Well, I got a response to my first letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, from Dominic Goodall, “Correspondence Officer.”
TL;DR: The Archbishop has a great deal of influence, but his involvement in this issue so far has been only to “encourage respectful discussion” on this very complicated subject.
I have a great deal of respect for the Archbishop’s education, legacy, and influence, so this disappointed me. The best this great and learned man can come up with on this mostly-decided topic is the excuse of someone who cannot be bothered to see past his ass.
Dominic Goodall Correspondence Officer
20th September 2018
Thank you for your recent letter addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Much as he would like to, the Archbishop is unable to respond personally and in detail to all the hundreds of emails and letters that he receives, and so I have been asked to reply to you on his behalf.
Archbishop Justin is under no illusions about the diverse range of opinions on human sexuality that are held throughout the entire Anglican Communion, nor about how strongly those opinions are held and the challenge this debate poses. In that context, the Archbishop is often asked to speak decisively on matters of human sexuality. Many of the issues such as those that you refer to in your letter will continue to be matters of debate for many Anglicans, and these debates will continue into the future.
Unlike the Pope, the Archbishop has no formal authority, though a great deal of influence. In the Church of England, the Archbishop has encouraged the start of a process of deep reflection on the topic of human sexuality. An episcopal teaching document is being worked on, led by bishops, but with the in-depth involvement of experts, campaigners, academics, scientists etc. There is no pre-determined conclusion for this document. Rather, it aims to bring together people who disagree deeply into dialogue that can help map out where we are, why we are where we are and what the next steps may be. This document will then go to General Synod, where it will be debated extensively, before decisions are made as to what could or could not be done. Synod would then need to vote — and people from the houses of laity, clergy and bishops would all have a voice. There is no way to short circuit this process of deep listening to one another and to God.
Many provinces in the Anglican communion are engaged in ongoing debate and discussion about the subject of same sex marriage. Moving to make provision for same-sex marriage, rather than blessing, or any other form of partnership, would represent a huge shift in terms of doctrine of marriage, but also in terms of how we understand humanity, gender, embodiment etc. These changes may happen in some provinces, of course, but they need to be discussed and prayed through thoroughly. There is no overall consensus on the way forward, and what Archbishop Justin has done so far is to encourage respectful discussion of how we, as a whole church, can move forward together.
Thank you again for taking the time to write to the Archbishop.