18 April at Lambeth Palace
Invitation follows campaigner’s Open Letter
Historic compromise with the gay community urged
London – 16 April 2013
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will meet human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell this Thursday, 18 April, at 1.30pm at Lambeth Palace.
The meeting was offered by the Archbishop in response to the Open Letter that Mr Tatchell wrote to him on 20 March (copy below).
Archbishop Welby replied:
“Dear Mr Tatchell, Thank you for your very thoughtful letter. It requires much thought and the points it makes are powerful. I would like to explain what I think to you without the mediation of the press, and listen to you in return.”
Mr Tatchell’s Open Letter criticised Justin Welby as “homophobic” for supporting a legal ban on same-sex civil marriage. He also criticised the Anglican Communion for colluding with local dioceses in Africa that endorse the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Commenting on the Archbishop’s decision to meet him, Mr Tatchell said:
“I applaud the Archbishop’s willingness to engage in dialogue – all the more so because he comes from the conservative evangelical wing of the church.
“I hope our meeting is not mere window-dressing and good PR for the church. I’m expecting more than tea and sympathy.
“I will be urging a rethink of the church’s opposition to same-sex civil marriage and an end to Anglican collusion with the persecution of gay people in Nigeria and Uganda.
“I plan to call on the Archbishop to embrace a new historic compromise with the gay community : that the church can continue to believe that homosexuality is wrong but will agree that homophobic discrimination is also wrong – and actively oppose it.
“Discrimination is not a Christian value. The Archbishop should therefore oppose all discrimination against gay people, including the ban on same-sex civil marriage.
“I am asking Archbishop Welby to make a clear distinction between what he and the church believe is morally wrong and the law of the land.
“While the Archbishop is entitled to reject homosexuality as unacceptable, in a liberal democracy he is not entitled to insist that his religious beliefs are legislated into law by banning same-sex civil marriage ceremonies.
“The Church of England’s opposition to same-sex civil marriage is a direct and un-Christian attack on the human rights of gay people.
“While Anglicans have every right to refuse to conduct religious gay marriages, they should halt their campaign against gay marriages hosted by civil authorities. The church should have no jurisdiction or veto over marriages in register offices.
“This is the first time any Archbishop has offered to meet me. Even a liberal like Rowan Williams never welcomed me to Lambeth Palace. Justin’s invitation is progress.
“In 1997, ten of us from the gay rights group OutRage! scaled the walls of Lambeth Palace and confronted the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, over his opposition to legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This time I’m going to Lambeth Palace through the front door at the Archbishop’s invitation. It makes a nice change,” said Mr Tatchell.
An Open Letter to Justin Welby
On the occasion of his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury
From Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Archbishop of Canterbury
20 March 2013
Dear Archbishop Justin Welby,
Your enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion will be an occasion for rejoicing by your faithful.
Like them, I wish you well.
I hope you will use your new authority to guide the church to accept equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Just over a decade ago, you expressed harsh homophobic opinions, condemning gay
relationships and the adoption of children by same-sex couples. You may have since revised these views but even now you oppose marriage equality.
One of your first public statements, when you were confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury last month, was to declare your support for discrimination against gay people: namely your support for the legal ban on same-sex civil marriage.
Moreover, although you have expressed your support for civil partnerships, it is reported that you have not approved civil partnerships taking place in churches or church blessings for same-sex couples.
You claim that you are not homophobic but a person who opposes legal equality for LGBT people is homophobic – in the same way that a person who opposes equal rights for black people is racist.
Homophobia has come to mean more than an irrational fear for gay people. It includes support for anti-gay discrimination and the denial of equal rights to people who are LGBT. In this sense of the word, you are homophobic because you support discrimination in law against gay people.
Discrimination is not a Christian value; regardless of whether this discrimination concerns gender, race, faith, sexual orientation or gender identity.
You say that you are listening to the concerns of the LGBT community but you continue to ignore and reject our claim for equal marriage rights. It does not feel like you are listening. Or perhaps you listening but not hearing?
You are not without precedent with regard to LGBT equality, in the UK and abroad.
Sadly, successive Archbishops of Canterbury have failed to speak out clearly and consistently against LGBT human rights abuses worldwide and against the frequent collusion with these abuses by local Anglicans. Large swathes of the Anglican global communion actively support the persecution of LGBT people, mostly without rebuke.
The Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda are supporting draconian new anti-gay bills that are currently before their respective parliaments.
Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Bill intensifies the criminalisation of LGBT people, including life imprisonment for mere sexual touching and the death penalty for repeat gay offenders. It also outlaws same-sex marriage, LGBT organisations and gay human rights advocacy.
Similar repression, excluding the death penalty, is enshrined in the Nigerian Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill.
I urge you to speak out against these totalitarian homophobic proposals.
Such concerns aside, I note with encouragement recent statements by you that may indicate a softening of your stance and a greater openness to LGBT equality.
Most commendably, you support strengthening gay relationships and recognise that love between people of the same sex is no less than that of heterosexual couples.
You are quoted as saying: “I know I need to listen very attentively to the LGBT communities, and examine my own thinking prayerfully and carefully.”
Indeed, you have indicated that you are open to on-going discussion and dialogue with LGBT people, for which we thank you.
I urge you to show true moral leadership by standing against homophobic discrimination in favour of LGBT equality.
In the name of free speech, I have spoken out against the prosecution of Christian street preachers – even homophobic ones. I have defended persecuted Christians, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
I call on you to reciprocate.
It would, I believe, be wrong for you to collude – either consciously or by default – with those fellow Anglicans who reject gay equality.
I ask you: Would you make such compromises on equal rights in the case of ethnic minorities? I expect not. So why should LGBT people be treated differently?
My mother is a devout Christian. She believes that homosexuality is, according to The Bible, a sin; albeit not a major one. Equally, she believes homophobic discrimination is wrong. She makes a distinction between her personal beliefs and the law of the land.
I would, respectfully, urge you to do the same with regard to marriage equality and other legislation.
I understand and appreciate that you want to maintain Anglican unity and prevent a split in the communion. But is sacrificing LGBT equal rights morally justifiable in order to secure this goal? Is it a price worth paying to keep the church united? Should gay human rights be compromised to appease those in the worldwide communion who endorse homophobic persecution and legal discrimination?
I urge you:
Be a moral leader for universal human rights, including the human rights of LGBT people.
Peter Tatchell Foundation