Former Anglican head attacks UK leader over gay marriage

(Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville)Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, reacts during the enthronement ceremony for the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Canterbury Cathedral at Canterbury, southern England March 21, 2013. The new spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans was enthroned by a female cleric, taking the helm at a time when the troubled church risks tearing itself apart over gay marriage and women bishops

A former leader of the Anglican Church has said that British Prime Minister David Cameron is alienating Christians due to his recent support for gay marriage.

The former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey wrote a fiery opinion piece in the Saturday edition of the mass circulation British newspaper, the Daily Mail.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric in the Church of England and is the spiritual head of the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion. Carey held the position from 1991 to 2002.

Carey warned against the prime minister's gay marriage advocacy, which he views as an "aggressively secularist" attack on the Church's role in the UK government.

"The danger I believe that the government is courting with its approach both to marriage and religious freedom, is the alienation of a large minority of people who only a few years ago would have been considered pillars of society," Carey said.

"The government risks entrenching a very damaging division in British society by driving law-abiding Christians into the ranks of the malcontents and alienated – of whom there are already far too many."

From the former Archbishop's perspective, the legalization of gay marriage would give legitimacy to an institution many Anglicans fear is shattering the connection between Church and State.

If the government recognizes a civil institution that the Anglican Church will not, Carey argues, the government is becoming totally secularist and thereby leaving Anglicans out in the cold.

Carey threatened Cameron that his position will cost the prime minister and his Conservative Party political support in the future.

"Today's [British polling consultancy] ComRes poll suggests that more than three-quarters of Christians believe that the government is not listening," Carey said. "More than half of Christians who backed the Conservatives in 2010 say they will 'definitely not' vote for the party in 2015."

Carey is not alone in his religious discomfort on the issue.

Last Sunday, hundreds gathered in London's Trafalgar Square to protest gay marriage legislation in both the UK and France.

Amid shouts of support for their view of marriage, gay slurs were reportedly hurled.

Similarly, Mark Davies, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, announced Saturday that his Easter sermon will be written in condemnation of the gay marriage bill working its way through the British Parliament.

The bishop warns of Britain's courts "falling into darkness" if they are unable to distinguish the roles good and evil currently at play.

A same-sex marriage bill that Cameron strongly endorsed in 2012 is slated to soon appear before the House of Lords, the upper chamber in Britain's parliament. The intended law has already divided Cameron's own Conservative Party.

In February, the lower House of Parliament voted in support of the legislation 400 to 175. However, the 303 lawmakers who make up Cameron's party split over the bill when more than half voted against it or chose to abstain.

"This is not evolution; it's revolution" said Edward Leigh, a Conservative Member of Parliament. "[Marriage is] by its nature a heterosexual union."

The bill is expected to proceed in April.

The new Archbsihop of  Canterbury, Justin Welby, said in an interview with the BBC, Britian's national broadcaser at the time of his enthronement on March 21 he stood by the church's position in opposition to same-sex marriage but added he was "challenged as to how we respond to it."

"The Church of England holds very firmly, and continues to hold to the view, that marriage is a lifelong union of one man to one woman," he said in the interview.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News