Archbishop of Canterbury – Decision on S/S marriage ‘Great’.

Archbishop of Canterbury creates a stir with ‘great’ remark to gay magazine

Justin Welby thinks it’s great that parliament can and does pass laws but he opposes gay marriage and homophobia, aides say
Justin Welby

‘Justin Welby has an impetuous and enthusiastic manner when talking informally.’
Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has told the gay magazine PinkNews it is “great” that parliament passed a measure he opposed, leaving his aides scrambling to explain that all he meant was that it is great that parliament can and does pass laws. Welby, who campaigned and voted against gay marriage last year, remains opposed both to gay marriage and homophobia, his office explained.


This spin is probably justified. Welby has an impetuous and enthusiastic manner when talking informally. He certainly would not want to announce a change of position or policy without careful preparation to minimise the resulting split. There is not even any hard evidence that he is himself changing his mind on the substantive issue. But there are increasing signs that the official line cannot hold for much longer. Pressure is building from both supporters and opponents of gay marriage.


Last month, Canon Jeremy Pemberton became the first priest in the Church of England to defy the House of Bishops and marry his male partner. There will undoubtedly be others, and it is still not clear how they can be disciplined. On the traditionalist side, one of the most prominent and successful independent church leaders, the Rev Steve Chalke, has been thrown out of the Evangelical Alliance, a group that claims to represent 2 million Christians inside and outside the Church of England, as a result of his support for equal marriage and gay rights.


African Anglican churches have already demanded that Pemberton and priests who follow his example be disciplined. Conservative evangelicals have established a sort of Church of England in exile whose bridgehead is a church in south London, which is run by one of Welby’s mentors in the church. The threat of a formal schism spreading to England remains.


But the logic of Welby’s own position is moving him away from the certainties of his youth. The more he denounces homophobia, the more difficult it becomes for him to defend discrimination against gay people within the church. He opened this week with a rousing denunciation of homophobic bullying in church schools, but within days his office was explaining that this was simply because he was opposed to all bullying on any grounds.


Meanwhile, conservatives don’t see anything wrong with homophobia except perhaps the word itself. The churches in Nigeria and Uganda have recently passed laws that criminalise even the advocacy of same-sex relationships. In the case of Uganda, they provide for life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”. They cling to a resolution passed by a gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world in 1998 that condemned “unjustified discrimination against homosexuals”, but it is difficult to imagine any discrimination that some of them would not now consider justified.


Just to make the archbishop’s troubles worse, he has now been publicly supported by Nick Cleggwho told PinkNews: “Love is equal in the eyes of British law, but that right was hard won. We have to fight even harder for universal human rights, including LGBT freedoms, globally.” He is unlikely to announce that he now agrees with Clegg.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, sometimes enthusiastic in his response to journalists, may have a need to curb his enthusiasm when addressing journalists from what is commonly known as the ‘Gay Press’. ‘Pink News’ has rejoiced in the fact that, when questioned about the legalising of Same-Sex Marriage in the U.K., the Archbishop apparently let slip the remark that he thought it was ‘great’ that parliament had passed a measure which he opposed.

Now his aides are seen to be scrambling to put the remark into a less scandalous context – in the light of Archbishop Welby’s well-known antipathy to Same-Sex Marriage.

What his church – the Church of England – may actually be doing about the reality of Same-Sex Marriage vis a vis the position of the Church of England has yet to be properly enunicated. In the light of Canon Jeremy Pemberton’s recent marriage to his male partner – and the fact that the Archbishop has issued an official warning against homophobic bullying in Church schools – one might expect more of the classical  ‘Anglican Fudge’ situation, which says one thing while practising something else, to be brought into play.

In the meantime, the Church struggle for credibility in the modern world.

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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1 Response to Archbishop of Canterbury – Decision on S/S marriage ‘Great’.

  1. murraysmallbone says:

    Perhaps the Holy Spirit is tripping our ABC’s tongue,or is it his particular brand of humour which he and his wife share.
    Little by little our ABC Justin must be doing thinking or hopefully re-examination of his position on Same Sex marriage.
    In all of this unravelling of a ball of string, there must come a point where people start asking;Where in Church History, did we start our bigotry of homosexuals.Perhaps globally the various Church groups which have set up re-examination of human sexuality etc. etc. will hopefully throw light on such questions.
    It sounds pre-Constantine,but perhaps when the Church started adapting to the world, we lost
    our Mission to change the world in Christ.
    Perhaps homophobia entered the Church against a backdrop similar to all the various philosophies, heresies and politics which gave rise to the persecutions of Iconoclasm.The mix of influences which brought about Iconoclasm were non-Christian both in thought and origin; alternately”imported” into Christianity.
    Perhaps to accommodate itself to politics, mis-steps in evangelisation ( appeasement of other religions),false development of doctrine in a fretful rush to enmesh sloppy scriptural analyses to appear acceptable to the then surrounding world.
    Could we perhaps view homophobia in the Church as a modern development.When viewing the language of the Traditionalist stance, somehow it rings hollow and almost an import into Christianity, grudgingly accepted because it is historically inherited from a period when the Church was attempting to spin to the world rather than Christ.
    Homophobia bears many of the hallmarks of the various \Christian heresies which viewed the material world as evil.
    In all of this would it be too fanciful to think that the Holy Spirit is re-discovering for us The New Covenant of Love as revealed to us In Christ.The over-turning of homophobia being just one of those necessary steps on the command to “Come follow Me.”
    “These Christians, see how they love one another”.

    And the disciples rejoiced. Alleluia. alleluia !

    Jesu mercy. ! Mary pray!

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