Anglican Watch calls BS on the Church of England’s (CoE) fauxpology, issued last week, over its treatment of LGBTQ+ persons. The announcement comes even as the CoE continues its refusal to marry same-sex couples, instead saying it will bless same-sex relationships.
The so-called apology is set forth in a report, issued after five years of study, which will be presented to the church’s General Synod, set to meet in London next month.
“We want to apologize for the ways in which the Church of England has treated LGBTQI+ people – both those who worship in our churches and those who do not,’’ church bishops said in a statement. “For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry. The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful, and for this we repent.’’
Meanwhile the church has said it will bless same-sex relationships. But there is no requirement that clergy do so, and Archbishop Justin Welby has said he will not do so in order to promote unity within the Anglican Communion.
That begs the question: Would Welby’s position be the same if the issue involved marrying inter-racial couples? Differently abled persons? We doubt it.
As a practical matter, this is a case of choosing the worst possible outcomes, mixing them together, and declaring, in the words of Richard Nixon, “peace with honor.”
The bishops’ announcement does nothing to heal divisions in the church. Meanwhile, it will engender the usual uproar from GAFCON and other conservatives, while doing little to advance equality. In short, it’s a lowest common denominator outcome, guaranteed to cause problems on all fronts.
Also, with same-sex marriage legal in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the church’s position on same-sex marriage may be on a collision course with its role as the state church. Indeed, with Christians now accounting for less than half of the UK population, many already are questioning the assignment of 26 seats in the House of Lords to CoE bishops and archbishops, as well as the role of the monarch as head of the church.
Compounding matters is Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent decision to overrule Scottish legislation to make it easier for people to change their gender identity. The move provoked a furious response from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who termed the decision a “full frontal assault” on Scottish devolution.
Anglican Watch finds it ironic that the Church of England should so vehemently resist same-sex marriage, given that the church was founded in an effort to undercut the sanctity of marriage.
The decision also strengthens the argument for the disestablishment of the Church of England. Not only does the church appear out of touch with larger society, but its discriminatory behavior makes it unsuited to be a state church. Moreover, the church’s attitudes are increasingly damaging to the monarchy, which seeks to portray itself as serving all persons, versus the old landed aristocracy and other privileged classes.
We also find it telling that the Church of England has done an absolutely appalling job of safeguarding, yet it opposes same-sex marriage. Perhaps CoE resources, including its time and attention, would be better directed at mucking out its own stall, versus worrying about who is marrying whom.
Hopefully Parliament will step in and stop the Church of England from causing further harm to itself. But if Parliament is not willing to intervene, it should at least remove the church’s automatic seats in the House of Lords.