Archbishop Welby interviewed on Sexuality and the Anglican Communion
The BBC program “Hard Talk” interviewed Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on some of the issues challenging the Anglican Communion. He is interviewed by Zeinab Badawi
The following transcript was provided by the American Anglican Council
January 28, 2014
ZB: Talking about Nigeria – 80 million Anglicans there – and a different issue, the issue of gay priests and same-sex marriage. The Church of Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi have said – look, we really are not happy about what’s happened on this matter ever since the Church of Canada allowed same-sex marriage in 2002 and the church in the United States ordained Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2003, there’s been what you can describe as the traditionalist wing of the Anglican church and the liberal wing. What are you doing to reconcile these two wings?
JW: Well first of all, news headline: People from 145 different countries from even more different cultures and traditions don’t all agree with each other on everything. I mean it’s not exactly startling that we have disagreements.
What I am trying to do is to – not to get everyone to agree, because I don’t think we are going to agree. It is to try and transform bad disagreement to good disagreement. There is some very good disagreement. There are headlines, and you could have added a number of other countries to the list.
ZB: of course, I was just giving you a couple, yes
JW: people like Uganda, who feel very, very strongly about this.
There are countries like this where, in the church here, we are struggling with the issue and we are not of one mind over it – and it’s going to take time.
What am I doing? I am trying to ensure that people meet, listen to each other, hear what each other are saying, understand each other properly, and learn afresh, where it’s not happening, to love one another as Christ commands us.
ZB: But you have yourself put yourself in one particular camp, and so can you really have this dialogue with an open mind, when for example you were quoted in the Daily Telegraph newspaper in August last year saying: “We have seen changes in the idea of sexuality, sexual behaviour which quite simply mean we have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 think we are plain wrong and wicked, and equate it [i.e. I suppose homophobia] to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice.”
So you clearly have indicated that you really adhere to one side of the argument, perhaps something which could be described as a more Western liberal interpretation.
JW: No, what I was doing there was commenting on the changing culture, not on my personal position, on the issue. The changing culture is undeniable. It is a simple fact of the world in which we live.
ZB: but not if you are in Africa, if you are under 35 and in Africa.
JW: No, but at the time I was talking in the context of the Same Sex Marriage Act and how that has changed. But at the same time the House of Lords in the debate on the Same Sex Marriage Act, in the second reading, I said I disagreed with the, what was then the bill, is now the Act, and spoke against it very clearly in the House and we were overwhelmingly defeated. But the realities of a change in Western culture are beyond any debate at all, and a church that fails to acknowledge that the culture around it is changing, doesn’t mean it changes what it does, but if it simply says is willfully blind to the change around it, it is being foolish.
ZB: But the fact is, that’s what is putting you or the church in the West at odds with, as we said, the church in Africa because they accuse the church in Canada, and in England, and in the United States of producing revisionist forms of the Christian faith that are unrecognizable to the majority of Anglicans worldwide. That’s what the leaders of the Anglican Church in Nigeria and Kenya said in October 2012, so there it is very very clearly..
JW: They also said it in November 2013 when I was with them, in Nairobi
ZB: …there you are
JW: As I say, it is not news that we have disagreement, nor is it something that particularly worries me that we have disagreement
ZB: OK, where do you stand on the issue of gay priests and same-sex marriage for instance? I mean, what is your own personal view?
JW: My personal view has been stated very clearly in the House of Lords. I do not support the idea of same sex marriage, and I hold the teaching of the Church of England which has not changed to any degree at all, that marriage is a lifelong union of one man with one woman.
ZB: Do you think that this issue could really tear the church apart?
JW: Yes, of course it could. It’s – as I say there’s never been a moment at which the church hasn’t had disagreements over this – the first Lambeth Conference in the 19th Century was called to deal with very massive disagreements within the church on another issue.
I think, where there’s differences, at the moment, as I say, the Church of England’s view on same sex marriage is very, very clear and my own view on that is very, very clear. In this country we also need to be very, very clear about our profound opposition to homophobic behavior. And we are working on, and if I am really honest, struggling with the issue of how we recognize the love that exists between people who have a same-sex orientation; and who are committed to each other, and how that is recognized.
Now the Anglican Communion has set clear rules about that, and it’s a disagreement within the Communion that will continue for some time. My own view on same-sex marriage is one thing; my own view on same-sex unions is I recognize, again I have said in public, the immense quality and profound love and commitment of many same-sex unions. I don’t think that marriage is the appropriate way forward.
ZB: OK – so Civil Partnerships for gay priests for instance – is fine, the ban, that’s all right?
JW: Civil Partnerships are permitted by the Church of England for same sex couples – of both priests, both laity and ordained
ZB: But the priests have to remain celibate?
JW: Er, that is the rule of the Church of England
ZB: Which is going to be pretty difficult to enforce – but anyway
JW: There are plenty of difficult rules to enforce.
You can watch the video here: VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir2Cj0Jk3Zo
Surprise, surprise! Another post provided by ‘virtueonline’, an American blog-site which is not generally known for any advocacy of the generally accepted etiology of human homosexuality as a normal variant of sexual-orientation. However, the interview at the BBC with the Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, gives important insight into his experience of peace-making – especially in African countries – where deeply-rooted conservative intransigence would seem to preclude any hope of success.
The ABC is careful to separate the issue of homosexuality as an intrinsic condition for a small number of human beings, and the topical question of whether, or not, the Church should align itself with the UK Government’s policy of opening up the facility of Marriage to Same-Sex couples. He, himself, is opposed to homophobia – as are the College of Bishops in the Church of England, according to the recent C. o. B. statement issued recently – but can see how certain countries are culturally attuned to it.
This report from the BBC has only just been released, and is interesting in the light of the current conflict between the Provinces of the Anglican Communion on matters of gender and sexuality. What the next meeting of the House of Bishops of the Church of England will have to deal with, is how the Church will react to the fact that there will most likely be same-sex lay and clergy couples who may already have undergone a form of Same-Sex Marriage in the civil arena (from March 1st 2014) , who have hopes of the Church in some way recognising their partnership status.
The video link provided gives a broader view of the archbishops dealings with the countries of Africa presently experiencing internal political strife – notably in South Sudan. It is worth looking in on the interview to see how the Archbishop deals with the questions asked of him. Whatever one might think of the answers he gives, one cannot but admire Archbishop Justin’s real commitment to making peace in the Church.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand