Fact checking Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig has published an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury that a lot of people are getting very excited about as it seems to be a slam dunk refutation of the wicked, homophobic Archbishop of Canterbury.

The only trouble with the letter is that it is based on a number of claims about the Archbishop and the Lambeth Conference that are not in fact actually true.

For example:

  • “You and your other religious pals got together at the Lambeth Conference and the main take away seems to be that gay sex is a sin.”

Well, no, Justin Welby hasn’t said that gay sex is a sin and neither has the Lambeth Conference. You can read his actual words and check: https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-writing/speeches/lambeth-call-human-dignity-read-archbishop-justins-remarks

  • It was a sin in 1998 and you just wanted to make clear in 2022 that no-one in your finely frocked gang has moved on from that.”

Well, actually the Lambeth resolution in 1998 that gave cause to all this never mentioned sin. You can check that out here: https://www.anglicancommunion.org/resources/document-library/lambeth-conference/1998/section-i-called-to-full-humanity/section-i10-human-sexuality

The Guardian and some reports on the BBC suggested this week that the conference reaffirmed that gay sex was a sin. But it didn’t. It actually didn’t do that.

What’s more, the Archbishop’s actual words this week both in his letter to the bishops and in his remarks explicitly spoke of those who had moved on from the 1998 resolution. Indeed, he legitimised them (us!) within Anglicanism.  Again, check his own words here: https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-writing/speeches/lambeth-call-human-dignity-read-archbishop-justins-remarks

Speaking of the churches which have moved to marry and/bless same sex couples, he said, “They have not arrived lightly at their ideas that traditional teaching needs to change. They are not careless about scripture. They do not reject Christ. But they have come to a different view on sexuality after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature. For them, to question this different teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries is making the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For these churches not to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.”

What Sandi Toksvig says is demonstrably the opposite of what Justin Welby did.

  • “Seriously, with the state the world is in, that is what you wanted to focus on? You didn’t have other more pressing matters like, I don’t know, war or poverty?”

Actually the bishops spent just over an hour in a two week conference on this topic. The rest of the time has been spent on things like, oh, you know, war, poverty, climate change, safeguarding etc. Again, this is easily found out by reading the Lambeth Calls document – https://www.lambethconference.org/programme/lambeth-calls/

What Sandi Toksvig says is again demonstrably the opposite of what actually happened.

There’s lots to be cross about when it comes to the way the churches deal with sexuality. If it were me, I’d be cross with the C of E bishops staying silent, particularly those who are suspected of being supportive of same-sex couples being able to marry.

But attacking Justin Welby in this way this week seems grossly unfair, not least in that this week he has spoken of the validity of the churches which have started to marry same-sex couples and stood up to those who want such churches to be thrown out of the Anglican Communion or otherwise disciplined. Again, his own words are published. They are easily checked. https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-writing/speeches/lambeth-call-human-dignity-read-archbishop-justins-remarks

He actually said:

“I neither have, nor do I seek, the authority to discipline or exclude a church of the Anglican Communion. I will not do so. I may comment in public on occasions, but that is all. We are a Communion of Churches, not a single church.”

I’ve been the first to criticise Justin Welby when I’ve disagreed with him in the past. However, I suspect that Justin Welby’s words this week will pave the way, eventually, to new paths of inclusion within the Church of England when the Living in Love and Faith process that all their bishops are clutching to themselves like so many fig-leaves, fails.

The Anglican Communion has, witheringly slowly, moved a few steps in an inclusive direction this week.

Sandi Toksvig’s argument is a straw man.

She’s got things factually wrong.





  1. Harvey Mayne says

    Lambeth 1.10 does say that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture. While Welby may not have used the exact words “gay sex is a sin”, it’s difficult to argue that by affirming the continuing validity of Lambeth 1.10 he is not making this claim. In my view there are many other things Toksvig is wrong on.

    • Once again, Justin Welby affirmed the existence of Lambeth 1.10 but did not affirm the content of Lambeth 1.10, despite enormous pressure from all over the world for him to do so.

      • Harvey Mayne says

        This is taken from the speech (my emphasis added):
        “Third, there is no attempt to change people’s minds in this Call. It states as a fact that the vast majority of Anglicans in the large majority of Provinces and Dioceses do not believe that a change in teaching is right. **Therefore**, it is the case that the whole of Lambeth 1.10 1998 still exists. This Call does not in any way question the validity of that resolution.”
        Again, you can argue that Welby did not use certain words, but the majority of people are not going to look at what he didn’t say, but what he did say, and this text is in no way calling the content of Lambeth 1.10 into question, quite the opposite.

        • Once again, the Archbishop’s speech said that different views of Lambeth 1.10 legitimately exist within Anglicanism – from those who believe it wholeheartedly to those who don’t believe a word of it.

          And yes, that is progress.

          Considerable progress.

    • Blood transfusions are not compatible with Scripture. Neither is driving a car. Yet no one calls doing those things a sin.

      Archbishop Welby, if nothing else, has said some facts some don’t like. Don’t shoot the messenger.

      In full disclosure, I’m not a fan of the Archbishop and his HTB style of Anglicanism. One can be evangelical and faithful without going down that path. However, I must give credit where credit is due in this matter.

  2. Roz Rogers says

    I think you fail to recognise the importance of public perception. Okay, you can nit-pick on the facts, but really, who (other than clergy and the comparitively few avidly interested lay people) could argue against another fact – that both mainstream and church media focussed on the titillating negativity being expressed by so many at Lambeth. This was the message received by the unchurched.

    • I’m a Christian. I think that the truth matters and that bearing false witness is wrong.

      I can’t help it.

      • Tess Kuin Lawton says

        I think what you have written, Kelvin, is important and I hope that the Newspapers who are interested in truth will include your points. I also hope that your conclusion about moving forwards with inclusivity is accurate. It may be. But Roz’s point about public perception is so important for the Church’s ability to evangelise (much-vaunted by ++York at the conference). People are not leaving the church in droves, they are never entering the door and this issue is central to that. Central to Mission therefore.

        • I don’t disagree with that Tess but I do think our journey towards inclusion must be based on things that are true.

  3. the Rev. Dr. Ellen M. Barrett says

    Factually inexact, yes. But JW’s so-called affirmation is about as genuine a solution as…well, Solomon and the baby. It cannot work in the long run, and to see is as gay positive is delusional. It is more like ‘let them go off and play in their own sand pit; just don’t let them into our back garden to infect our children (or our adults, for that matter)’

    • I don’t think he could have been more even handed.

      It may not be a solution, but it does acurately describe reality. And for the first time.

      “For the large majority of the Anglican Communion the traditional understanding of marriage is something that is understood, accepted and without question, not only by Bishops but their entire Church, and the societies in which they live. For them, to question this teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries would make the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For many churches to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.

      For a minority, we can say almost the same. They have not arrived lightly at their ideas that traditional teaching needs to change. They are not careless about scripture. They do not reject Christ. But they have come to a different view on sexuality after long prayer, deep study and reflection on understandings of human nature. For them, to question this different teaching is unthinkable, and in many countries is making the church a victim of derision, contempt and even attack. For these churches not to change traditional teaching challenges their very existence.”

      • It is also striking that there has been no language that I’ve seen used at Lambeth that in any way reflects the idea of people “infecting” one another.

  4. I did not say such words were used. Only that the implications of the statement are such as further to make division clear and to make it easier and more logical (from the point of view of the majority) to cut us off in future.

    • I don’t read it that way at all.

    • Robert Chapman says

      The first step in Alcoholic Anonymous is roughly admitting you have a problem. About halfway through the steps you take a complete moral inventory.

      Only then does one move towards healing and sobriety.

      Archbishop Welby is helping us admit we have a problem and take an inventory of where we are. Healing won’t happen without it.

    • the Rev. Brynn Craffey says

      I share the concern of the Rev. Dr. Ellen M Barrett. And while the Guardian seems to have reported the controversy’s outcome inaccurately, that publication’s reach is much further among unchurched people than this conversation we’re having among ourselves. Additionally, I would like to make the point that each time the church (or any institution with power) puts the matter of LGBTQ2S& affirmation up for discussion the ensuing public discourse always wounds us–and by “us,” I mean those people who identify as members of the LGBTQ2S& community and the church itself, although in VERY different capacities. The public discourse hurts the institution by justifiably making us look narrow-minded and bigoted, and it hurts people like me (queer identified and trans) by dehumanizing us. And if you don’t understand the dynamics of the latter, I suggest that you consider the matter more deeply.

  5. Sue Groves says

    There may well be some elements of Sandy’s letter that are not strictly factual to the letter of the law, and you as a Christian, presumably an Anglican, are able to spot and comment on all the factual nuances. However, and this is the big however, ST is not a Christian so those small details may understandably miss her by. What she is correct on is that what she says is how the Lambeth debacle has been perceived by the rest of the non-Christian world, including those of us who are Christian but not Anglican. And for those of us who are Christian and LGBTQI+, the statement by JW does absolutely nothing to reassure us or make us feel that we are truly loved and accepted for what we are without the caveat of having to change ourselves.

    • No Sue, it isn’t that there are some elements of Sandy’s letter that are not strictly factual tot he letter of the law. It is that she has said things that are the opposite of what actually happened.

      She is a patron of Humanists UK and I think the last time I checked both humanism and Christianity believed in telling the truth and not bearing false witness.

  6. Ian Gilhespy says

    Hello Kelvin,

    As well as examining what Justin Welby said, we could examine what he did not say:
    I) he did not condemn homophobia;
    Ii) he did not condemn those churches that are actively campaigning to criminalise homosexuality in their respective countries.

    And we could look at what he did: refusing to invite the spouses of gay bishops to events or accommodation at the conference whilst inviting the spouses of heterosexual bishops.

    A key question arises: is it good enough to be even handed with homophobes?

    • Alex Staton says

      Justin Welby has condemned the hatred and threats that LGBT+ people have received in the name of Christ as sin. He could hardly be more explicit. I think we need to restrict our use of the word homophobic. It is often not accurate and is rarely helpful. You don’t win over a person that for theological reasons believes SSM is excluded from church life by calling them names. There are genuine homophobes around – individuals motivated only by ignorance and visceral hatred and there are homophobes in churches – but I’m struggling to see how we’ll get very far with a person that disagrees with us who on that account we consider homophobic. But then the proliferation of extremist language- transphobic, racist, sexist, Nazi – seems to have become the stock in trade in pubic debate. Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. There are more effective ways of persuading people than calling them names.

  7. I am fed up with the tip-toing around. The politeness, the words that fall like feathers coupled with the desire to not to hurt feelings. Does anyone in the Anglican communion have balls? Or at the very least the courage to tell the bishops and archbishops to come out from behind their silly clothes and theatricals and intellectualisms (?) and do what the founder told them to do.

  8. Franny Mawditt says

    Thank you Kelvin for such a clear response to ST’s letter

  9. Elizabeth Lloyd says

    Your previous blog, on 22/7/22 calls the conference “homophobic by design”! So that was a quick switch for you!
    Jesus’ ministry is about showing love to the marginalised and excluded. He also opened the kingdom to those who felt that they were right, but wouldn’t stop mixing with the unrighteous, so the righteous rejected him. He didn’t say, “well maybe we’ll mature enough at some point to see that we should accept the tax-collectors and sinners”; he made it clear that they were the ones he had primarily come for.

    • Yes, it is a quick switch, but that is because a week is a long time in Anglican politics and things actually changed in that week.

      I’m still opposed to the policy of excluding the same-sex spouses. I always was, and remain of the view that notwithstanding the fabulousness of the spouses from Scotland, none of them should have gone.

      Pretty much everything else changed either before the Conference or during it. Had I not changed my tune, I don’t think I’d have been responding to reality.

  10. the Rev. Brynn Craffey says

    Kelvin, the text of I.10 DOES contain very problematic language in the form of either defeated or not-voted-on amendments to I.10, containing the following:

    from Resolution V.1 from Central and East Africa Region:
    “(c) noting that the Holy Scriptures are clear in teaching that all sexual promiscuity is a sin, is convinced that this includes homosexual practices, between persons of the same sex, as well as heterosexual relationships outside marriage;”
    and from Resolution V.35 from the West Africa Region:
    “(i) the Word of God has established the fact that God created man and woman and blessed their marriage;
    (ii) many parts of the Bible condemn homosexuality as a sin;
    (iii) homosexuality is one of the many sins that Scripture has condemned;
    (iv) some African Christians in Uganda were martyred in the 19th century for refusing to have homosexual relations with the king because of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their commitment to stand by the Word of God as expressed in the Bible on the subject;
    (b) stands on the Biblical authority and accepts that homosexuality is a sin which could only be adopted by the church if it wanted to commit evangelical suicide.”

    From my perspective, the inclusion of such language within the preserved text of the I.10 renders Archbishop Welby’s statement problematic and gives credence to Sandi Toksvig’s and the Guardian’s assessment, as well as to my and others’ discomfort and worry over the archbishop’s prevarication. I know he’s in a difficult spot and wants to preserve the communion–as do I! But it is hard as a queer-identified person and priest not to feel like my position in the global church is provisional (no pun intended) and vulnerable.

    • All the bits you have quoted are the bits that did not make it into Lmabeth 1.10.

      Hope that helps.

      • the Rev. Brynn Craffey says

        I know these parts didn’t make it in, but they’re still included as part of the preserved text. The more I reflect on the compromise, the more unsettling it becomes. I don’t think one can strongly argue against the fact that our affirmation–or full inclusion, if you prefer–is being sacrificed to preserve the union of the global communion. And that feels like a moral compromise that victimizes those already victimized in favour of the victimizers–and it will have terrible repercussions for our kin in global southern churches. Am I glad the communion is preserved? Yes, but I’m leaning toward the conclusion that the price was too high. And I fully expect that those who condemn us as sinners will feel emboldened by this outcome and this issue will not go away.

        • Once again, the bits you quote are presevered so we have a record of what the bishops at Lambeth in 1997 didn’t agree. And very helpful it is too, particularly knowing that they were offered a text which said that gay sex was a sin and rejected it.

  11. Elizabeth Lloyd says

    If this is what Archbishop Justin needed to say to preserve the Anglican Communion, is it worth preserving? It seems that it will be a very long time until there is unity on this, and all that time we are damaging and hurting our LGBTQI + siblings (some of them living in the global south), and our faithfulness to the loving and inclusive gospel we are called to share.

  12. David Coleman says

    Thanks for using the visibility of the blog to clarify outcomes and more.

  13. Tom Bell says

    The exact facts of Sandis arguments maybe up for debate but the sentiment is surely not. Any other business organisation that said, hopefully these words will move us towards inclusivity as if it some long distant unachievable goal would be taken to court and ripped apart for its blatant failures and unethical practices. The Anglican church apparently gets a pass on this because its a religion, what me and most of the rest of the secular world don’t understand is why this ever was and should continue to be the case. And the more you defend it the less relevant Christianty will become in a modern society.

    • Thanks for your comments, Tom. There isn’t anything that is “The Anglican Church” though, just a collection of churches around the world, held together more by bonds of affection than anything else. There is no rule book. There is no Anglican pope who can just decide things.

      I know that seems like a cop out, but it is the legal reality. There’s no The Anglican Church that can make decisions, no The Anglican Church that anyone can sue if it doesn’t like something and no The Anglican Church that can make homophobia disappear in every place around the world.

      The Scottish Episcopal Church, which I’m a member of is as inclusive as we can make it right now. I’m happy to perform the marriages of same-sex couples and they are generally fabulous. (Straight couples can marry too and also have fabulous weddings – we really are inclusive).

      We worked hard on making it so. It took a long time. I’m glad we put the effort in and did it.

      But I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want me to advocate for the same processes to happen in other parts of the Anglican Communion – ie in the other Anglican Churches around the world. I’m certainly not claiming they should get a pass. Far from it – I tend to be known for shouting for inclusion quite loudly.

  14. Alex Staton says

    Hi Kelvin, I’ve seen a few folk giving the AB of C a bad press in light of Sandi Toksvig’s letter and have shared your blog in response. Like much of what you write, it’s well thought out and balanced. Sadly well thought out and balanced is in short supply these days and you end up upsetting everybody. From what I’ve seen of the AB of S, he strikes me as a good and honourable man doing with almost impossible task. One might be inclined to believe it justifies his fairly large salary. Either way, it’s too easy to kick the wrong people.

    I had the great misfortune lately of encountering Lisa Nolland via an article she wrote for Christian Today. The gist seems to be that the gays are hell bent on subverting all that is godly and are riddled with disease. The rhetoric is frighteningly familiar. She dismissed reports higher suicide risk among young LGBT people as “a pretext”. Chilling. She seems to have some following although others I’ve spoken to accept she’s an extremist that latches onto some instance of supposed bad behaviour and tars everyone with the same brush. I can live with the fact that Christians may be opposed to SSM, say, but I really struggle with those that insist “gay Christian” is an oxymoron. For all their claims of orthodoxy, they’re actually denying the very core of the gospel, that we are saved by grace. What the thing has done is revealed how toxic the discussion in parts of the C of E has become. Frankly, you’d be hard pressed to find such extreme language in my own Free Church of Scotland; excepting David Robertson, of course, who is far from universally respected.

    Graeme and I are now members in the C of S. The denomination’s recent decision to allow C of S ministers to perform SSMs is pretty earth shattering. It had been expected over the last couple of years but ten years ago it was all but inconceivable. It’s as if once the thing had gathered momentum, the outcome was inevitable. Of course many will be hoping the tiny steps taken at the synod could be the start of something. But only a fool would expect Anglicans in Uganda or Nigeria to embrace the more inclusive approach. Of course that’s Welby’s difficulty. He isn’t just primate of all England but the figure head for millions of Anglicans world wide. Insofar as it depends on him, he needs to preserve the unity of the church, even when disagreements are profound.

    Here in Scotland, we have the national church, the SEC, Methodists, URC, Quakers, Unitarians and others performing or ready to perform SSM. Who would have thought it just a short while ago. That has to challenge the sometimes quite lazy assumption that Christians are against LGBT+ people. Some are, perhaps many are, but many are not. Is it too much to hope that after being excluded for such a long time, LGBT people will be drawn to church? But even then, we need to encourage unity. What we really want is a church where progressives, evangelicals, conservatives are all welcome. I suspect Justin Welby thinks that too. Perhaps AB of C is a poison chalice but as Christians surely we want to support him as best we can.

  15. Bernd says

    always lovely to have someone – Sandy, Christian extraordinary – who hasn’t made the slightest contribution to “Church: now feels compelled to tell it off. Sigh

  16. Christopher Shell says

    She has already decided which particular direction of travel counts as ‘moving on’. That is precisely what the discussion was supposed to be about. In arrogance, she thinks she can bypass the discussion without venturing an argument rather than an assertion, and in the meantime label all who disagree with her as regressive (rather than not subject to the vagaries of fashion, and having more robust principles undergirding their decisions).

  17. the Rev. Brynn Craffey says

    I think the crux of the dispute here is this: is an “accurate description of reality” from the purported head of one of the largest Christian denominations in the world what is called for at this historic moment in time? Or, is taking a moral stand to protect the most vulnerable–namely, LGBTQ2S+ people in both the global north and south–what is called for? I think it’s clear which one Jesus would choose, and it’s not the one the archbishop did.

  18. The Rt Revd Dr Keith Riglin says

    I’m here at Lambeth as a diocesan bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church – what Kelvin has written is the case (what was actually said and done). Which is why the queer married bishops from the Episcopal Church in the USA were the first to stand and applaud +Justin. We are a Communion of churches not an international Church; there’s much more to do, but this week has been a significant step towards full inclusion of those of us who are LGBT.

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