The great thing about the Anglican hierarchy is that, unlike their Catholic counterparts, they are often so even-handed that they verge on parody. Case in point: Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church. In remarks that were more apologetic than forceful, Welby acknowledged that many young people think opposition to marriage equality is “wicked.” Yet he still opposes it.
Speaking at the opening of a religious group’s new offices Wednesday, Welby was admirably versed in reality. “We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 not only think that what we’re saying is incomprehensible but also think that we’re plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice,” Welby said. “We have to be real about that.”
Unfortunately, that was as far Welby could go. Instead, he tied himself in knots trying to prove his opposition to the UK marriage equality law wasn’t homophobic. “The bill was clearly, quite rightly, trying to deal with issues of homophobia in our society” Welby admitted. “As I said at the time in the House of Lords, 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.”
This might be one of those times, and Welby seems to know it. In the end, he decided that vacillation is the best response. “I haven’t got the answer one way or the other until my mind is clear on this,” he concluded. “I’m not going to get into the trenches.”
Perhaps the archbishop should know best that when it comes to right and wrong, you can’t be neutral.