Weighing in on the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s support of ex-gay therapy, I am reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein:
“You can never solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place.”
As Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey presided over the 1998 Lambeth Conference, most famous for its Resolution on Human Sexuality (read homosexuality). It was a terrible moment for Anglicanism and for LGBT people throughout the world.
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Carey had no idea what he was doing. He uncorked the bottle to release the dark genie of homophobia now hanging over most of Africa. It is thick and tangible smog of death and misinformation sweetly perfumed by the incense of Carey’s last act as leader of the Communion.
I wrote to him after the conference and told him so. Some of his close supporters would claim the African bishops who led that debacle wanted a stronger condemnation of homosexuality than was actually carried. But in retrospect, there is no doubt history will mark his leadership as one of the prime factors for the recent wave of anti-gay misinformation and persecution (recently documented in the Human Rights Council’s report to the United Nations on anti LGBT violence).
How Lambeth Conference "justified" homophobia in Uganda
One example of how this careless resolution was used was by the former Archbishop of Uganda, Livingstone Nkoyoyo, returning “hot” from the Lambeth Conference to hold a press conference at Entebbe airport where he told his homophobic President and the people of Uganda that global Anglicanism supported the further criminalization of homosexuality. He could hardly wait to get off the plane!
President Musevene threatened to shoot anyone who took part in public demonstrations of Gay Pride in Kampala as far back as 1996. Now, all public demonstrations are banned. We can trace the present Ugandan Bahati Bill, aka “Kill The Gays” bill, its false science of reparative therapy right back to this historic and documented moment.
Since then, Carey has made no significantly truthful statements about the conference, his personal role in the current war against gay people while continuing to bask in media attention and publicity (as the recent story of an exposed and expelled English ex-gay therapy practitioner illustrates). Homosexuality has ironically been the defining subject of his ministry.
Carey has made some profound and profoundly disturbing statements on the issue, even in retirement: In an interview with The English Sunday Times, Carey spelt out his view that homosexual orientation was no bar to candidates for the priesthood or bishoprics provided that they remained celibate.
However, Carey went further than existing Church of England policy by issuing an uncompromising condemnation of gay sex:
"I have kept very strictly to the traditional view held in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church and Anglican communion that practicing homosexuality is wrong."
Carey indicated this should apply not only to priests but lay members of the church.
Carey weighed in on the 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Bill citing the need to allow criticism of religion and morality to protect free speech. These amendments included making sure nobody is found guilty of religious hate crimes unless it is proved they “intended to stir up hatred.” Only "threatening words" should be banned by the bill, not those which are only abusive or insulting, the Bill’s critics added.
Could the Lambeth Conference’s resolution (Carey’s most significant legacy to global Anglicanism) that has been so instrumental in reinforcing or imposing additional criminalization and vilification of LGBT people be accused of “stirring up hatred,” I wonder? I doubt we can send him to the Tower just yet.
Why is Lord Carey obsessed over homosexuality?
In 2010, the former Archbishop also came out of retirement to comment on a legal ruling by the highest court in the land on the issue of religious freedom and his pet subject ... guess what? Homosexuality. Do we see a pattern here?
Carey accused judges of moving towards a new "secular state" that would downgrade the rights of religious believers. Attacking a "deeply worrying" court ruling, Carey claimed the judiciary was now tipping the legal balance against believers in "a deeply unedifying collision of human rights." He warned of civil unrest over decisions he claimed could lead to Christians being barred from jobs.
Lord Justice Laws, dismissing a marriage guidance counselors attempt to challenge his sacking for refusing to give sex therapy to homosexuals, said legislation to protect a position "held purely on religious grounds" could not be justified and would be "irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective ... divisive, capricious and arbitrary."
The Lord Justice said:
"We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion– any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic…..
The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the state, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself."
The judge also said:
"In a free constitution such as ours there is an important distinction to be drawn between the law's protection of the right to hold and express a belief and the law's protection of that belief's substance or content." While the Judaeo-Christian tradition had exerted a "profound influence" on the judgment of lawmakers, "the conferment of any legal protection of preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however long its culture, is deeply unprincipled."
Carey has now been remade in the image of champion of British “Christian” conscience against the creeping secular totalitarianism of the secular state. He was one of 70 signatories on a petition supporting a fundamentalist therapist who lost her license when an undercover reporter came to her seeking conversion from homosexuality to heterosexuality.
Carey supports discredited "ex-gay therapy"
In an interview with a local radio station, I can understand why Leslie Pilkington was professionally fired. Her faith and interpretation of Scripture and sexuality were in direct contradiction to widely held acceptable professional standards in Europe and North America. Her faith was in contradiction to scientific understanding of human sexuality and Carey believes she has the right to continue as a professional psychotherapist. She believes everyone is created by God as heterosexual and the Word of God explicitly supports this and the view that homosexuality is a sinful and curable choice. You can listen to the interview here. It is remarkable.
It is even more remarkable that George Carey would support this kind of religious quackery, but given his history and the devastating effects of his actions on millions of LGBT people, his recent statement is another form of his “coming out” and obsession with things homosexual. There is no doubt where he stands on this issue and it removes some of the “smoke and mirrors” he may have exhibited in 1998.
Carey’s comment that this form of therapy does “no harm” is a remarkable admission of ignorance and lack of sympathy for LGBT and their supporters who live in 76 countries where homosexuality is criminalized. Half of these countries would have been on his Anglican “circuit” as members of the Commonwealth representing 50 million Anglicans, particularly in Africa.
With a little research, Lord Carey may have learned more about the sinister role this form of therapy is playing on the further criminalization of homosexuality and HIV prevention in many countries. On this pronouncement, Carey was ill informed and he is just wrong.
Anglicans losing face on other issues, too
Catholics do not have the problem we Anglicans appear to have of former Popes speaking out on issues they know little about. They leave that job to living Popes. (Then they die and we canonize them quickly and forget all the bad things they ever said). So called “Christian conscience” in Britain (if the Carey incident is indicative of a trend) is becoming an embarrassment. Anglican establishment now finds itself on a level with Christian Scientists who seek exemption from scientific and modern forms of treatment and access to health practices over “faith healing.”
I just read the unfortunate story of the head of the Christian Science Church in the USA, well-known to refute the claims of scientific medicine over “faith healing” how their national assembly had a reality check when he actually died during their meeting. The report is a chilling reminder of how we all need to test the claims of any religion and how these claims are authenticated with a dose of reality.
“On June 5, 2006, the Mother Church’s incoming president, David Reed, died during the annual meeting. With thousands of members present in the auditorium and with a camera webcasting the meeting to the membership worldwide, the outgoing president introduced Reed and others. Reed did not appear, but she continued conducting the meeting entitled “A Church of Healers,” with no mention of what had happened to him. According to the police report, Reed went into cardiac arrest at 1:13, but no-one called for medical help until 1:33. By 1:35 an ambulance and fire truck were at the church of healers, but Reed was dead. We’ve been told that the introduction of Reed was deleted from the church’s online webcast a few days later.”
If you want to read some more about religious conscience and so called “faith healing” (which the Carey debate and his support of gay “healing” is really all about) the Christian Scientist position is the closest thing I can find to the fundamentalist Christian corner Carey is painting himself into: A scary site and sight.
U.S. laws have allowed for more leeway on issues of faith and conscience whereas the United Kingdom has been much more consistent in making it illegal to prevent any form of quackery in the name of God for anyone. Where life and security appear to be at risk, British law is much clearer about the duty of the state to protect. This applies equally to screwing with the minds of LGBT people in the UK and in other parts of the world who may still look to Britain as a role model.
It is therefore predictable (given the historical and legal differences in both jurisdictions) that Leslie Pilkington should lose her credentials in the UK. If she had been an ordained priest, she may have gotten away with it. It is remarkable a former dignitary of the British establishment should come to her support in the name of religious conscience.
Carey has made some other key political gaffs and it is a good thing the Church of England does not believe in the Doctrine of Infallibility.
Carey’s predecessor, the saintly Michael Ramsey, once said, “The Church often gets the clergy it deserves.” Delite: "Any some of them are often wrong on a whole range of issues." Ramsey was once asked, “Your Grace, what do you think of homosexuality?” His reply, “I tried it once and I did not like it!” If only his successors “spoke the truth in love?”
Interviewed by the BBC in the aftermath of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, Lord Carey believed “the Anglican church has emerged stronger after the debate on homosexuality at the Lambeth Conference.” Which planet is he speaking from?
Commenting again on September 11, he is on record saying, “I think what has happened, actually, is that September 11 has given a spur, a renewed urgency, to dialogue between the great faiths.” Strains of Kumbaya.
Albert Einstein has the last word:
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
For millions of people, this is an important matter and deserves more care and more compassionate reflection than his Lordship has given to it. Let’s just pray for him.
RGOD2, written by the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle of St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego, looks at faith and religion from an LGBT point of view. Ogle is known around the world for his work in support of LGBT rights and HIV-prevention efforts. He is president of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. Donations to the foundation can be made by clicking HERE.