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Lambeth hits back at reports Welby would rather see Church disestablished than risk global split

by Donna Birrell

Lambeth Palace has hit back after the Guardian newspaper said the Archbishop of Canterbury told MPs he would rather see the Church of England lose its privileged status as the established church of the country, than risk a global split over same-sex marriage.

The Guardian claimed Most Rev Justin Welby made the comments during a private meeting with about a dozen MPS at Westminster on Monday. The newspaper said several MPs asked whether the C of E should continue as the established Church when it was “out of step” with the law on the issue of same-sex marriage.

According to the newspaper, Archbishop Justin replied that he would rather see the Church disestablished than risk losing conservative groups within the global Anglican Church.

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson said: “The Archbishop agreed to meet for a private conversation with MPs and it’s disappointing that some parliamentarians have chosen not to honour the terms of the meeting.

“We do not recognise the account of the private discussion as it has been leaked, which was much more nuanced and complex than how it has been described.”

The issue of whether the Church of England should remain the established Church has long been debated, especially as the number of people identifying as Christian in England is now less than 50 per cent.

The Church has been established since the 16th century and any break would mean abolishing bishops in the House of Lords – known as the Lords Spiritual – and an end to prayers at the beginning of each sitting.

The Church of England is also the “mother church” of the international Anglican Communion. However, in recent years, many traditionalists in the Communion have threatened to break away from the Church over its more liberal stance on issues such as sexuality. 

In January, the House of Bishops said it was against marrying same sex couples in church and would instead allow services of blessing and thanksgiving for couples in same-sex marriages or civil partnerships. That proposal will be discussed at General Synod next week.



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