Justin Welby gave an interview to the BBC which was broadcast on the Today programme this morning, the day he is to be enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.
The new Archbishop said: “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.” He told the BBC he had “particular friends where I recognise that and am deeply challenged by it”. Justin Welby clearly has gay friends, partnered gay friends, and knows perfectly well that their relationships are equal in love and quality to those of his married friends and of his own marriage.
But he is conflicted and at the same time said he still supported the Church of England’s formal opposition to active homosexuality. And as an addition to my original text, in response to a comment from the chair of the Changing Attitude trustees, what on earth does Justin Welby mean when he refers to ‘active homosexuality’? Yes, he’s conflicted, and still hasn’t thought through what he really thinks and feels about gay relationships, same-sex love, intimacy, the sexual expression of love, civil partnerships and equal marriage. The new Archbishop still has some homework to do, and urgently, before the House of Bishops meet in December.
While he did not doubt the Church’s policy on same-sex relationships, he was “challenged as to how we respond to it.” He said: “The Church of England holds very firmly, and continues to hold to the view, that marriage is a lifelong union of one man to one woman.”
This is a restatement, of course, of the Church of England’s current official teaching, but as I hope to show in a later post, it is a teaching undergoing radical reappraisal this year. Justin Welby then qualifies his apparent total commitment to the life-long union of one man to one woman teaching by adding: “At the same time, at the heart of our understanding of what it is to be human, is the essential dignity of the human being. And so we have to be very clear about homophobia.”
He was then asked if the Church would turn a blind eye to some gay relationships. He said: “It’s not a blind eye – it’s about loving people as they are and where they are. You’ll find that in every church and you’ll find that because it imitates the character and the practice of Jesus himself.”
Justin Welby must know perfectly well that the Church of England corporately and members of the House of Bishops individually, is turning a blind eye to some gay relationships, and is acting hypocritically in saying one thing while doing another. Every bishop and archbishop is complicit in the hypocrisy. We tolerate it because it helps us survive, but as Sarah Maxwell shows in Transcendent Vocation, hypocrisy is under the spotlight and cannot long survive.
Archbishop Justin is to be praised for calling the quality of some gay relationships stunning, equal in love to heterosexual couples. Changing Attitude welcomes his totally positive affirmation of same sex love and relationships.
He is a conflicted man, however. He says the Church of England holds very firmly to the view that marriage is a life-long heterosexual union. He’s wrong if he thinks every church loves gay people as and where they are. Some don’t, and even some which think they do, don’t
The Archbishop and the House of Bishops still have to work of what Church of England teaching about LGB&T people and same-sex relationships would look like if it really was to imitate the character and practice of Jesus himself.