Dear Justin Welby… Lord Adonis writes an open letter

Andrew Adonis, Labour Peer, Reformer and Writer, has written an open letter to Justin Welby. It originally appeared in The Times on 5 February 2013.

Towards the end of the letter he turns his attention to gay clergy and gay marriage. He makes a practical proposal which Changing Attitude wholeheartedly endorses. He says:

“But at least you should ask Parliament to remove the proposed ban on churches being used for same-sex marriage, to make change hereafter easier. Why not, in a dramatic act of leadership, move an amendment to this effect when the Marriage Bill reaches the Lords?”

This is the text from Lord Adonis’s letter about gay clergy and gay marriage:

Progressive leadership is also the only way to resolve the issues of gay clergy and gay marriage. Do not heed those who say that these matters are best left alone. The Church cannot preach love and strong relationships if it ignores the reality — a thoroughly moral reality — that same-sex love and relationships are a building block of modern society.

Leadership is urgent because of the Marriage Bill recently published by the Government to permit same-sex marriage. The current draft of the Bill not only allows the Church to decline to license same-sex marriages; it prohibits Church of England premises from being used for such marriages.

A long and probably bitter argument about this will now start within the Church. On past form the Church will ultimately join the social mainstream, as it did on divorce and women priests a generation ago, but only after a decade or three of ripping itself apart during which you and fellow bishops devise ever more abstruse formulae to paper over the fissures.

Yesterday you confirmed that you supported the Church’s position against same-sex marriage. However, if the issue is rightly regarded as one of conscience then why should individual clergy and parishes who wish to conduct same-sex marriages not be able to do so? This is what happens in the case of divorcees seeking to remarry in church. Surely this is way forward: to respect the consciences of individual clergy, and by doing so avoid a long debilitating battle for a uniformity that simply cannot be maintained given the passionate diversity of views among church leaders, local and national.

Perhaps it is too difficult to get to this position in one leap. But at least you should ask Parliament to remove the proposed ban on churches being used for same-sex marriage, to make change hereafter easier. Why not, in a dramatic act of leadership, move an amendment to this effect when the Marriage Bill reaches the Lords?

None of this will be easy. But the true followers of Jesus Christ never had it easy. As William Temple put it: “The Christian cannot ignore a challenge in the name of justice. He must either refuse it or, accepting it, devote himself to removal of the stigma.”

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