Archbishop Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury: Homophobia Wrong, But Marriage Rights Not OK

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com August 30 2013 6:26 PM ET

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby isn’t apologizing for his opposition to the U.K.’s marriage equality law, but he does say religious leaders need to be “repentant” about homophobia.

“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,” said the archbishop, who heads the Church of England’s Southern Province and the worldwide Anglican Communion (of which the Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch). He made the remarks Wednesday at a ceremony for the opening of the new London headquarters of the Evangelical Alliance, an interdenominational group for evangelical Christians in the U.K., London’s Guardian reports.

The fact that homophobia is wrong, though, “doesn’t mean that redefining marriage is the right way forward,” he added. Welby, who like previous archbishops of Canterbury serves in Parliament’s House of Lords, voted against the marriage equality bill when it came up this year, but it passed, received the queen’s assent, and will take effect sometime in 2014, making legal marriage available to same-sex couples in England and Wales.

Welby said he would vote the same way if the issue came up again, but he noted that his church is “deeply divided” over same-sex marriage and said he is committed to listening to those who disagree with him. “I am continuing to think and listen very carefully as to how in our society today we respond to what is the most rapid cultural change in this area than there has been for a very long time,” he said.

He added that “the vast majority of people under 35” find opposition to marriage equality “incomprehensible” and “think that we’re plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice.”