Archbishop's new sympathy for gay people 'a bit rich'
Justin Welby tells Christians to 'repent' over the way gay and lesbian people have been treated
THE Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged his stance against same-sex marriage could be seen as "wicked" by younger people – but one gay rights charity has said his comments have come too late.
Speaking at the opening of the Evangelical Alliance's new premises in London on Wednesday, Justin Welby acknowledged that his decision to vote against the gay marriage bill could be seen by some as akin to racism.
The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act had a rocky passage through Parliament, with staunch opposition from several religious groups and Conservative backbenchers, before it received royal assent in July, allowing gay couples in England and Wales to marry from 2014.
Welby said: "The bill was clearly, quite rightly, trying to deal with issues of homophobia in our society. As I said at the time in the House of Lords, the church has not been good at dealing with homophobia – it has at times, as God's people, either implicitly or explicitly supported it and we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong."
He nevertheless said he would vote the same way again, but was listening "very carefully" to how society's attitude is changing.
"We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 not only think that what we're saying is incomprehensible but also think that we're plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice. We have to be real about that," he said.
For some, his comments come too late. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay rights charity Stonewall, told Gay Star News: "It is a tiny bit rich to say he has great sympathy for gay people when in the ten years since the introduction of civil partnerships the church has doggedly refused to bless people's long-term partnerships even though they are happy to have services for pets and even canals."
But, writing in The Guardian, Andrew Brown thinks there is an "irreversible shift of attitude under way". Welby now understands just how "dreadful conservative Christian attitudes seem to anyone under 35", says Brown, and has recognised this more clearly and forcefully than his predecessor Rowan Williams ever did.
Benjamin Cohen, publisher of PinkNews, welcomes the recognition and agrees that many people think attacking gay people is "as evil and incomprehensible" as attacking someone for being born black or disabled.
Cohen adds that he did not see the Archbishop's stance as "wicked" because it is the church's right to opt out of same-sex marriage, "just as it is the right of the younger generations to question the relevance of these institutions if they reject a change in the law that most young people think is nothing more than equality". ·