Welby targets homophobic bullying
The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced a campaign to stamp out homophobic bullying in Church of England schools as he warned the faithful of a "revolution" in attitudes to sexuality in society.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said the Church of England was not changing its teaching on gay relationships but pretending that nothing had changed in social attitudes was "absurd and impossible".
"We may or may not like it, but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality and we have not yet fully heard it," he told members of the Church of England's General Synod. "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."
The Most Rev Welby said the Church of England was developing a programme for use in its schools targeting homophobic bullying. "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," he said.
In his first presidential address to General Synod members, the Most Rev Welby, who opposed the gay marriage Bill in the House of Lords last month, said he had been "struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland" while listening to the debate.
"Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the Bill, which included me and many other bishops, was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance and participation in a debate and majority since 1945," 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," he added.
The Archbishop was speaking as the General Synod opened at the University of York.
In his address to the General Synod, the Most Rev Welby quoted gay Labour peer Lord Waheed Alli, who told the House of Lords that 97% of gay teenagers in this country report homophobic bullying.
Suicide as a result of such bullying in the US is the principle cause of death of gay adolescents, the Most Rev Welby added. "One cannot sit and listen to that sort of reality without being appalled," the Most Rev Welby said.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said: "Of course we will always help an education provider in helping to tackle homophobic bullying in schools and there are already several dozen Church of England schools working with Stonewall but a cynic would be tempted to think perhaps that the archbishop is trying to distract attention from his failure to engage gay people when they requested it over the issue of marriage."