Anglican Samizdat

September 4, 2008

Dr. Deborah Pitt’s response to Bishop Tom Wright.

Filed under: Anglican Angst,Christianity — David Jenkins @ 2:00 pm

Published with Dr. Pitt’s permission:

Dear Bishop

I was very interested to read the letter published in yesterday’s Times from you and your co-signatories. (I read the online version also) I am glad for your clarifying of the points in Dr. Williams’ letters. To be honest I found the front-page headline rather crass as well as inaccurate. I agree entirely with you about Ms Sieghart’s comments about the church. I have written to the Times about her article and I include a copy of that letter. I was glad to read the synopsis of the conclusions of the Lambeth Conference also.

You raised the issue of my motives in releasing the private correspondence. Believe me I did not do this lightly. So please allow me to give you some background.

I was extremely worried at some of the content of Dr. Williams’ letters. I did not feel I could trust him. I believed that he probably had other liberal views which  would be incompatible with my evangelical faith. I stopped attending the Church in Wales. I believed things would get worse and frankly I was dismayed at his appointment to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Since then my disquiet has grown.

To better outline my concerns at Dr. Williams views on homosexuality I will send you a copy of the letter I sent him some months after receiving his first one (see below). It is long but I hope it presents a coherent picture of someone who cares passionately about the Gospel and the Christian witness to the nation and who wrestles as best possible with the ethical struggles of living as a Christian in a post-Christian society. I hope you will at least read some of it!

I have tried to keep up with what is happening in the churches,  and certain events recently engaged my attention. One was the ECUSA convention in New Orleans and its outcome. Another was the homosexual ‘marriage’ in St. Bartholomew’s church. Then I heard about GAFCon and followed that, all the time getting more worried that there would be a disastrous outcome to the integrity of the Anglican communion, about which I care very much, even though I am no longer a practising member.

From time to time I have pondered on the Archbishop’s viewpoints as revealed to me and whether they should be more widely known. But I  had no desire to embarrass Dr. Williams: I didn’t want people mocking him or saying ‘If he is averagely muddled what does that say about the rest of them!’ I have respect for his authority and I appreciated his responding graciously and candidly to my enquiries. As a physician I have a high regard for the principle of confidentiality. Besides I hoped that in time it would become apparent that he had changed to more orthodox views. I also wanted to be clear before God as to my own motives, for I had at times over the years found myself quite cross with him! In fact other than sharing the correspondence with my vicar at the time I  had shown the letters only to a few people and made very little reference over the years. In a way it was all rather embarrassing and awkward and I had to just not fret about it, but hope and pray for the best. Besides, these are my Christian brothers and sisters in turmoil. How can I not be concerned?

The trigger to deciding to send the letters to the Press was this . In the Sunday Telegraph of 13th July I read an article about an interview with the Archbishop of Wales. He stated that he would be happy to ordain a homosexual bishop. It occurred to me that he would not have been so brazen if he had not known that Dr. Williams had  significant liberal views on the matter. I had also sensed that the liberal wing of the church knew far more than the GAFCon group about those views. I decided that the balance should be redressed, and that the best place for Dr. Williams’ views to be aired was at Lambeth. The best way to do that was to give any journalist who thought the matter relevant  enough the opportunity to challenge Dr. Williams or discuss with other bishops or whatever journalists usually do.

The copies of Dr. Williams’ letters along with a covering letter were mailed on 15th July. However, Ms Gledhill, who was the first to express interest in doing an article, did not get them before she left for Lambeth. This explains the delay in publication.
I enclose a copy of the covering letter. It will help explain my thinking..

It does seem that my hunch was right; from what I have gathered the GAFCon members were startled to learn  Dr. Williams’ views and the Liberals knew them anyway.

Well, it is all in the open now. You may wonder if I would have been better to have approached people in the Anglican church, and I assure you I spent much time over the years praying and reflecting on many  aspects of Dr. Williams’ ministry; painted all kinds of worst -case scenarios re what might result, and have been reflecting since on the wisdom of my course of action. But although it has created a storm of further controversy, I believe it is better for the issue of Dr. Williams’ views, past and present, on the issue of homosexuality to be aired and debated. Yes, it may give fuel to the liberals agenda, at least at first. But it is now up to the evangelical members of the Anglican communion to state their position and counteract the unbiblical beliefs of Dr. Williams and his supporters, to thoroughly understand why Dr. Williams believes as he does, and then strongly counteract them. I believe they are right and Dr. Williams is wrong. They must say from the Bible why they are right.

Will all this bring about the split that many have been predicting? Who knows? I certainly don’t; I leave such speculation to those with a lot more knowledge of the Anglican communion than I do. I care deeply and passionately about the faith delivered to the saints.

It has given me great pain to be doing this, to even care about these things. Do you think there are not a hundred other things I would rather be doing than writing these sorts of letters?! But I care most about God’s word and the authenticity of the Gospel. I have complete agreement with your desire ‘to obey God’s call to take the gospel to the whole world‘ and I wish you and your fellow bishops every God-given success in so doing. God will bring good out of all this, I believe. If I didn‘t believe this I would not have done what I did. I pray for Dr. Williams and all of you in your responsibilities. I  have my personal opinions about Dr. Williams’ position, but my greatest wish is for the best for the Anglican communion.

Feel free to do what you like with the stuff I have sent you, Dr. Wright. If it goes straight in the bin, I won’t be surprised. I know you were angry about GAFCon and no doubt you are angry with me. You have reason to be. I understand that. I haven’t set out with the intention of causing pain. That is not my metier. But facing painful truths is.

Yours very sincerely in Christ



  1. I have had an ongoing dialogue with Dr. Pitt on her correspondence with ++Williams:

    A criticism that has been levelled against me has been that, since his position on these subjects was in his public writings, my characterisation that she “outed” him on the subject of committed homosexual relations was unjustified. But it evidently wasn’t as evident as some believe. It also seems to me that, in his letters to Dr. Pitt, he described his change of mind from a more life experience perspective than a purely academic/philosphical/theological one, which made it more intelligible to a broader audience. (The tendency for obscurity in this kind of writing didn’t help matters either, as I also pointed out.)

    This is an agony as much fuelled by conviction unmatched with deed as it is by wrongheaded conviction, and even some “reappraisers” recognise this fact.

    Comment by Don Warrington — September 5, 2008 @ 12:13 am

  2. Don,

    I believe it was justified, particularly his views on committed homosexual relations.The evidence for that is abundantly plain, since if Rowan’s views on this were that well known, the letters to Dr. Pitt would not have created such a furore.

    Interestingly, Dr. Pitt’s letter to Rowan (6th February 2001) under this post is very clear and well argued – quite different from the muddled position Rowan appears to espouse.

    I’ve read your comments at your site with great interest.

    Comment by David — September 5, 2008 @ 9:19 am

  3. Yes, this is insightful. However, she is dreadfully mistaken about GAFCon leadership (but some in the US and UK assume that Global Southerners are, naturally, ill informed). While I understand that many who attended the Jerusalem Conference may not fully have grasped Dr Williams’ position, for some time the primary players certainly have. I strongly suspect that Bishop Wright and others in his coterie believe that the Archbishop is starting to come around, as it were. Perhaps not. In either event, their intense loyalty to a dear friend (and I think a good man) could, in the end, further damage what remains of an already deeply divided communion.

    Curious. When you consider these terms, “reappraiser and reasserter” do either, at the root, actually convey anything? I mean, don’t both groups do both? I have found these expressions to be terribly imprecise and essentially useless.

    Comment by BT — September 5, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  4. BT,
    Dr. Pitt mentions GAFCON members rather than leadership.

    In any event, even though many of GAFCON’s leaders were probably aware of the depth of Rowan’s duplicity, I think some were not (after all RW’s own statements on his position are thoroughly murky), so a characterisation of ‘dreadfully mistaken’ is – dreadfully mistaken.

    Yes, I think Wright and co. are driven by loyalty to RW to some extent; but a larger factor is the desire to prop up a decaying structure – perhaps something that NTW sees as a noble gesture, but in reality is the equivalent of trying to make a corpse dance.

    Comment by David — September 5, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  5. No, she speaks of the “GAFCon Group,” and that would indicate leaders as well. Only she could clarify what she meant, and I doubt that’s on her radar this morning! In any event, one would have been hard pressed at Jerusalem to find anyone that naive about the Archbishop’s position. While I am sure there were a few who did not get it, I never met any of them.

    I fully agree with your second point.

    Comment by BT — September 7, 2008 @ 2:38 am

  6. BT,
    In any event, one would have been hard pressed at Jerusalem to find anyone that naive about the Archbishop’s position.
    Good point.

    Which makes one wonder, why all the fuss when Dr. Pitt published the letters? After all, liberals and conservatives knew RW’s position, obviously the bishops who leapt to his defence knew it – everyone supposedly knew it, except perhaps the average pew-warming Anglican?

    Comment by David — September 7, 2008 @ 10:13 am

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