i exclusive: Archbishop of Canterbury sets out new teachers’ guidelines but says church view of gays remains
Most Rev Justin Welby says the new guidelines should eradicate the “victimisation and diminishment of young people through homophobic language or behaviour”, and help ensure that Church of England schools offer “a safe and welcoming place for all God’s children”.
The guidelines, which are being sent to all church schools, make it clear that teachers should never allow the Bible to be used to justify homophobia. They also recommend that all incidents of homophobic bullying be recorded and analysed, with teachers given training in how to deal with them.
Writing exclusively in The Independent’s sister newspaper, he says “When young people are bullied for their perceived or actual sexuality, it is an assault on their self-worth that can leave deep wounds which take many years to heal, if they heal at all.”
But Archbishop Welby makes clear that the Church will not change the way it teaches the nearly one million pupils in Anglican schools about sexuality and relationships. Instead, he says schools must look to create a “deeply accepting environment for all their pupils”, adding: “The gospel instructs Christians to love our neighbour as we love ourselves – that is an instruction, not an optional extra.”
Archbishop Welby opposed the equal marriage bill in the House of Lords last year. Writing today, he describes the passing of the bill, which came into effect March and was followed by same-sex couples rushing to tie the knot, as “revolutionary change”.
He says he recognises the difficulty faced by the Church in tacking homophobic discrimination, while teaching the “Anglican view of marriage” which prevents same-sex couples from being married in churches and opposes gay sex.
He writes: “Another challenge for church schools – which must be faced head-on – is the complexity of combating homophobic bullying while still teaching the traditional Anglican view of marriage, especially in the light of the revolutionary change to its legal definition for the accommodation of same-sex couples.”
Announcing the anti-homophobia guidelines, titled “Valuing all God’s Children” Archbishop Welby writes: “Church schools are built on the conviction that every child is created, loved and called into fullness of life by God. This new guidance aims to help schools shape their culture in the light of this reality, by ensuring they offer a safe and welcoming place for all God’s children.
“As part of the move, school inspectors will rate schools on how effectively they are acting to tackle homophobic bullying.”
This is a jolly good start – the ABC accepting the need to get rid of homophobic bullying in Church schools. However, under the current system, where the Church of England does not accept the right of Gays to the blessing of their faithful monogamous relationships in the sight of God in an Anglican church, this could be seen as counter-productive of any understanding of the problems for Gay people in the Church.
The sheer inconsistency of the Archbishop’s statement cannot but seem to enforce a moral disconnection in the minds of students who happen to be Gay. And one wonders what that will do for the integrity of the Church of England’s role in ethical guidance.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand