Dr Barry Morgan said he was concerned about the welfare of gay people whom he feared could feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in churches over the coming months as Government proposals for same-sex marriage are debated nationally.
In his presidential address to members of the Church in Wales’ Governing Body in Llandudno, the Archbishop said same-sex relationships was a moral issue facing the Church and the world, on which there was no single Christian opinion. His concern, however, was that the Church should offer gay people pastoral care and support.
Dr Morgan said, “The Government’s consultation on civil marriage raises a whole host of theological questions for the church. My concern at the moment is that in any discussion which might ensue on this, gay people may once more gain the impression that the church is uncaring and unsympathetic. Things could be said in the coming months which I think could seriously damage people pastorally so it is that pastoral issue that I want to address.”
The Archbishop said that while the Bishops of the Church in Wales abided by the Christian doctrine of marriage as the union of one man with one woman freely entered into for life, they agreed that “all life-long committed relationships deserved the welcome, pastoral care and support of the Church and they were committed to further listening, prayerful reflection and discernment regarding same-sex relationships”.
But he warned, “Gays and lesbians claim they are still treated as second-class citizens, tolerated at best and vilified at worst…. Very often homosexuality is talked about as if real people were not involved; and gays and lesbians complain of being talked about rather than talked to in Church.”
He added, “The real question is, how do we hold together faithfulness to Scripture and tradition with the wider New Testament call to love our neighbour? If the moral aim of the gospel is to encourage love of neighbour, how can that happen when people are made to feel unwanted, unloved, and sinful? How is the gospel good news for homosexuals?”
Dr Barry Morgan said the Church would not be able to ignore the new legislation on civil marriage proposed by the Government, despite the fact that the legislation would not allow gay couples to marry in church. He called on the Church to discuss how it would respond.
He said, “If the legislation to allow civil marriage is passed, I cannot see how we as a church, will be able to ignore the legality of the status of such partnerships and we ought not to want to do so.
“The question then as now is, will the church protect and support pastorally, faithful, stable, lifelong relationships of whatever kind in order to encourage human values such as love and fidelity and recognise the need in Christian people for some public religious support for these. As Helen says in the novel “Nightwatch” by Sarah Walters – a novel written in 1947, ‘what could she do to say to the world that Julia was hers?’ She could have gone on to ask ‘what can the church do to show that this relationship is not simply something between my partner and I but that somehow God is in our midst as well and longs for our wellbeing?’ It is a discussion we need to have.”
For a copy of the full address by the Archbishop go to http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/structure/bishops/sermonsb/b46.php