The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, leader of the 78 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, will meet human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell today at 1.30pm at Lambeth Palace.
The meeting was offered by the Archbishop in response to the Open Letter that Mr Tatchell wrote to him on 20th March 2013.
Archbishop Welby replied: “Dear Mr Tatchell, Thank you for your very thoughtful letter. It requires much thought and the points it makes are powerful. I would like to explain what I think to you without the mediation of the press, and listen to you in return.”
Mr Tatchell’s Open Letter criticised Justin Welby as “homophobic” for supporting a legal ban on same-sex civil marriage. He also criticised the Anglican Communion for colluding with local dioceses in Africa that endorse the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Commenting on the Archbishop’s decision to meet him, Mr Tatchell said: "I applaud the Archbishop’s willingness to engage in dialogue – all the more so because he comes from the conservative evangelical wing of the church.
“I hope our meeting is not mere window-dressing and good PR for the church. I’m expecting more than tea and sympathy. I will be urging a rethink of the church's opposition to same-sex civil marriage and an end to Anglican collusion with the persecution of gay people in Nigeria and Uganda.”
Mr Tatchell said he plans to urge the Archbishop “to embrace a new historic compromise with the gay community: that the church can continue to believe that homosexuality is wrong but will agree that homophobic discrimination is also wrong – and actively oppose it.”
Mr Tatchell went on to say that: “Discrimination is not a Christian value. The Archbishop should therefore oppose all discrimination against gay people, including the ban on same-sex civil marriage.
“I am asking Archbishop Welby to make a clear distinction between what he and the church believe is morally wrong and the law of the land. While the Archbishop is entitled to reject homosexuality as unacceptable, in a liberal democracy he is not entitled to insist that his religious beliefs are legislated into law by banning same-sex civil marriage ceremonies.”
Mr Tatchell described the Church of England’s opposition to same-sex civil marriage as “a direct and un-Christian attack on the human rights of gay people.”
He added: “While Anglicans have every right to refuse to conduct religious gay marriages, they should halt their campaign against gay marriages hosted by civil authorities. The church should have no jurisdiction or veto over marriages in register offices.”