CLAIMS by the Archbishop of Canterbury to global Anglican leaders in Ghana that he was “threatened with parliamentary action” to “force same-sex marriage” on the Established Church of England, have been challenged as “playing with the full truth!”

The Most Revd Justin Welby is currently speaking at the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Ghana, where over 110 representatives from over 40 Anglican provinces (national churches) are gathered.  The significant event comes just days after the CofE’s General Synod voted to bring in prayers to ‘bless’ same sex unions and, to remove the ban on gay clergy in civil partnerships having to remain celibate.

In a Presidential Address, Mr Welby told those present in the Ghanian capital, Accra, that “I was summoned twice to Parliament, and threatened with parliamentary action to force same-sex marriage on us, called in England equal marriage. When I speak of the impact that actions by the Church of England will have on those abroad in the Anglican communion, those concerns are dismissed by many, not all, but by many.” 

But the archbishops’ comments – to an audience representing provinces (national churches) which are vastly supportive of the traditional and biblical views of marriage and  sexuality – have been roundly criticised by the leader of Anglican Orthodox, a grassroots movement of clergy and parish officers opposed to the Synod’s recent vote.

The Revd Paul Eddy is a vicar in Oxfordshire, Convenor of Anglican Orthodox, and the pubic relations adviser to the influential Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) which publicly challenged the archbishop liberalising leadership at last year’s Lambeth Conference.  The GSFA’s provinces represent around 75 percent of global Anglicans.

Mr Eddy said: “Sadly, as we found at the Lambeth Conference, the archbishop tells church leaders something which, in their culture, means something different to ours, knowing they don’t have independent advisers on hand to explain. The truth is ‘parliament’ does not mean the UK ‘government’, which is what Anglican Communion delegates, from 40-plus nations, just arrived in Ghana, will think.

“I’ve discussed these issues with MPs from both sides.  There was an Urgent Debate in the Commons on the issue at which (from the BBC Parliament Channel), I counted 11 MP’s present. I think almost all of them gay, and several in gay civil partnerships.  There were less than 30 MPs at any time in the chamber.  With over 400 MPs, that’s hardly a ‘strong challenge from parliament.”

Mr Eddy, who has strong links with Christian MPs said he was also aware of two gay MPs canvassing support for a possible ‘Westminster Hall Debate. The motion would be to explore a Bill to remove the CofE’s equality law exemptions and, start the process towards the Disestablishment of the CofE.

Mr Eddy says MPs on both sides of the aisle told him their respective Party leadership has no interest in “starting a debate about the CofE, of which the King is the ‘supreme governor’, in his year of Coronation. Or, unsettling relations with other faiths in sensitive areas of the nation.”

Mr Eddy said: “If parliament were to try to take away the CofE’s exemptions under the 2010 Equality Act, it would mean the British Parliament would take away the historic ‘freedom of religion’ when, across the globe we criticise other Governments for persecuting people of faith.  It wouldn’t stand up to legal challenge. It is nonsense and the archbishop knows it. Justin Welby is giving just enough information to make delegates think he had no alternative.  But he is not telling them the whole truth.

“If this were true, why did he not say so in the House of Lords that he’d been threatened?  Why did he not mention it to General Synod last week over the two days of debate last week? 

“And why, when the Second Estates Commissioner – the official link between the CofE and the House of Commons – spoke in the General Synod debate, his assessment was, there are some MPs who wanted change, but many others had spoken to him privately, saying they were against any change, but were afraid to say so publicly.  Why didn’t the archbishop tell the ACC that?”

Mr Eddy says the archbishop is also deliberately withholding from the ACC a very important and sensitive piece of information which “would render his claim nonsense”.

He said: “Let’s get real. Is he really saying Parliament would take away the Equality Act rights, and Freedom of Religion rights of Christians – including the Roman Catholics (backed by the Pope), and of Muslims, not to hold gay marriage in churches, synagogues or Mosques? 

“Sorry.  At a time when community relations between other faiths is both delicate and vital, the MPs I spoke to told me there was no way any political party would try to ‘impose’ gay marriage on Muslims, Jews, or people of any faith.”

The ACC runs from February 11-23.