Archbishop of Canterbury to meet with human rights activist Peter Tatchell

LONDON – The Archbishop of Canterbury has agreed to meet this week with Peter Tatchell in response to the human rights campaigner’s open letter that was published by SDGLN and other media sources.

Justin Welby, leader of the 78 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, will speak with Tatchell at 1:30 pm Thursday, April 18, at Lambeth Palace.

Archbishop Welby replied:

“Dear Mr Tatchell, Thank you for your very thoughtful letter. It requires much thought and the points it makes are powerful. I would like to explain what I think to you without the mediation of the press, and listen to you in return.”

Tatchell’s open letter criticized Welby as being “homophobic” for supporting a legal ban on same-sex civil marriage. He also criticized the Anglican Communion for colluding with local dioceses in Africa that endorse the persecution of LGBT people.

"I applaud the Archbishop’s willingness to engage in dialogue - all the more so because he comes from the conservative evangelical wing of the church,” Tatchell said today. “I hope our meeting is not mere window-dressing and good PR for the church. I’m expecting more than tea and sympathy.

"I will be urging a rethink of the church's opposition to same-sex civil marriage and an end to Anglican collusion with the persecution of gay people in Nigeria and Uganda,” he said.

“I plan to call on the Archbishop to embrace a new historic compromise with the gay community: that the church can continue to believe that homosexuality is wrong but will agree that homophobic discrimination is also wrong - and actively oppose it,” Tatchell said.

“Discrimination is not a Christian value. The Archbishop should therefore oppose all discrimination against gay people, including the ban on same-sex civil marriage,” he said.

“I am asking Archbishop Welby to make a clear distinction between what he and the church believe is morally wrong and the law of the land,” Tatchell said.

“While the Archbishop is entitled to reject homosexuality as unacceptable, in a liberal democracy he is not entitled to insist that his religious beliefs are legislated into law by banning same-sex civil marriage ceremonies,” he said.

“The Church of England’s opposition to same-sex civil marriage is a direct and un-Christian attack on the human rights of gay people,” he said. “While Anglicans have every right to refuse to conduct religious gay marriages, they should halt their campaign against gay marriages hosted by civil authorities. The church should have no jurisdiction or veto over marriages in register offices.

"This is the first time any Archbishop has offered to meet me. Even a liberal like Rowan Williams never welcomed me to Lambeth Palace. Justin’s invitation is progress,” Tatchell said.

“In 1997, 10 of us from the gay rights group OutRage! scaled the walls of Lambeth Palace and confronted the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, over his opposition to legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This time I’m going to Lambeth Palace through the front door at the Archbishop’s invitation. It makes a nice change."

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