The Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed for BBC Radio Nottingham by Sarah Julian in an interview broadcast on Sunday morning. It can be heard for the five days from Sunday beginning 2 hours 9 minutes 32 secs into the programme.
Sarah Julian asked him a series of questions based on Canon Jeremy Pemberton’s marriage to Laurence Cunnington to which his answer, repeated several times with minor variations, was “nothing to say.” What happens if you break the rules, was her stance. What happens to Jeremy now, and other priests like him?
SJ So what happens to Canon Pemberton?
ABC “Well, the Bishop of Lincoln .. he’s actually in Lincoln Diocese .. the Bishop of Lincoln has commented on that and I’ve said all I’m going to say on that, really; I’ve commented on that a great deal recently and I don’t intend to add to it.”
SJ We’ve not spoken to you here on BBC Radio Nottingham, though, and he actually does live in our diocese and does some work in our diocese so I’d appreciate if you could, you know, reiterate that, then …
ABC “No, as I’ve said, I’ve said on nationally and it’s been in all the press and on the radio and, and I’m just not going to add to it.”
SJ So you won’t repeat what you’ve said already?
ABC “Er, no.”
SJ What will happen in future when more and more priests either do this or bless a gay wedding themselves?
ABC “Well, the Church is heavily involved at the moment in discussions about policy, organised discussions which will take, er, involving loads and loads of people from all over the world and, er, all kinds of activities and that’s going to take quite a long time to do and as I say, I don’t want to preempt those discussion so I’m not going to comment further on that.”
SJ But you must have an idea of what the Church should do in these instances ‘cus it’s already happening, you must have had a plan for what will happen to priests who do this.
ABC “Well, that’s been announced publicly, it’s on the record, erm, but errrr, as I say, I’m not intending to add to what I’ve said previously.”
SJ And if priests do break the rules, are they going to be kicked out of the Church of England?
ABC “There’s processes for, errr, what happens and it’s very much down to local bishops and umm, yeah, that’s, err, you need to ask the relevant bishop about that.”
SJ But you’re the head of the Church of England, they must come to you and ask you those questions, what do you tell them?
ABC “Well, actually the Church of England doesn’t work that way, we don’t have an Anglican Pope, we operate on a collegial, collective basis and errrr, it’s very much shared, errr, decision making, and there was a paper published at the end of errr January on that.”
SJ How do you think God feels about gay marriage?
ABC “Well as I’ve said I’ve commented an awful lot about it, I’m not going to add further to what I’ve said already.”
SJ But how do you feel about the current situation and the turmoil that this is in and how this looks to the rest of society?
ABC “One of the things … there’s always disagreements in Church, there’s always been disagreements in Church, it’s, it’s varied over the centuries on different issues; there’s always been disagreement. One of the key things in the Church is that the Church is a family, it’s not an institution, it’s not a political party, erm, it.. it.. the way we operate is that we are bound together by the love of Christ, and in the way we disagree we have to express that love to each other.”
SJ We have two women here in Nottinghamshire who we’ve spoken to, they are planning to get married, the two of them. One of them actually works for the Church and she wants to become a priest. She feels that she’s had to choose between getting married and her calling to the Church. Is there any hope for her, or how does that make you feel?
ABC “Well, I can only repeat what I’ve said before, that we’re, there’s a lot of discussion going on, err, we’re listening very, very carefully to people, but I don’t want to preempt that by adding further to the numerous things I’ve said on all kinds of media, including the BBC before.”
SJ But not here in Nottinghamshire, and these are Nottinghamshire people who …
ABC “I rather suspect that the BBC does reach in Nottingham, not only through the local radio.”
Pink New interview
PinkNews has published an exclusive interview by Benjamin Cohen with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Asked if he had a ‘message’ for Britain’s LGBT community, Archbishop Welby said: “As you know I have said, and got a fair amount of flak for it within parts of the Church, we have to accept, and quite rightly, that the same-sex marriage act is law, and that it’s right and proper, it’s the law of the land, and that’s great.”
“What’s my message to the gay community?” the Archbishop said before pausing for several seconds. “We are struggling with the issues across the Church globally. It’s complicated with ramifications that are very difficult to deal with in many parts of the world.”
He sensed a calling from God to be ordained after retiring from the oil sector in 1989. “I started with coming to faith many years ago by the understanding that Jesus loved me unconditionally despite my failures” he said. “That I know is true, and I want a Church that expresses that.”
“Therefore the love of Christ is universal for all people irrespective of who they are and the Church has to find a way of expressing that.”
The Archbishop refused to be drawn on the issue of gay clergy marrying their partners, beyond saying that it was “a really difficult” situation.
“I have commented very extensively on that and I’m not going to add to what I have said already because we are in the middle of a … we have just started a really complex series of discussions about that and I don’t want to pre-empt that.”
Asked if he ‘understood’ how gay clergy might feel about the Church’s current opposition to them marrying, the Archbishop said: “I do understand. It’s a really difficult and troubling situation.”
Asked if he was ‘shocked’ by the anti-gay rhetoric of senior Anglicans in Africa, he replied: “I want to be very careful about just picking on Africa. It’s not just there, all that language shocks me and appals me and deeply depresses me when homophobic language is used by the Church in any part of the world.
“I’ve said before that the Church has to learn from its past and to turn away from often using [homophobic] language in ways of expressing itself, which in the past have clearly put itself in that frame. I don’t think we can deny that, history is too clear.”
Asked if it was a confusing ‘conflict’ for students to hear a message of gay tolerance from the Church alongside its continued opposition to same-sex marriage, the Archbishop said: “Well they are in conflict. The Church is deeply divided over this issue both nationally and globally, as is society, and the Church is simply made up of people within society, that’s the reality, and we have to learn ways of expressing ourselves, of expressing that disagreement, of discerning in Christian terms what it means to be a faithful Christian [but] does not diminish or marginalise people or any group within the Church.”
Archbishop Welby went on to say that the use of “marginalising” language must be excluded from the debate, but he added, “that’s a really tough call because you are dealing with massive cultural heritage, massive cultural issues. We operate in over 160 countries. It’s not a simple process.”