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Welby expects the women-bishops legislation to pass

13 July 2014


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 morning.

"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."

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 July).

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 marriage ( News, 14 February), and the consequences for members of the clergy who had not followed the guidance given (News, 11 July).

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 take".

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 relationships".

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 considerable period."

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."







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