be themselves and follow the dictates of their own consciences informed by their own experiences!
Thinking Anglicans is full of informed, passionate, and erudite rebuttal of the Archbishop's remarks. I note the controversy here because this is the only time that I can think of that members of the public showed up outside an Anglican Archbishop's cathedral to protest his pronouncements.
In Britain, and increasingly in the USA, the writing is on the wall for Christian hierarchs. The public, including the pew sitters in their own churches, is not with them on this issue. As I've said over and over again, the issue is not one of permission as the right always frames it. The issue is morality. The prohibitions and penalties placed on the same sex oriented appear ever more arbitrary and unjust as lgbts become more visible and more people claim them as family and friends. The churches' discrimination against gays and lesbians offends not people's sense of permission, but their deepest moral sense of what is fair and right. If the churches won't stand up for what is fair, then who will? "If God loves everyone, why can't the Church?" read a sign held by a protester outside York Cathedral. Why indeed. The churches coming unhinged over a half dozen ambiguous passages in Scripture makes a sorry spectacle for the rest of the world. It doesn't do much for the credibility of the central message of social justice in Scripture, that no one should prosper off the exploitation and degradation of others, if a whole population of people is excluded from that claim for no reason other than "tradition." Indeed, I think the intransigence of churches on this issue has very badly damaged the moral authority and credibility Christianity once enjoyed outside of its own membership. It really didn't help that Archbishop Sentamu gave this interview in Jamaica, one of the most homophobic countries in the Caribbean, at the very same time that the Jamaican prime minister is trying to open that country up on the gay issue.
The enemies of gays and lesbians continue to do us great service by being so repulsive and ridiculous.