Welby Chooses Disestablishment Over Global Breakup

Welby Chooses Disestablishment over Global Breakup

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has indicated that he prizes the unity of the global Anglican Communion over the continued established status of the Church of England, in surprising comments that were reported following a private Westminster briefing. The significance of these remarks will surely be noted with interest by Global South Anglican Primates and Bishops.

In his private meeting with parliamentarians on Monday 30th January. the Archbishop was asked by several MPs whether the Church of England should retain its position as the Established Church when it was out of step with the law of the land and with public opinion on same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Welby replied that he would rather see the Church disestablished than risk than exclude conservative groups in the Anglican Communion. The remarks were met with some surprise, according to those present.

A Lambeth Palace spokesman did not deny that the Archbishop had made such a comment, but said: “We do not recognise the account of the private discussion as it has been leaked, which was much more nuanced and complex than how it has been described.

“The Archbishop agreed to meet for a private conversation with MPs, and it’s disappointing that some parliamentarians have chosen not to honour the terms of the meeting.”

Two days after these reported remarks, a cross-party group of MPs met Sir Tony Baldry, the former Second Church Estates Commissioner. 

The Labour MP for Exeter, Ben Bradshaw, who attended the meeting, said that there was an “ongoing discussion” about Parliament’s role in the debate on same-sex marriage.

“This meeting followed cross-party concerns in Parliament about the lack of progress on this issue, to examine what potential avenues Parliament has to act.

“It was a preliminary meeting to discuss options, and there are a number of options available: removing the exemption to the Equality Act, removing the quadruple lock on the Same-Sex Marriage Act; a simple legislative measure allowing parishes and priests to conduct same-sex marriages; [or] re-examining the 1919 Act.” This Act transferred the power to pass legislation from Parliament to the Church’s decision-making bodies.

Former evangelical and LGBTQ+ campaigner Jayne Ozanne, who helped convene the meeting, thanked MPs who attended. “It is clear that there is significant interest to monitor closely what happens in Synod next week, and a desire to act if necessary to remove any ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples.”