Welby says CofE schools to fight homophobic bullying

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby The Archbishop of Canterbury was making his first presidential address to the Synod

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A campaign to stop homophobic bullying will be introduced in Church of England schools, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has announced.

The Church was not changing its teaching on gay relationships, he said.

But he told the General Synod: "We must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality."

The archbishop recently opposed the gay marriage Bill in the House of Lords, but said the Church should heed some of the views of the Bill's supporters.

"There is a revolution. Anyone who listened, as I did, to much of the Same Sex Marriage Bill Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland," he said.

"There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches. I am not proposing new policy, but what I felt then and feel now is that some of what was said by those supporting the Bill was uncomfortably close to the bone.

"Pretending that nothing has changed is absurd and impossible," the archbishop said in his first presidential address to the synod, meeting at the University of York.

Analysis

Justin Welby's speech was partly exhortation, partly stark warning, to a Church floundering in a society undergoing rapid social and cultural change.

He spelt out the Church's predicament in dealing with sexuality as the clearest example. He cited the debate over gay marriage in the House of Lords and the way his own opposition to the legislation had been "utterly overwhelmed".

The implication was that Anglicans must be ready to take risks and reimagine how the Church's teaching could be applied to a radically different world.

In some ways it was a bleak assessment - Anglicans had lost trust in each other, they sometimes faced "noticeable hostility", and lived in a society where fewer people, particularly young people, thought of themselves as Christian.

Archbishop Welby was preparing the Church to take the sort of journey it instinctively wants to spread over decades or centuries, in a few years. To ignore the need, he insisted, would be both "impossible and absurd".

"The majority of the population rightly detests homophobic behaviour or anything that looks like it and sometimes they look at us and see what they don't like," he said.

"With nearly a million children educated in our schools we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying but we must also take action.

"We are therefore developing a programme for use in our schools, taking the best advice we can find anywhere, that specifically targets such bullying."

New proposals before the Synod meeting could see measures to introduce women bishops be adopted as draft legislation ahead of a possible vote in 2015.

The archbishop, who took up his post in March, has said he wants to see the measure passed as soon as possible.

But traditionalist Anglicans say the proposals offer fewer concessions than legislation they rejected in November.

The vote passed in the Houses of Bishops and Clergy, but failed to gain the required two-thirds majority in the House of Laity.

Archbishop Welby acknowledged that a "very significant absence of trust" still exists in the Church of England between supporters and opponents of women bishops.

But he told the synod the decision was not "more difficult or more complicated than anything faced by the generations before us".

He went on: "One thing I am sure of is that trust is rebuilt and reconciliation happens when whatever we say, we do.

"For example, if, while doing what we believe is right for the full inclusion of women in the life of the church, we say that all are welcome whatever their views on that, all must be welcome in deed as well as in word. If we don't mean it, please let us not say it."

He added: "Lack of integrity and transparency poisons any hope of rebuilding trust, and rebuilding trust in the best of circumstances is going to be the work of years and even decades."

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