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Welby: it’s love, but not marriage

15 March 2013


Early days: Justin Welby at his christening with his father, Gavin (right), and his mother, Jane

Early days: Justin Welby at his christening with his father, Gavin (right), and his mother, Jane

THE Archbishop of Canterbury criticised the Government's same-sex marriage proposals on Monday, but spoke in support of civil partnerships.

In an interview with LBC Radio, Archbishop Welby said that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill (News, 14 December), which is at the Committee Stage in the House of Commons, did "not include people equally. It's called 'equal marriage', but the proposals in the Bill don't do that."

It would be "completely absurd" to suggest that the love expressed in gay relationships was "less than the love there is between straight couples", Archbishop Welby said. He understood why people wanted civil partnerships "strengthened and made more dignified, somehow more honourable". But he said: "It's not the same as marriage. . .

"The historic teaching of the Church round the world - and this is where I remember that I've got 80 million people round the world who are Anglicans, not just the one million in this country - has been that marriage, in the traditional sense, is between a man and a woman for life. And it's such a radical change, to change that.

"I think we need to find ways of affirming the value of the love that is in other relationships without taking away from the value of marriage as an institution."

Asked how the decline in church attendance could be reversed, Archbishop Welby said: "It's reversed in the parish. There are 16,000 parishes, 9000 parish priests who are doing an absolutely superb job on the ground every day of the week. They are the people who will lead the Church into growth.

"At its heart will be prayer, which is why we've got this prayer journey in five cities. . . As we trust the power of the good news about Jesus Christ, we will see the number of people coming to church growing - and growing in their own faith, and in finding the hope that Jesus brings."

THE conflicts in the Anglican Communion bear a "striking resemblance" to what the Archbishop of Canterbury witnessed in war zones - "only without the guns", a new biography says, writes Ed Thornton.

Archbishop Justin Welby: The road to Canterbury was published this week by Darton, Longman & Todd. It is written by the Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone, tutor in history and doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

The book tells how Archbishop Welby's reconciliation work in countries such as Nigeria and Burundi, when he was co-director of the International Centre for Re- conciliation at Coventry Cathedral, "placed him in positions of grave personal danger.

"More than once he was caught in riots. . . On a dozen occasions he found himself in situations where the militia was in control, and anything might happen. Twice from Nigeria he telephoned Caroline [Welby] at home in Coventry and asked her to pray, fearing that he may have miscalculated the risks, and might be dead within minutes."

The book draws comparisons between the "escalating conflicts in the Anglican Communion" - such as the divisions over the appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading, and the ordination of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire - and what Archbishop Welby had witnessed in war zones.

It describes how the Archbishop viewed the destructive arguments over homosexuality as "a diversion of effort, a distraction from the task of seeking to win the 92 per cent of this population who never go near a church, and find the whole debate completely incomprehensible".

The author quotes Archbishop Welby as saying, in 2003, when a canon residentiary at Coventry Cathedral, that "sexual practice is for marriage, and marriage is between men and women, and that's the biblical position." But Archbishop Welby was reluctant to divide from other Christians with whom he disagreed.

The book describes how the Archbishop's background in treasury management had helped to pre-pare him for this ministry in con-flict resolution. Both professions required the ability "to synthesise a lot of information quickly and under pressure".

Treasury management had also taught Archbishop Welby the im-portance of risk. He argued "that when faced with risk there was a proper balance to be struck between 'recklessness and terrified immobility'. An obsession with managing risk led to cowardice and paralysis of action."

The book also says that, during a talk in 2006, Archbishop Welby said that he "believed it was a fair question for Nigeria (by far the largest Anglican province) to ask why, in a post-colonial world, the Communion 'should be run by a white man in Lambeth'".



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