Dozens gathered outside Lambeth Palace on 23 January to demand equality for LGBTQ+ people in the Church of England.
Organised and led by Jayne Ozanne, a gay Christian activist who chairs the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition, the peaceful demonstration took place ahead of a reception for around 100 parliamentarians.
Activists stood in silence as they held candles and placards, which had messages such as “Apology not accepted, Archbishop!” and “Discrimination is not a Christian value!” written on them.
It was attended by Church of England clergy, ordinands and lay members from around the country – including General Synod members.
“God is not homophobic and so neither should we be,” Ozanne told GAY TIMES ahead of the protest.
“It is long past time that the Church changed its attitude towards LGBT+ people and stopped treating us as second-class citizens, especially as we know that discrimination leads to significant levels of harm and abuse.”
Terrific turnout for our protest at @lambethpalace tonight as 90 parliamentarians were arriving for a reception. @BenPBradshaw came to speak with, as did the @JustinWelby who has promised to take action against any clergy who offer #Conversiontherapy. Please let him know! pic.twitter.com/g4FAfsjlFW
— Jayne Ozanne 🇺🇦 (@JayneOzanne) January 23, 2023
Institutions are “deeply divided” over same-sex marriage
It comes after Church of England bishops recently refused to back same-sex marriage, instead proposing that couples who get married in a civil ceremony may have their union blessed in church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, faced backlash after stating that the position on same-sex marriage was made to “seek the common good” though acknowledged it will “go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others”.
Some even accused him of failing to end the discrimination many LGBTQ+ people face in the Church of England.
Speaking to around 40 protesters outside his official residence in London, the Archbishop stated that religious institutions are “deeply divided” over same-sex marriage.
“To get something through – to get equal marriage – would need legislation, and legislation has to carry by two-thirds in each house of Synod,” he explained.
“It was a good PR move”
Ozanne said it was “good and brave” of Welby to meet with those at Lambeth Palace.
“He listened to our hurt and anger over being treated as second-class citizens, but I still don’t believe he really understands the harm that conservative church teaching causes,” she continued.
“That said, I’m glad that he offered to deal with any priest who we can prove is practising ‘conversion therapy’.
“What saddens me most is that he made it very clear that his priority remains the unity of an institution, for which the ‘cost’ is LGBT+ lives.
“That is deeply unjust – our priority as Christians should always be to protect the most vulnerable and marginalised, which I believe here are LGBT+ people growing up in conservative churches and countries.”
At Church of England HQ at Lambeth Palace now.
Anglican ban on LGBT+ marriage is discrimination. It says LGBTs are only entitled to a blessing like the church gives dogs & guinea pigs! SHAME! pic.twitter.com/2oMm4i9vti
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) January 23, 2023
Peter Tatchell, a prominent human rights activist who has been challenging ‘church homophobia’ for more than 50 years, called Welby’s visit a “good PR move” that “did not move anything forward”.
“It was good that the Archbishop came out to meet us but he didn’t say anything of substance,” he told the PA news agency.
“He just reiterated his stance opposing same sex marriage – and that is discrimination.”
Same-sex marriage is backed my a majority of Church of England members
Despite the Church of England’s position, a majority of members believe that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right.
More than half (55%) of respondents to a YouGov poll commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation said same-sex marriages should be allowed in the Church.
Less than one in 10 (9%) believed same-sex marriage to be “wrong” in some capacity – a decrease in comparison to recent years.