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Welby recognises huge cultural shift

12 July 2013

SAM ATKINS

THE Archbishop of Canterbury used his first presidential address to the General Synod last Friday to call on the Church to recognise that the "cultural and political ground" in Britain was "changing", and to "accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality, and we have not fully heard it".

Speaking on the first day of the Synod meeting in York, last Friday evening, Archbishop Welby said that he was "not proposing new policy", but spoke of the "notable hostility" to the Church's current position on sexuality.

"Anyone who listened, as I did, 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," he said ( News, 7 June).

"The opposition to the Bill - which included me and many other bishops - was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance in the House, and participation in a debate, and majority since 1945.

"There was notable hostility to the view of the Churches. I am not proposing new policy, but what I feel then and feel now, is that some of what was said by those supporting the Bill was uncomfortably close to the bone."

He said that "97 per cent of gay teenagers in the UK report homophobic bullying; and that in the USA, suicide as the result of such bullying is the principal cause of death of gay adolescents. One cannot sit and listen to that sort of reality without being appalled.

"We may or may not like it, but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality, and we have not fully heard it.

"The majority of the population rightly rejects homophobic behaviour or anything that looks like it. Sometimes they look at us and they see what they don't like. I don't like saying that, I've resisted that thought, but in that debate I heard it, and I could not walk away from it."

The Archbishop announced an initiative to tackle homophobic bullying in church schools. "With nearly a million children being educated in our schools, we must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying; but we must also take action. We are . . . taking the best advice we can find anywhere that specifically targets such bullying."

Archbishop Welby also addressed the financial crisis, describing it as another revolution that "the economic position of our country has changed dramatically.

"With all parties committed to austerity for the foreseeable future, we have to recognise that the profound challenges of social need, food banks, credit injustice, gross differentiation of income, pressure on all forms of state provision and spending are here to stay."

In a sermon preached at York Minster on Sunday morning, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, sounded a positive note. He said: "I believe that the sun is always rising on the Church, and in particular, on the Church of England. And I believe that there will be joy in the morning for the Church, because I believe that the Church is always rising, too: it is rising in the power of the resurrection of our Lord."

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