The Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed members of the UK parliament “threatened” the Church of England over gay marriage. The Most Reverend Justin Welby said he was told “parliamentary action” could be used to “force same-sex marriage on us.”
Church officials last week voted in favour of their institution lending its “blessings” to same-sex couples in civil partnerships. The move has received criticism from the international Anglican movement, though it appears that in the halls of political power, blessings do not go far enough. Archbishop Welby told the latest global Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Ghana:
In the last few weeks, as part of our discussions about sexuality and the rules around sexuality in the Church of England, I talked of our interdependence with all Christians, not just Anglicans, particularly those in the global south with other faith majorities.
As a result, I was summoned twice to parliament, and threatened with parliamentary action to force same-sex marriage on us, called in England equal marriage.
Some Conservative Party MPs, including Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, have spent recent weeks pushing publicly for the Church to perform gay marriages, despite their own government previously making it “absolutely, 100% clear” that “if there is any church … that doesn’t want to have a gay marriage, it will not—it absolutely must not—be forced to hold it.” The Archbishop did not reveal which parliamentary figures “threatened” the Church. According to The Daily Telegraph:
It emerged recently that the Archbishop had a meeting with MPs at the House of Commons last month in which he reportedly said he would rather the Church of England lost its privileged status than risk a global split over same-sex marriage.
Archbishop Welby, talking in Ghana, added that the Church must not be “dictated to by people, blackmailed, [nor] bribed to do what others want us to do.”
His remarks have, however, given rise to suggestions that Church officials are trying to tell both sides of the gay marriage debate what they want to hear in a bid to deflect criticism. Gay evangelical Christian Jayne Ozanne described the Archbishop’s comments as “disingenuous, calculated and totally untrue,” adding that he is “playing parliament off against certain parts of the Anglican Communion” rather than “showing leadership.”
In another rebuke, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who attended one of the Archbishop’s meetings in parliament, told The Daily Telegraph:
He seems to be claiming to the conservative African churches that the baby steps taken last week to tackle homophobia in the Church of England are being forced on him by parliament, while telling Anglicans here, the majority of whom support same-sex marriage in church, that he and his fellow Bishops can’t go further because it would alienate the Africans.
I wish the Archbishop would say what he really believed and stick to it, rather than saying different things to different audiences.