Justin Welby will be officially appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury later today. You will forgive me if I don't use the appellation 'Most Reverend', as I find it hard to revere a man whose pronouncements seem steeped in hypocrisy. A "stunning" display of this can be heard in his interview for the BBC this morning.
Apparently, some gay couples have loving, stable, and monogamous relationships of "stunning" quality, he has acknowledged, and finds himself "deeply challenged" by this. Look at the qualifying words: "some," "quality," "acknowledged," and "deeply challenged." Set it in the context of what he calls the Church of England's formal opposition to "active homosexuality," and the message becomes clear.
To Mr Welby, heterosexual relationships are the norm, the gold standard, even if they are not "active," nor "loving, stable and monogamous." You can be a lying, serial adulterer, but the Church will still marry you as long as your partner is not of the same sex. But, you see, gay couples are not normally loving and monogamous, traits which are the province exclusively of straight people, and so, when he does come across such couples, he finds himself "challenged."
There is only one word to adequately describe this manner of thinking: homophobia, which is ironic coming from a man who claims to denounce it. Were one to say "there are some black people whose intelligence I find stunning and am challenged by it," we would quickly denounce it as racist - and rightly so. Yet, the BBC reports this as a remarkable piece of news in its own right (hence the 'acknowledged' bit), and the right-wing press has happily followed.
The hypocrisy does not end there, of course. Mr Welby, while in favour of the ordination of women bishops, is opposed openly gay people on the pulpit, were they not celibate. Needless to repeat then his opposition to equal marriage, which alone, according to Peter Tatchell, is enough to establish Mr Welby's prejudice against gay people.
Apparently, Mr Welby is also extending an olive branch to Mr Tatchell, who wrote to the archbishop-to-be to say, quite apart from the issue of gay marriage, he had a duty to speak out against the wave of anti-gay sentiments and draconian laws cropping up across countries like Uganda and Nigeria. Will we hear anything about it from Mr Welby though? Will he tell homophobic bishops in Africa that their call for gay people to be put to death is, to put it in their own Christian terms, an egregious sin? I doubt it. The Church is a club, and he would want to retain its members. Who cares about moral courage or justice when there is the threat of a coup?
These, then, are my greatest hopes: that one day, the Church of England will be disestablished, so that they don't interfere in any affairs of the state or in the civil liberties it guarantees, and two, that the current trend towards greater secularism continues to grow, so that we may not have to look to any self-serving or hypocritical establishment for moral guidance. Now that would be "stunning."