Archbishop Justin Welby
Welby backed a report from a cross-party group of MPs to make changes to the UK's food industry Reuters

Like a lot of people, I was surprised to hear Archbishop Welby talking about acting as a bridge between the two sides of the marriage equality divide which is tearing the Church of England apart. I wasn't surprised by the scale of the problem Welby alluded to; I was simply surprised to hear of his intention to act as a bridge, when he is so obviously anchored to one side of the debate.

The archbishop may want us to believe he is neutral on this debate, but those within the Church, particularly those striving for LGBT equality, know different. Welby has consistently refused to enter into conversations with or to even answer letters from the main LGBTi organisations within the Church and earlier this year refused to meet with me or Jeremy Pemberton, the other gay priest who married his partner this year.

Welbyhas not met with the leaders of any of the main LGBTi groups since marriage equality, and he was one of the Bishops who voted for Lord Deer's wrecking motion against the Marriage Equality Act back in June 2013 and spoke against the legislation even as it passed its final votes in July of that year.

Earlier in the year the LGBT Coalition was asked by the Archbishop's Director of Reconciliation, Canon Porter, to nominate delegates for the planning group to prepare for the forthcoming 'conversations' about human sexuality that are planned for the Church of England in the next two years, but their nominations were simply ignored and went unacknowledged by Lambeth. Many of us feel that these 'conversations', which the LGBTi community has not been consulted about nor asked to help shape, are going to be unsafe for any LGBTi people who might be asked to take part.

It would be unacceptable to plan conversations about women or race without at least consulting with women and ethnic minorities, but that is exactly what is happening in the Church of England. I don't see how the Archbishop can claim to be a bridge, when one side of the debate is so clearly disadvantaged.


The reason for the Archbishop's avoidance of LGBTi people, and issues, is that he is simply terrified that the Anglican Communion, the global family of Anglican churches, will fracture on his watch. He believes that many African churches, with their homophobic stance, would break away if the English Anglican church adopts an even slightly more progressive stance on LGBTi rights and freedoms, and supporting marriage equality is clearly not on the cards for him.

Essentially, I believe, Welby is willing to sacrifice the radical and inclusive truth of the Gospel, and even simply human justice, for the illusion of unity within the Anglican Communion. In doing so he is siding with the institutional homophobia of the Church and not acting as in any way a bridge for discussions.

Welby is willing to sacrifice the radical and inclusive truth of the Gospel, and even simply human justice, for the illusion of unity within the Anglican Communion.

Like many openly gay clergy I have been punished for my sexuality. I married in June to my long-term partner and as a result was 'disciplined' with a 'rebuke' placed on my file and my name sent by my Bishop to Lambeth Palace to be placed on a 'list' of those who have married without Church approval. Though the purpose of this list of naughty boys and girls is unknown, and the Bishops have denied it is for any other purpose than to assist them in their thoughts, it seems clear that it will be used against gay and lesbian clergy in the future.

The other priest who chose to marry has had a licence refused by his Bishop, which he needs in order to be able to work as a priest, and I am pretty sure that if I were to leave my post here in Kilburn I would be refused a licence for any other post I was offered.

Similarly I have heard of young gay and lesbian Christians being forced to choose between their sense of calling to serve God as clergy and their long term relationships and gay and lesbian priests are increasingly finding it hard to gain posts in the Church, even if they are not planning to marry and aren't even in a relationship. There is much despair and unhappiness in the Church amongst both lay and ordained gay people, and those who support their rights and freedoms.

gay marriage uk
Same-sex marriage has been legal in the UK since March 2014. Getty

We find it utterly incomprehensible that the Church of England is behaving in this way and I certainly do not recognise my faith in the current actions of the Bishops and the official stance of the Church. We are also puzzled by the liberal bishops who seem to have entirely lost their voice on this matter and been strangely silent on this issue. It is perhaps easier to understand why the gay Bishops, who have had to hide their sexuality and relationships, have kept their heads down – though it is difficult to accept their leadership when their actions continue to hurt other gay and lesbian people who are living with greater integrity.

The gospel is about human flourishing and we should be leading on issues of justice and freedom but the leadership of our church seems stuck in an anachronistic, institutionally homophobic belief structure – even though the majority of their members think, and behave, in a very different way.

Our church seems stuck in an anachronistic, institutionally homophobic belief structure.

Even the Archbishop has acknowledged that for most people under 30 the way the church is behaving appears immoral. Acceptance of diversity in sexuality, race and religion is a touchstone of moral authority for most young people today, and the church is forfeiting its relevance as a 21st century institution by ignoring this.

This outdated stance is hurting the very people Welby and his fellow church leaders purport to represent; a young woman in Manchester recently took her life because she didn't believe her local church would accept her sexuality, even though her family would have been supportive. The public stance of the Church and the reported comments of Bishops and others have a real cost in terms of human lives and suffering.

Has the church's same-sex marriage stance shaken my faith? Well, my faith in God remains strong, but my sense of loyalty to the church has been profoundly shaken. I find myself in an organisation I no longer recognise as just but I am not going to quit; that would give too much pleasure to the bigots and leave the Church to those who want to make it into a sect which rejects and hurts, rather than brings healing and peace.

Better that I stay here, in Kilburn, fighting for a church with greater moral courage and an approach to sexuality rooted in the 21st century, not the dark ages.

Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain is the Vicar of St Mary with All Souls, Kilburn and St James West Hampstead. He married his partner in June 2014.

You can contact Father Foreshew-Cain on Twitter @churchnw6 or via his website