The Archbishop of Canterbury is like the Pope of the Anglican Church. They sometimes refer to the position as the “Primate of All England”, a title no doubt going back to a time when the word “primate” didn’t conjure up the mental image of a great ape with a banana. Trust me, in the world of religion he’s a major player. His job title goes back about 1400 years.
The current Archbishop of Canterbury is a man named Justin Welby. He was one of the leading opponents of the bill that legalized same-sex marriage in Britain, and as a member of the House of Lords, he voted against it. Archbishop Welby explained his vote this way:
“What I voted against was what seemed to me to be the rewriting the nature of marriage in a way that I have to say within the Christian tradition and within scripture and within our understanding is not the right way to deal with the very important issues that were attempted to be dealt with in that bill.”
Now, with the bill passed and the prospect of marriage equality in Merry Old England just months away, Archbishop Welby seems to have had a crisis of conscience about how Christians have treated the gay community. The UK Guardian reports that while speaking today at the opening of the new Evangelical Alliance headquarters, a high profile event chock full of his religious subordinates, the Archbishop offered a harsh critique of the manner in which the Christian community has contributed to a climate of homophobia. Speaking of the newly minted Same-Sex Couples Act, Archbishop Welby told his fellow Anglican leaders:
“The bill was clearly, quite rightly, trying to deal with issues of homophobia in our society. As I said at the time in the House of Lords, the church has not been good at dealing with homophobia – it has at times, as God’s people, either implicitly or explicitly supported it, and we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong.
We have seen changes in the idea about sexuality, sexual behaviour. We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 not only think that what we’re saying is incomprehensible but also think that we’re plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice. We have to be real about that.”
While the Archbishop appears to finally have his train of thought chugging along on the right track, he stopped short of announcing the Anglican Church would endorse gay marriage. (He did, after all, lead the fight for churches to exempt themselves from marrying same-sex couples, so his evolution might take awhile.) The Primate of All England did however, leave that door open. Archbishop Welby:
“I haven’t got the answer one way or the other. Until my mind is clear on this, I’m not going to get into the trenches.”
In the world of “things you never expected to see” this has to be up there with Rick Santorum tongue kissing Ken Cuccinelli and Colin Powell wearing sparkly tights on Dancing With The Stars. I can hardly wait to see what the Archbishop decides, once he has his mind “clear”.
Photos from Archbishop Welby’s Facebook Page
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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