The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out about the Church of England’s perceived reluctance to support same-sex relationships, saying that African Anglicans could be attacked or killed as a result.
Speaking in an LBC debate hosted by James O’Brien, the Archbishop, Justin Welby, suggested that there needed to be a balance between catering for the LGBT community in England and ensuring that the church does not alienate followers in other parts of the world such as Africa.
He suggested that people in African countries would think the church was going to “make people become homosexuals”, and attack Christians, if the Anglican Church changed its official stance on gay relationships.
“Personally… I have real hesitations about [supporting same-sex marriage]. I feel 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.
“This is something I wrestle with every day, and often in the middle of the night. I’m incredibly conscious of the position of gay people in this country, how badly they’ve been treated over the years, how badly the church has behaved.
When asked by O’Brien whether someone in Africa could be on the receiving end of violence because of a decision made at Lambeth Palace about same-sex marriage, Mr Welby said: “Yes, precisely… it’s only too sadly true.”
He said, quoting the logic used by some people in South Sudan, where he recently attended a funeral of Christians killed because of a decision made in the US, he said: “‘If we leave a Christian community in this area, we will all be made to become homosexual, so we are going to kill all the Christians’, the mass grave had 369 bodies in it, and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul, as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”
The topic was first brought up by a clergy member who called in and referred to the introduction of the re-marriage of divorcees. She asked why clergy members had not been allowed to make up their own minds on same-sex blessings.
Mr Welby said: “What we say here is heard around the world. For historic reasons we are linked to churches all around the world, so before we make a major change in how we understand what we should do, we have to listen to people and go through a process of consultation, and listening very carefully, and praying, without pre-determined outcomes.
“The impact of that on Christians far from here like South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places, would be catastrophic. We have to love them as much as we love the people who are here. At the same time we have to listen incredibly to the LGBT community here, and look at the position of the church, and teaching of scripture, before we come to a conclusion.
“We are not in a position to suddenly just say ‘our position in this country has changed’, we are massively majority not in England.”
When Mr O’Brien used the term “less enlightened” to pose a question about African Anglicans, Mr Welby Responded: “I don’t think we dare say ‘less enlightened’, I think that is a sort of neo-colonial approach and one we really object to.
“I was in South Sudan a couple of weeks ago, and church leaders there were saying ‘please don’t change what you’re doing because then we can’t accept your help, and we need your help desperately’, and we have to listen carefully to that, and 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 in gay teenagers.
“There is a huge danger in trotting out simple solutions to really complex issues.”