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Archbishop Welby accepts invitation to coffee with Sandi Toksvig

04 August 2022

The broadcaster had written to him asking to discuss the Church’s teaching on sexuality

BBC/Jackdaw Media Ltd/Anubis Films Ltd

Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has accepted an invitation to coffee with the writer, comedian, and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig, after she wrote to him to complain about the “shocking statement of exclusion” of LGBTQI+ people made at the Lambeth Conference.

Ms Toksvig, who is a patron of Humanists UK, has vowed never to set foot in an Anglican building again after Saturday, when she and her wife of 16 years will be hosting a concert in aid of Ukrainian refugees in their neighbourhood church.

The main takeaway from the Lambeth Conference “seems to be that gay sex is a sin”, she writes in an open letter to Archbishop Welby, posted on Twitter late on Wednesday evening. “It was a sin in 1998 and you just wanted to make clear in 2022 that no one in your finely frocked gang has moved on from that. Seriously, with the state the world is in, that is what you wanted to focus on? You didn’t have other more pressing matters like, I don’t know, war or poverty?”

Ms Toksvig points out that a survey in 2021 by Just Like Us, an LGBTQ+ young people’s charity, found that this group were twice as likely to self-harm as their non-LGBTQ+ peers. “Do you know why?” she asks. “For many, it’s because they don’t feel loved, and love, Justin, is supposed to be at the core of what you do. It’s like top of the job description.”

The letter is written in a tone of mock sorrow, but she goes on to say: “This is a serious matter. The lives of LGBTQ+ people are at stake here. I have had several credible death threats over the years sometimes requiring the very kind assistance of the police hate crime squad. Each and every one of those threats has come from an evangelical Christian.”

She bewails: “Oh, Justin, how can you be so stuck? Are you saying that the Bible teaches that none of us could ever learn from experience? That we can never grow and gain a deeper understanding of human behaviour than we had 2000 years ago when you could still feed a crowd with two loaves and a handful of fish? Jesus doesn’t mention sexuality at all. It clearly wasn’t a big deal for him.”

She comments in the conclusion of the letter that she and her wife have been “too hurt over the years to have any faith left”. She ends: “I’m a humanist. I continue to believe in the fundamental goodness of people. Despite my lack of religion, I’ve often found solace in churches. We all need calm spaces to gather our thoughts but I am done. After the concert I shall leave the church and never set foot in an Anglican building again. I’ll come back when you decide to welcome all of ‘God’s children’ on an equal footing.

“Call me, Justin. Let’s have coffee. Let me talk you round. You never know, I might even forgive you.’’

Archbishop Welby replied to Ms Toksvig on Thursday evening. In a letter posted on Twitter, he says that he would “love to sit down over coffee to talk to you”, and that his office will be in contact shortly.

“The hatred and threats that you — and so many other LGBTQI+ people — have exprienced in the name of Jesus Christ are a sin,” he writes. “I have absolutely no doubt about that and want you to be in no doubt of my position. The Church of England agrees with this view and vigorously opposes conversion therapy.

“The Anglican Communion is a complicated global group of churches. We can talk about this when we meet. There are deep differences in many areas. This week we have been honest about the differences and nevertheless accept each other.

“There is much more to say about Christianity being based and founded and lived in love, and we can talk about that in more depth later.”

Ms Toksvig replied on Twitter: “Thanks, lovely. Mine’s a black no sugar, please.”

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