Archbishop of Canterbury appeals for unity at the start of Synod

Church of England

The Archbishop of Canterbury has told Anglicans at odds with each other over sexuality and marriage that their real enemy is the devil, not each other.

In a plea for unity at the start of the February meeting of its parliamentary body, General Synod, Justin Welby said it was his desire to see Anglicans taking the Gospel to the world "together, not biting and snapping at one another".

With the Lambeth Conference coming up at the end of July and the Living in Love and Process due to be published in a few months, the Archbishop said that 2020 was a "significant year" for the Anglican Communion.

Repeating a recent call for Anglicans to be "less inwardly-focused", he appealed to Synod members to set aside divisions and "party politics", which he said were rooted in anxiety and fear, and called on them to pray for each other, "especially for those with whom we disagree".

"Notice that in 1 Peter 5, [the lion] is described as 'your enemy, the devil'; not 'your enemy, the people who disagree with you'; not 'your enemy, those who troll you on Twitter'; not 'your enemy, those who say nasty things in Synod'; not 'your enemy, because they are of a different church or form of churchmanship'," he said.

He touched on recent divisions triggered by the House of Bishops' pastoral statement on heterosexual civil partnerships, in which it reiterated the Church of England's official teaching on sex within the context of marriage between one man and one woman.

The document was welcomed by conservative Anglicans but led to a backlash among liberals, with a number of bishops distancing themselves from the guidance.

"As a Church, all Anglicans, but particularly the Church of England, always have been and always will be prone to shooting ourselves in the foot, quite often while the foot is firmly in the mouth," the Archbishop said.

"When that happens and [...] in fact we have said, though perhaps in more elegant terms, that it happened recently, we can turn towards the Christ who promises, 'Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.' "

Later on in his address, the Archbishop turned his attention to a recent damning report by the Sheldon Hub into the Church of England's Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM).

The report described the CDM as "fundamentally flawed" and said it was "leading to suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder".

The Archbishop said that the Church had a "duty of care and a duty of responsibility" towards everyone in the Church of England.

"Our present forms of pastoral care are neither pastoral nor caring. The recent Sheldon Hub report on the CDM made that amply clear," he said.

"It does not help reconciliation. It is weaponised. It is stressful for complainant and the person complained about. It does not aid safeguarding.

"In changing the way we do things, like clergy discipline, clergy must feel as though they're treated fairly, complainants must feel that they are heard, and all need to be provided with the resources and support they need, while holding those accountable who fall short in their duties of care."