Changing the Church of England’s attitudes towards the morality of homosexual conduct was an unlikely prospect, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today, not least because of the catastrophe it would unleash upon Christians in the developing world.
Changing the Church of England’s attitudes towards the morality of homosexual conduct was an unlikely prospect, the Archbishop of Canterbury told a London radio audience this week, not least because of the catastrophe it would unleash upon Christians in the developing world.
On 4 April 2014 the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby took questions for almost an hour from callers to LBC’s first “Ask the Archbishop” program, answering queries covering many of the contentious issues facing the church – including gay marriage and homosexuality.
Towards the start of the program, the Archbishop appeared indecisive on these issues, prompting Conservative politician (and an Anglican convert to Roman Catholicism) Ann Widdicombe to call in and ask “is homosexuality wrong?”
The archbishop responded: “I am not going to answer that straightforwardly because it’s a complex question.”
“My position is that the historic position of the church is that sexual relations should be within marriage and marriage is between a man and a woman,” the archbishop said. However, he declined to say whether his position identical to the historic position of the church.
A caller who identified herself as Kes in Charlton, stated she was a priest of the Church of England. She urged Dr. Welby to allow clergy to be allowed to conduct gay church weddings.
“What we say here is heard around the world,” he said.
“Well, why can’t we just do it now? Because, the impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Nigeria and other places, would be absolutely catastrophic, and we have to love them as much as we love the people who are here.”
The archbishop said the church needed to “listen incredibly carefully to the LGBT communities here, and listen to what they’re saying, and we have to look at the tradition of the church, and the teaching of the church, and the teaching of scripture, which is definitive in the end, before we come to a conclusion.”
“But, we’re not in a position just to suddenly say, okay our position in this country has changed, we are one of the great international groups that there is in this world, we are massively majority not in England.”
In the last question of the show, the interviewer asked Dr. Welby:
“A gay Christian listening to you though may have heard the message that he or she can’t marry their partner in their church because of the conniptions it would give to some African, dare we say less enlightened people, in Africa.”
To which the archbishop replied:
“Well I don’t think we dare say less enlightened actually. I think that’s a sort of neo-colonial approach and it’s one I really object to. I think it’s not about them having conniptions, getting irate, that’s nothing to do with it.”
“It’s about the fact that I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America, and they were attacked by other people – because of that a lot of them had been killed. I was in the South Sudan a few weeks ago and the church leaders there were saying please don’t change what you’re doing, because then we couldn’t accept your help and we need your help desperately.”
“We have to listen carefully to that, we also have to listen incredibly carefully to gay people here who want to get married and also to recognise that any homophobic behaviour here causes enormous suffering, particularly to gay teenagers, something I’m particularly conscious of at the moment. And we have to listen to that very carefully and work out what we do.”
The host of LBC then asked the archbishop if he could “imagine a day when two people of the same-sex will be married in an Anglican church here?”
“I don’t know. Personally, I have a real, I look at the Scriptures, I look at the teaching of the church, I listen to Christians around the world and I have real hesitations about that. I’m incredibly uncomfortable saying that because I really don’t want to say no to people who love each other, but you have to have a sense of following what the teaching of the church is, you can’t just make sudden changes,” the archbishop said.