Williams Boards the Ugandan Johnny-Come-Lately Express

First it was Rick Warren, who under pressure from many sides, finally spoke out against the anti-homosexuality bill still pending in the Ugandan legislature. Now, joining Warren on the “better-late-than-never” bandwagon is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph over the weekend, Williams spoke against the bill:

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” says Dr Williams. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.” He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill”.

While Williams can be commended for finally speaking out, after his office had said he would make no public comment on the measure, it’s interesting to note that, unlike Warren and other Christian leaders, Williams refuses to use the “c” word – to “condemn” the measure. Instead he says the legislation is of “shocking severity” and worries about the fate of pastors who don’t report known gays and lesbians. His “apart from the death penalty” preamble to his concern about pastors is a bit like the rhetorical question of, “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

Williams callously brushes aside the possibility of gays and lesbians being sentenced to death to focus on pastors who may be imprisoned for “harboring” gays and lesbians. Then again, Williams, during his tenure in office, has not been known for his overwhelming concern for the lives of gays and lesbians, preferring to bow to pressure from anti-gay forces in the Anglican church – notably those in Africa like Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola – and marginalizing the Episcopal Church in America for their bold moves in accepting gays and lesbians in all levels of church leadership. So, it’s not surprising to find Williams making such a tepid statement on matters of such import – it seems to be part and parcel to his overall modus operandi, as evidenced by his comment in the interview, basically throwing up his hands over the whole issue of gays and lesbians in the church:

Can there ever be a consensus in which biblical traditionalists can be in communion with homosexual bishops? The man who has committed his archbishopric to unity pauses: “I’m not holding my breath.”

Those who have looked to Williams for bold leadership in the Anglican Communion aren’t holding their breath either.