Justin Welby's Speech

Here’s the bits on homosexuality.

Justin WelbyThe cultural and political ground is changing. Anyone who listened to much of the Same Sex Marriage Bill Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland. Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the Bill was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance and participation and majority since 1945. There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches. Some of what was said was uncomfortably close to the bone. For example, 97% of gay teenagers report homophobic bullying. In the USA suicide as a result is the principle cause of death for such adolescents. One cannot sit and listen to that sort of reality without being appalled. We may or may not like it but the wind of change is blowing powerfully in the area of sexuality.

The majority of the population rightly detests homophobic behaviour or anything that looks like it. It is utterly horrifying to hear of gay people executed in Iran, or equivalents elsewhere. With nearly a million children educated in our schools we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying. We are therefore developing a programme for use in our schools, taking the best advice we can get, that specifically targets such bullying. More than that we need also to ensure that what we do and say demonstrates the lavish love of God to all of us, who are without exception sinners. Again this requires radical and prophetic words which lavish grace while holding to truth.

In some things we change course and recognise the new context. In others we stand firm because truth is not set by culture, nor morals by fashion. But let us be clear, pretending that nothing has changed is absurd and impossible. In times of revolution we too must have a revolution which enables us to live for the greater glory of God in the freedom which is the gift of Christ. We need not fear. The eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Is the last paragraph important or not?

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  • James Gibson

    So, which is it in this case? Are we supposed to “change course and recognise the new context” or “stand firm because truth is not set by culture, nor morals by fashion?” Sounds like the AbC is not saying, “Thus says the Lord,” but “Reasonable people can disagree on this issue.” I’m not too impressed.

  • iaino

    I am not sure how accurate those statistics are that the AoC quoted concerning suicides and bullying.

    But these are concerns that need to be addressed. I was challenged by that last paragraph telling us that we too must have a revolution which enables us to live to the greater glory of God. And when we read Adrian Tippets and others who’s aim is to drive Christianity from the public sphere as the next concern for LGBT equality, we see how polarised and nasty the debate has become. Truth is indeed not set by culture or morals by fashion, but outside of the Faith there are not many people who believe this. Maybe that’s why we need a revolution.

  • Sarah1845

    Have we not been here before, less than a month ago, with this shape of thought? Then you reckoned that a particular tone of phrase towards the end of the Bishop of Leicester’s Lords speech meant that the bishops were planning a late, Dambusters-like raid on the equal marriage legislation. Now it’s perfectly obvious that having made the appropriate noises, they have retreated from the whole thing, leaving Lord Dear to his own devices. They accept that it will pass.

    In this speech of Justin Welby’s I again think that applying a bit of holism to speech analysis will get you closer to the truth. The thrust of the whole thing is that something’s got to give in the new landscape, although he doesn’t say quite what. He cleverly neither quite says that the Church must ‘stand fast’ against accepting gay sexual relationships or explains quite what the ‘revolution’ he anticipates is. Pehaps he’s not quite sure where it’s all going to land himself yet – and particularly how Pilling is going to land. But the whole impression is a softening up for some sort of shift in policy towards the liberal. If I was a betting girl, I’d be putting 10 quid at William Hill on that.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      “a late, Dambusters-like raid on the equal marriage legislation”

      I think that’s an exaggeration. I said that they weren’t throwing in the towel and that they would engage in constructive amendments at the Committee and Report stage. I was absolutely right.

      You though are absolutely right in that the issue will be settled one way or the other in how Pilling lands.

      • Sarah1845

        Actually, I in turn didn’t quite say that it would be completely settled by Pilling – I think that would be very optimistic. You’ll have seen Linda Woodhead’s material about what Anglicans think – and it’s clearly about half and half between those who agree with you and those who agree with me. I’m not sure that either side is going to say “well, I had some pretty strongly held views there, but I’m sure what Sir Joseph says is for the best”. It will though definitely shape the state of play for the next couple of years.

    • sheppied007

      1. The Lords Committee Stage of the Bill did provide the opportunity for Parliament to clarify the protections that it would provide for those in the public sphere who cannot support same-sex marriage. Although the Bill restricts parental presumptions to heterosexual couples (schedule 4 Part 2), that clause will most likely be challenged in the ECtHR as discrimination against a same-sex couple’s right to family life.

      It is now for the legislative draftsmen to craft amendments for the Report Stage of the Bill in a way that balances its aims with the valid concerns for the protection of freedom of conscience.

      2. Later on, let’s say that a majority of the Lords Spiritual support the opening up of Civil Partnerships to heterosexuals and the promised government review of Civil Partnerships agrees, the Church of England will provide some sort of liturgical innovation to accommodate it.

      The canon of the Church in respect of Holy Matrimony can then remain intact, while a gender-neutral blessing will be framed for civil partners.

      The Pilling Report could also support the value of a fairly established secular device for commitment, like Civil Partnership, that could be open to couples of all orientations.

      On what grounds could even the most staunch conservatives support the church blessing of heterosexual civil partnerships, while decrying the same for LGBT partners? Such a stance would attract a charge of rank homophobia.

      St. Paul was right: ‘a little leaven leavens the whole lump’.

  • Sarah1845

    Hello sheppied – are you saying that you support the church blessing of civil partnerships? If so, that’s very interesting. Myself, I’d want to know what the blessing actually implied – another fudge about the sexual element, or a full acceptance that also embraced the clergy.

    I think the solution you suggest would have worked like a charm five years ago – and as Richard Harries points out, may even have prevented gay marriage being campaigned for at all : it was the chronic disparagement of CPs that made the ‘different but equal’ line ring so hollow. Now I suspect that the vast majority of gay Christians will choose marriage (the closest they can currently get to a church sacrament ) over a CP. Meanwhile the growing tide of hettie secularists will choose CPs exactly to underline their distance from the church. Ever out of step, CofE will be left offering CP blessings to straight secularists who don’t give a damn for their blessing – while gay Christians who are married will still be excluded and the church will find its homophobia label sticking as securely as ever. If they are going to get into the blessing business in this area, the only sensible thing they can do is bless marriages and civil partnerships indiscriminately. .

    • sheppied007

      Firstly, I think that the focus of the Archbishop’s speech is to transcend the debate about protecting the mere negation of homosexuality. Whatever arguments were posed on the nature of marriage, he is saying that if the mood of the country is accurately reflected in the political majority behind same-sex marriage, the church has to do a lot more than to seek protections for its opposition to affirming homosexuality through social institutions like marriage.

      Far from advancing the blessing of CPs as a ‘solution’, I am just explaining how the pragmatists in the CofE will resolve the realpolitik. You may be right in surmising that the Church affirmation of CPs will be viewed as ill-timed and woefully inadequate. The CofE may find itself falling prey to that most cardinal of sins against the idol of public image: irrelevance.

      This situation reminds me of the probing question posed to Christ about the justness of giving tribute to Caesar. One could equally ask whether or not it’s right for the established Church to affirm the secular initiative in favour of gay marriage. If you say it’s right, you risk the accusation that the CofE has lost its witness and pilgrim character. If you say it’s wrong, you call into question why the Church has the privileges of its established status.

      I would surmise that Christ might respond: ‘Show me one of your marriage certificates. Whose image and superscription is on this document?’

      ‘Her Majesty’s Government.’

      If the CofE has managed to abide with secular compromises over marriage in its past, it’s a bit rich for its leaders to lay claim to it as a purely religious institution.

      Perhaps, they should relinquish to Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s: (the marriage certificate). Whatever has been said in the past, it’s also time to render unto God the things that are God’s (the religious solemnisation).

      Of course, that would be the beginning of disestablishment: the other cardinal sin of English churchmanship.

  • davidould

    In answer to your closing questions, yes I do think it’s important. It shows us once again that Welby is unwilling to speak out clearly on these matters. Given the opportunity to leave people in no doubt about a conservative traditional (yet, of course, unpopular) position on these things he has, instead, chosen to soften his language so as to not set off the liberals in General Synod and beyond.
    He increasingly looks like trying to tread exactly the same fine line that Williams did. I fear he will fail in exactly the same way. Could all be rectified by preaching both in-season and out of season.

  • Mike Homfray

    James Jones reached the position of believing that both sides would have to learn to co-exist. There appears to be something of that in what Welby is saying. There is a limit to how much an established church can be entirely at odds with the law of the land and with the direction of public opinion in an area so central to its activity

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