Press Release

Archbishop of York says sexual immorality is not sinful in BBC interview

23 January 2023         Issued by: Christian Concern

The Archbishop of York (AoY), Stephen Cottrell, has confirmed in a BBC interview that he believes sexual immorality is not sinful.

The interview on BBC Radio Four’s Sunday programme yesterday (Jan 22), came following the Church of England’s announcement that it would not allow ‘gay marriage’ but would allow ‘blessings’ for same-sex couples in civil partnerships in its churches.

The move is a landmark moment, confirming the CofE’s departure from its own biblical teaching on human sexuality which states that marriage is: “in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman.”

The BBC interviewer, William Crawley, began the interview by asking the AoY whether the decision to reject gay marriage, but bless same sex marriages, was a ‘bit of a fudge.’

The AoY responded saying that he thinks the CofE has found a ‘human… but I think godly way forward.’

Crawley presses him again by suggesting the CofE is ultimately ‘sitting on the fence’ on this issue, to which Cottrell responds:

‘Well, that’s not how I see it, no. I see it as a way of holding together a church which doesn’t agree on this issue and it takes us to a place where LGBTIQ+ people, people entering into same-sex marriages, people in civil partnerships are able to come to the Church of England and those relationships and marriages can be acknowledged and celebrated. People can receive God’s blessing, and that’s a good thing. Yes, of course there are people who want more, but as we’ve just heard, there are people who want a great deal less. So yeah, I think it’s something that, yeah, I think it’s a new place that we’re in.

Crawley then asked if the AoY could clarify whether the CofE still believes that ‘gay sex is sin’.

In the following exchange, the AoY, refused to use the word ‘marriage’, and said:

Archbishop of York:Well, what we are saying is that physical and sexual intimacy belongs in committed, stable, faithful relationships and therefore where we see a committed, stable, faithful relationship between two people of the same sex, we are now in a position where those people can be welcomed fully into the life of the Church, on their terms.

Crawley: And given a blessing: you don’t bless sin, right? So you must be blessing something you believe to be good.

Archbishop of York: As I say, we believe that stable, faithful, committed, loving relationships are good. They are the place for physical intimacy…

Crawley: And not a sin?

Archbishop of York: But well, that… that’s what I’m saying… we’re looking to focus on the good in relationships and we want people to live in good, stable, faithful relationships.”

The AoY has made these comments despite the Lambeth 1998 Resolution I.10 of the international Anglican Communion declaring that:

In view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage’, and ‘cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.’

‘Same-sex marriage, or leave’

The AoY’s position will comes as no surprise to many, especially clergy who served under him during his time as the Bishop of Chelmsford.

In 2019, ‘Bishop Stephen’, as he was known then, was exposed telling clergy in the diocese to get on board with ‘same-sex marriage, or leave’ the CofE.

His compromised position on the CofE’s own teaching was highlighted starkly in the case of Rev. John Parker.

Rev. Parker had repeatedly raised concerns with Bishop Stephen about how the CofE and Chelmsford diocese under his leadership were, ‘embracing unbiblical approaches to matters of sexuality and gender’.

This included Bishop Stephen telling clergy that ‘God was doing a new thing’ in relation to the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

After his concerns were ignored by Bishop Stephen, Rev. Parker was forced to ‘break communion with him.’

The compromised position of the diocese came to a head when a local CofE primary school, where Rev. Parker was a governor, invited the now discredited transgender lobby group, Mermaids, into the school.

Mermaids, whose staff have since been exposed to having links to paedophilia and encouraging girls to wear chest binders, had been brought in to advise staff on a how to manage the gender transition of a child.

A Mermaids trainer told staff at an inset day training session that they were ‘all honorary Mermaids now whether they want to be or not.’ 

The Department for Education has since stopped recommending trans charity Mermaids as a mental health and wellbeing resource for schools.

Following the involvement of Mermaids, Rev. Parker said in a statement: “Obvious safeguarding issues were raised by this situation as well as it having clear implications for the Christian ethos of the school. The Diocese of Chelmsford was complicit in preventing any discussion of the wider issues and imposed the views and strategy of the lobby group Mermaids onto the school.”

He said that: “The instruction of its Director of Education the diocese refused to consult or engage in any way with the parents/carers of any of the other children in the school but instead attempted to bind the adults involved to a culture of secrecy through its advice to the head teacher.

Commenting on the role of the AoY in the case, Rev. Parker said: “This situation, in its entire disregard for the Christian children and parents in the school, and those of other faiths and philosophies, presented the clearest possible instance of what Bishop Stephen had previously told me – that my Biblical views on sexuality were not welcome in the Church of England and that I “could leave”.

Without any backing from the CofE or the now AoY, Rev. Parker faced no alternative but to resign as governor and left the Church of England.

Compromised church

Andrea Williams, member of general synod for ten years and chief executive of Christian Concern, said: “The comments from the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, on the BBC embody the compromised position of the Church of England on human sexuality.

“The role of the Archbishop of York is to lead in explaining God’s beautiful pattern for human life and relationships, not to preside over a convoluted process of compromise. Sadly, it has been a failure of leadership from the start by the Archbishop of Canterbury and York. For this they will answer to God, and we must pray for them. It is not loving or kind to hide the truth from the culture.

“What we have needed for so long on these issues is spiritual leadership from the Church of England’s hierarchy. Sadly, however, what we have seen is a relentless and determined capitulation to the spirit of the age from the Archbishop of York, among others. The church and Christians are called to be distinct from the world around them and yet the Archbishop has shown he is ashamed of the clear teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Rebecca Hunt, member of the CofE’s general synod, said: “The Bible clearly teaches us that in order for humans to flourish, the good gift of sex has its proper place only within the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. This is what the Anglican church worldwide has believed throughout its history. If we teach people otherwise, we are deceiving them with eternal consequences for them and for us. The Church of England stands at the edge of an abyss: unless we repent, Jesus says in Revelation chapter two that our lampstand will be removed from its place.”

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