The UK has recently seen a sharp drop in followers of Christianity. With many critics blaming the dogmatic approach of the Church for the decline, Archbishop Justin Welby provides a refreshingly open and modern view of the Bible.
The church is rarely, if ever, at the forefront of inclusivity when it comes to the LGBT community. Scriptures such as ‘you must not lie with a man as with a woman’ and ‘a woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak’ are often used by Christian groups to dismiss gay and transgender people as incompatible with the Church.
And with the number of Christians at an all-time low in the UK, many have argued that it is the church’s closed views on modern society that have led to this sharp decrease in followers.
So, when Archbishop Welby, the most senior clergyman of the Church of England and leading global figure of the Christian faith, tells me the following, it comes as somewhat of a surprise.
“No, it is not a sin to be transsexual.”
“You are what you are. If you’re transgender you’re transgender. If you’re intersex you’re intersex. If you’re gay you’re gay. It’s what you do with it, how you behave as a result of it. God loves each human being equally”, he continued.
“Gay people are no more sinful than straight people.”
Homosexuality is still illegal in 22 of the 36 Christian majority commonwealth countries, so the Archbishop’s open views on homosexuality and transsexuality have often seen him as a man struggling to drag an archaic religion into the twenty-first century.
It therefore felt right to ask whether he believed the church to have dated views on sexuality.
“The church is in a different position on a huge range of issues around sex,” he replies.
“Whether its behind or not is hard to say.”
Welby had previously signed a document written by the Church of England stating that boys should be free to choose to wear a tutu, tiara or heels, and girls to wear toolbelts and superhero capes.
The statement was met with anger, with Christian Concern saying the church were “perpetuating fundamental theological errors such as blasphemy, rebellion against God as Creator, dishonoring parents, and renaming God.”
When asked about this, Welby said he was shocked by the reaction to the statement.
“I’m still stunned by the interest it got. I was just baffled.
“If a five-year-old gets into the dressing up box, and picks out a tutu, they shouldn’t be bullied or teased. Someone please tell me why that’s news!”
He also explained that does not know whether he would see a transgender Archbishop within his lifetime.
When asked whether he would like to, he said: “I would like to see the person called by God. He’s quite good at making these decisions.”
The Archbishop’s comments were met with some surprise by the local LGBT community, including Christ Church’s LGBT society president 17/18, Pippa.
“I’m surprised that he thinks that way.
“I thought he might be like, it’s fine for them to feel that way as long as they don’t do anything. I think it’s quite surprising that he is for change.
“Even if the church is ok with something, they don’t want to cause conflict, so they keep it to themselves. Instead of being like this is ok everyone, let’s think differently, they’re just like, lets secretly think that so that no-one gets angry with us.”
But Pippa also said that she was disappointed by the reaction to the letter published by the Archbishop.
“It’s difficult for a lot of people to understand that you don’t wake up one day and think “I think I might be a different gender.
“If you’re a trans woman then you are a woman. You’re not a man wearing a woman’s clothes, you’re a woman wearing a woman’s clothes.
“People say that god doesn’t make any mistakes, so you can’t change yourself. But if you’re trans, you feel that way because that’s who you are. God has made you that way.”
For now, the church still remains at a crossroads with the LGBT community. Many of their followers remaining firm in their belief that homosexuality and transsexuality is sinful, and this means that Christian numbers will likely keep dwindling.
But with forward thinking leaders such as Welby openly disagreeing with these views, the Church might still stand a chance of surviving in the modern day.