The Archbishop of Canterbury has branded threats to LGBTQ+ people “a sin” and offered to meet comedian Sandi Toksvig for coffee after she criticised the Anglican church’s stance on same-sex marriage.
Justin Welby responded to the television presenter after she said the lives of LGBTQ+ people were “at stake” following the religious leader’s “horrible mistake” in reaffirming a 1998 Anglican declaration rejecting same-sex marriage.
The former Great British Bake-Off host, who is gay, had published an open letter on Twitter on Wednesday describing the issue as a “serious matter” and recalling the “several credible death threats” she has received through the years from evangelical Christians.
Thank you for your letter. I would love to sit down over a coffee to talk with you about it. pic.twitter.com/kX39hKwmkZ
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) August 4, 2022
Responding on Thursday with a letter also published on Twitter, Mr Welby thanked Ms Toksvig for her correspondence and said he would “love to sit down over a coffee to talk with you about it”.
He wrote that the threats she and other LGBTQ+ people “have experienced in the name of Jesus Christ are a sin”.
He said the Church of England agrees with that view and that it “vigorously opposes conversion therapy”.
He added: “The Anglican Communion is a complicated group of churches. We can talk about this when we meet. There are deep differences in many areas.”
Ms Toksvig said Mr Welby “made a horrible mistake” when he confirmed on Tuesday that the “validity” of Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference is “not in doubt”.
The resolution states that marriage is “between a man and a woman”, and that same-sex relationships are “incompatible with scripture”.
FAO The Archbishop of Canterbury pic.twitter.com/UYyVWUsdyB
— Sandi Toksvig (@sanditoksvig) August 3, 2022
Ms Toksvig wrote: “So, you and your other religious pals got together at the Lambeth Conference and the main takeaway seems to be that gay sex is a sin. It was a sin in 1998 and you just wanted to make clear in 2022 that no-one in your finely frocked gang has moved on from that.
“Seriously, with the state the world is in, that is what you wanted to focus on? You didn’t have other more pressing matters like, I don’t know, war or poverty?”
The host of TV panel show QI, who refers to herself as a humanist, added: “This is a serious matter. The lives of LGBTQ+ people are at stake here.
“I have had several credible death threats over the years, sometimes requiring the very kind assistance of the police hate crime squad.
“Each and every one of those threats has come from an evangelical Christian. Inevitably they have wanted to kill me on God’s behalf.”
Ms Toksvig also questioned the Church of England’s interpretation of Jesus’s views on homosexuality.
She said: “There are seven texts in the Bible which are often pointed to as proof that God hates a homosexual, but everyone who has ever studied the matter knows that the ‘proof’ lies only in extremely fallible interpretation. None of it is clear cut.”
She added: “Jesus doesn’t mention sexuality at all. It clearly wasn’t a big deal for him.”
Sandi Toksvig said she had faced several credible death threats over the years from evangelical Christians (Ian West/PA)
The Lambeth Conference is a meeting of Anglican bishops which is convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury once every 10 years. It is taking place at the University of Kent, Canterbury Cathedral and Lambeth Palace between July 26 and August 8.
Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, the Archbishop said that he could not and would not punish churches for conducting gay marriages.
He said: “I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so.”