Justin Welby: Men in #MeToo scandals need to express genuine repentance

Protesters at a #MeToo march in Hollywood.Reuters

Justin Welby has said the #MeToo movement must lead to genuine repentance from those revealed to have exploited and abused women.

Speaking to Elizabeth Oldfield, director of the Theos thinktank, in a new edition of The Sacred Podcast, the  Archbishop of Canterbury said: "Sin has consequences. Wrong has consequences. Injustice has consequences. And people must face those consequences.

"We don't have 'cheap grace' – there is a cost, there is a genuine need for repentance and a journey of repentance and redemption, both for groups and individuals.

"If you take #MeToo as an example, we cannot put the issues that have quite rightly been raised behind us until we have concepts and understandings of social behaviour, particularly between men and women, that mean it is utterly accepted that the kind of behaviour that has been exposed is simply wrong, and that there are consequences to indulging in that kind of behaviour. Cause and effect have to be discovered before you can find redemption."

In the wideranging interview, the pair also discussed Brexit, with the Archbishop warning that it was an oversimplification to divide people into 'good' or 'bad'. 

"Categorising groups of people as bad or good really worries me, both in the church and outside it," he said, suggesting instead that people "stop being binary" and instead reflect the "enormous complexity of human beings". 

Earlier in the interview, on a similar theme, the Archbishop urged people to stop automatically viewing others with suspicion.

"We don't seem to have the capacity - that when we see someone who's very different or saying things that are very different - to start with the assumption until proven otherwise that their intentions are positive, that they are saying what they believe, that they want a good outcome," he said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

"So our instinct is to convict unless innocence is proved – convict of deceit, of trickery, of underhandedness, of not believing what they say. Whatever it is, we bring a hermeneutic of suspicion." 

He went on to consider the question of disagreements in relation to the Anglican Communion, noting that it was hugely diverse, with members from the Torres Straits in Australia to Papua New Guinea to the Democratic Republic of Congo and some of the richest parts of the planet.

"They're all part of the one church and they all brought face to face in a way we have never imagined before [...] every single day through the news and through social media.  And we have so far to go to learn how to deal with that in the love of God," he said.

"Yes, disagree – of course we disagree – [we have] 2,000 languages, 1,500 cultures – that's only Anglicans.  But how do we make sure that disagreement models a capacity to live on one planet as one human race caring for and loving one another, and not defining our identity either by the will to power or the need for an enemy?"

Pressed on where the boundaries of church unity might lie in relation to questions of Scripture being authoritative and other Biblical principles, the Archbishop said: "If we are in Jesus Christ, we are one – by the choice of God, not by human choice. Our task is not to find unity but to live out unity. It's very, very straightforward.

"When is that overwhelmed? It's when people deny the deity of Christ, the fundamental understanding that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

"Jesus prays that we will be one so that the world may know that He has come from the Father. The purpose of unity is to reveal the love of Christ.  So what overwhelms that? I can't think of anything that overwhelms that; it just doesn't make sense to me.

"Yes, there will be plenty of things we disagree on and we say to other Christians 'you're wrong', but for those who are Christians – and the test of being a Christian is saying 'Jesus is Lord' – it is sufficient to transform the life of the greatest intellectual and sufficient for the person with immense learning disabilities to know they are loved by Jesus Christ. That is why we are one."