Labour MP Ben Bradshaw. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has criticised the Church of England for “actively pursuing a campaign of discrimination” against LGBTQ+ people.
The Exeter MP spoke out against the church after it barred the late archbishop Demond Tutu’s goddaughter from officiating his funeral because she is in a same-sex marriage.
“This was a particularly high-profile, egregious example,” Bradshaw said. “But cruelty like that is practised on lesbian and gay people in the church all the time, every day – people you never hear about in the headlines, people whose lives are destroyed – and it can’t go on.”
The former secretary of state for culture, media, and sport cited the 26 seats in the House of Lords specifically reserved for Anglican bishops as a representation of the “unique privileges” members of the church enjoy.
“I hope that we might see change,” he continued. “If not, parliament might want to look at this. Patience is being worn very thin, and parliament is in a position to put pressure on the church.
“Without change, I think we might see growing calls for the disestablishment,” he added.
Bradshaw added that, while he was a “strong supporter” of the Church of England, he argued that the current establishment does not cater to the needs of the entire British public.
“The [Church of England] is a fantastic resource in every part of the country. I think there’s great value in the servant church that’s there for everybody,” he said. “But the contract with the nation has to be that it is there for everybody.
“It’s increasingly obvious that the [Church of England] is not there for lesbian and gay people. And not only that, but it is actively homophobic, cruel, hurtful, and institutionally hostile.”
Church of England criticised by Sandi Toksvig
Members of the Church of England have become increasingly divided over LGBTQ+ rights, including same-sex marriage within the church itself.
The institution’s leading members were criticised by Sandi Toksvig in August 2022 after the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby “affirmed” that “homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture.”
In an open letter to Welby, Toksvig wrote: “I know we’ve never met and I probably should call you ‘Your Grace or ‘Your Eminence’ or something, but I wish we were friends.
“If we were I’d call you and say, ‘Justin, Justin, what are you doing?’ We’d have a chat and maybe I could persuade you that you have made a horrible mistake. It’s what friends do for each other.”
Welby soon responded to her letter by asking to meet with Toksvig for a coffee to discuss the topic.
“The hatred and threats that you – and so many other LGBTQI+ people – have experienced in the name of Jesus Christ are a sin,” he said. “I have absolutely no doubt about that and want you to be in no doubt of my position.”