The head of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has said new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s plan to attack same-sex marriage as ‘absolutely horrific’.
Reverend Sharon Ferguson of the LGCM told Gay Star News that Welby shouldn’t use his first day in the job to attack gay and lesbian couples but should be trying to welcome them back into the Church of England he now heads.
Welby is being formally confirmed in his new job today (4 February) at a service in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Sources have told the Daily Telegraph that he plans to step into the fight over gay and lesbian marriage ahead of a parliamentary debate on the issue tomorrow (5 February).
It is a further intervention from the country’s state religion as the government tries to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
Ferguson also criticized the Church of England other step on the issue; sending an eight-page briefing document to all Members of Parliament to lobby them against supporting marriage equality.
Ferguson told GSN: ‘The main thing that stood out for me is how many untruths are contained in there.’
In the briefing paper the church suggests gay people don’t need marriage equality as they can already have civil partnerships under British law.
‘Civil partnerships have proved themselves as an important way to address past inequalities faced by LGBT people and already confer the same rights as marriage,’ it says.
Ferguson said: ‘They are giving the impression they have always supported equality for LGBT people like brining in civil partnerships but the fact is they did their damnedest to stop civil partnerships going through like they are now doing for marriage.’
When the UK government consulted the public on civil partnerships, the Church of England’s official statement seemed to criticize the very aspect of the bill they now use to argue that same-sex marriage is not needed.
‘As they stand these proposals risk being seen as introducing a form of same-sex marriage with almost all of the same rights as marriage,’ their statement in 2003 concluded.
Since then the church has refused to conduct civil partnerships on its premises and will only allow a gay man to be a bishop if they promise not to have sex with their civil partner.
The briefing document goes on to claim the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill would ‘abolish’ traditional straight marriage.
It states: ‘The established institution of marriage, as currently defined and recognized in English law, would in effect have been abolished and replaced by a new statutory concept that many inside and outside religious organizations would struggle to recognize as amounting to marriage at all.
‘A man and a woman who wished to enter into the traditional institution of marriage would no longer have the opportunity to do so.’
Ferguson responded: ‘It is so ridiculous. How is it any different? The Book of Common Prayer is going to be exactly the same. Opposite-sex couples who go to get married the day after the bill becomes law will be doing so in exactly the same way as the day before.’
And she disputed the claim that the bill would force teachers in Church of England-run schools to tell children that gay marriage is the same as straight marriage.
Ferguson says: ‘They also teach about other faiths like Hinduism and Islam. By teaching about that, they don’t say we believe in those faiths.’