Muslim leaders warn Archbishop over impact of same-sex blessings on schoolchildren

Archbishop of Canterbury The Most Rev Justin Welby Church of England religion same-sex blessings - Reuters/Jok Solomun
Archbishop of Canterbury The Most Rev Justin Welby Church of England religion same-sex blessings - Reuters/Jok Solomun

Muslim leaders have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury warning of their concerns for schoolchildren if blessings for same-sex couples are approved.

The Association of British Muslims (ABM) has written to the Most Rev Justin Welby regarding its “concern about the teaching of sexual identity politics in schools, including Church of England schools” and “the lack of open and inclusive discussions regarding the traditional understanding of marriage within faith communities”.

Church officials have warned that the concerns could see children withdrawn from Church of England schools.

The letter, seen by The Telegraph, came after Church of England bishops rejected calls to allow same-sex marriages in churches at a meeting in January, following six years of debate and consultation, and instead agreed to offer blessings after a civil partnership or marriage.

The decision prompted backlash from equality campaigners, some of whom accused the church of discrimination and comes amid heightened tensions and divisions within the Church of England.

Focus on ‘traditional definition of marriage’

The bishops’ proposals regarding blessings for same-sex couples will be debated at the General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, this week.

The ABM letter, written by Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, its managing director, warned the Archbishop: “If the current proposal by the bishops is implemented, every Church of England primary school will teach that both heterosexual and homosexual marriages have equal validity, starting from this summer.

“While it is acknowledged that the law of the United Kingdom recognises the validity of both types of marriages, it is important to note that many faith communities, both locally and globally, still hold to the traditional definition of marriage as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘the formal union of a man and a woman, as recognised by law, by which they become husband and wife’.

“As people of faith, it is important to ensure that we have a voice in matters that pertain to our beliefs and practices. This includes the traditional family structure, which many consider to be a fundamental aspect of our faiths.”

Muslim pupils ‘could leave CoE schools’

As Synod members prepare to descend on Church House in Westminster ahead of the vote, the Rev Paul Eddy, the convenor of Anglican Orthodox – a grassroots campaign group of clergy and churchgoers opposed to the bishops’ proposals and which has been working with the ABM – also warned that a vote in favour could lead to Muslim children leaving Church of England schools.

He said: “There is now the worrying potential of Muslim parents starting to withdraw children from CofE schools to protect them from sexual ethics contrary to their beliefs, and that can obviously lead to segregation of children of different faiths in some Muslim-majority cities if the CofE proceeds.”

Last month, the Archbishop revealed that he would personally not bless gay marriages so as to remain a figure of “unity” for the worldwide Anglican Communion and conservative Christians within it.

In contrast, the Archbishop of York, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, and the Church of England’s second most senior cleric, said he would.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury has declined to comment.