The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised to a Christian LGBT+ campaigner after comparing her to the leader of a militia, the Telegraph can disclose.
Justin Welby held an “intense” 90-minute meeting at Lambeth Palace earlier this month with campaigners involved in the Church of England’s divisive introduction of blessings for gay couples.
But it descended into acrimony as Jayne Ozanne, a gay evangelical Christian has since quit the Church’s governing body, said she “left the meeting in floods of tears” after the Archbishop’s speech “opened with a parallel – he wanted to reiterate that we are not a problem; he had dealt with militia leaders who had killed tens of thousands of people and if they were not a problem, of course, we wouldn’t be either”.
Ms Ozanne, a former government LGBT adviser, said the remark, at the end of the meeting on Nov 3, left her “disgusted, shocked and hurt” and she “called him out” to which “he responded very angrily”.
The Archbishop sent a handwritten note of apology that evening to Ms Ozanne with around 40 people, many of whom were LGBT+, telling her that he had meant to say that if someone as “evil” as a militia leader could find grace, it is “absurd” for people to suggest that gay people cannot.
A Lambeth Palace source told the Telegraph that the Archbishop recognised “it was an inappropriate analogy and that it had been heard differently from how it was intended”.
Ms Ozanne on Friday resigned from the General Synod, the Church of England’s parliament, just two days after the biannual gathering of bishops, clergy and laymen met to discuss implementing blessings, titled Live, Loving and Faith, in special ceremonies for gay couples. Many of the debates were bitterly divided.
‘Callous disregard for safety of LGBT people’
In her first interview since quitting, the Synod member of 13 years told the Telegraph: “There is a callous disregard for the safety of LGBT people, particularly young LGBT people growing up in conservative churches.
“We heard the testimonies of people in Synod this week, we saw the rhetoric from conservative leaders, but I have heard hundreds if not thousands of stories of people who have been abused by the Church, and the Church does not want to engage with that abuse, which I find itself abusive.
“Instead, as we saw at Synod this week in spite of all the evidence, conservatives telling us we’re going to hell, we had people bravely saying they’ve been raped or in my case nearly died, yet we’re told from the front ‘that we must just love each other and accept each other’. I think that is ungodly, un-Christian and spiritually abusive.”
Ms Ozane, a founding member of the Archbishops’ Council and a government LGBT adviser until 2021, said “the vast majority of people don’t want to go near a church”, as she called on bishops to make clear that gay people are not “going to hell” and that gay couples can have sex outside of marriage.
She also suggested that LGBT people should “go to a Methodist church until we’ve sorted this out” and raised concern about conservatives being allowed to go on “homophobic rants” in the Synod chamber without any “pastoral sensitivity”, and tell children in their parishes that gay people are “an abomination”.
A Lambeth Palace spokesman said: “The Archbishop listened carefully during an intense meeting in which many passionately-held views and painful experiences were shared.
“That is part of his commitment to continue listening to people from across the Church of England throughout the Living in Love and Faith process. The Archbishop wrote to Jayne to apologise for using that analogy.”