THE Archbishop of Canterbury has declined to spell out a Plan B
if the women-bishops draft legislation falls in the Synod on
Monday, because he is "not expecting to have to face that".
"I am hopeful that it will pass; the votes, I think, are there,"
he told Andrew Marr in an interview broadcast on BBC1 on Sunday
"What happens if we lose the vote is a matter for the House of
Bishops. I can't dictate it and I'm not expecting to have to face
That the Church was still talking about women bishops was
"incomprehensible" to the general public, he said. "I'm not
actually focused on what will happen if it fails."
The General Synod will take the final-approval vote on Monday.
Interviews with swing voters suggest that it will pass (News, 4
The Archbishop was questioned about why he was a firm supporter
of the ordination of women, but remained opposed to same-sex
marriage. Although the latter is not the subject of General Synod
business this year, disagreement in the Church on same-sex
relationships has been evident in the first two days of the
meeting. On Friday evening, 14 questions were put to the House of
Bishops concerning the forthcoming facilitated conversations on
sexuality, the impact of its pastoral statement on same-sex
News, 14 February), and the consequences for members of the
clergy who had not followed the guidance given (News,
Responses to these questions emphasised that the House remained
committed to the statement, which states that the clergy should not
enter into same-sex marriages. "As bishops, we have a
responsibility for upholding the teaching of the Church of
England," the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent,
said, answering in place of the Bishop of Norwich. "And clergy are
called on to live consistently with that teaching, even when they
disagree with it and wish to argue for it to change, as the
statement acknowledged was their right." Bishop Broadbent said
that, if clerics contravened the guidance, it was the
responsibility of the diocesan bishop "to decide what action to
In Sunday's interview, Archbishop Welby suggested to Mr Marr
that, with regard to the ordination of women and same-sex marriage,
"the theological difference is, I think, quite a simple one".
He explained: "Theologically, the Church has been wrong not to
ordain women as priests and as bishops over the centuries, and I
think if you look back at scripture, if you look at the nature of
God, if you look at particularly the way the Early Church organised
itself, we got caught up in the culture over the centuries, as
Churches do at all times."
He was "very loath" to comment on sexuality in detail, given the
forthcoming shared conversations. The Church would "listen to the
sense of the Spirit of God speaking through the people of God, as
we go through this process".
His discussions with gay people had not convinced him of the
case for same-sex marriage, he said, but "I continue to struggle
with the issue. Pastorally, you meet people, you sit across the
room with them, you talk to them, some wonderful priests, and your
heart goes out to them."
He agreed with Mr Marr that there were examples of gay
relationships that were "unselfish, long-term, profoundly strong
The Archbishop was also asked about abuse perpetrated in the
Church of England, and voiced his expectation that more cases would
emerge: "It is becoming clearer and clearer that for many, many
years, things were not dealt with as they should have been dealt
with, and we must show justice to survivors of abuse. . . We
have to keep saying how utterly devastated we are with the terrible
things that were done in the past and how sorry we are."
In a discussion about cultural tensions in Britain, and
relations between Christians and Muslims, the Archbishop was
circumspect. After acknowledging that people were returning from
Syria "highly radicalised", he argued that "the proportion of
Muslims who are radicalised is extraordinarily small." He was "edgy
about developing a national culture of fear. . . I think we have
been becoming too hysterical about this subject for some
Asked how he was finding the office of Archbishop of Canterbury,
he replied: "I am rather worried about the fact that on most
things, most of the time, I'm really enjoying myself."