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BIRMINGHAM, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Muslim leaders in England are rebuking the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, over the Church of England's proposal to teach school children that same-sex unions are valid.
The admonition coincides with Pope Francis' trip to South Sudan. He was accompanied by the archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Church of Scotland — both pro-LGBT leaders whose denominations offer "same-sex blessings" and "same-sex marriage" in several countries.
On Friday, the Association of British Muslims wrote to Welby expressing its "concern about the teaching of sexual identity politics in schools, including Church of England schools."
From summer on, "every Church of England primary school will teach that both heterosexual and homosexual marriages have equal validity," Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, head of the ABM, noted in the letter obtained by Church Militant.
Armstrong acknowledged that British law recognized "same-sex marriage" but stressed 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 recognized 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," Armstrong, a Muslim chaplain at Birmingham University, noted. "This includes the traditional family structure, which many consider to be a fundamental aspect of our faiths."
The Muslim leader, who spoke to Church Militant from Indonesia while attending an international conference on the validity of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in Islamic jurisprudence, elaborated:
While we acknowledge that same-sex marriage is legal within the U.K., we recognize too that a great many people of all faiths continue to hold a traditional view of marriage between a man and a woman; we believe everyone should be respected. We are concerned that traditional sentiments on marriage found in most religions and communities are not being respected. We call for dialogue and respect for all people, including people who hold to a traditional view of marriage and family values.
In a press release published on Sunday, the campaign group Anglican Orthodox warned that if the controversial changes to marriage are being taught in Church of England schools, then this might influence imams to change their position on commending those schools to Muslim parents.
"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," said Rev. Paul Eddy, convenor of Anglican Orthodox.
"That can obviously lead to segregation of children of different faiths in some Muslim-majority cities if the CofE proceeds," he added.
In comments to Church Militant, Islamic scholar Dr. Tim Dieppe noted that "the response of the ABM to the bishops' proposals shows just how divisive they are — and not just in the Anglican communion."
Dieppe, head of public policy at Christian Concern, explained:
A lot of people send their children to CofE schools because they want their children to be taught in line with traditional Christian morality. If the CofE departs from this to bless same-sex relationships, then there will be increasing demand for other schools, and this will be harmful for integration in the country.
"Clearly, the bishops did not discuss their proposals with other faith groups or consider the far-reaching impact that their proposals would have on community relations," Dr. Dieppe lamented.
On his return flight from South Sudan, accompanied by Abp. Welby and Moderator Iain Greenshields, the Holy Father reiterated the words that he first expressed on a return trip from Brazil: "If a person with homosexual tendencies is a believer and seeks God, who am I to judge him?"
"People with homosexual tendencies are children of God; God loves them; God accompanies them," the pope emphasized. "It is true that some are in this state because of various unwanted situations, but to condemn such people is a sin; to criminalize people with homosexual tendencies is an injustice."
Welby said that he would "quote the Holy Father" when the issue of same-sex blessings is discussed at the Church of England's General Synod from Feb. 6 to 9.
"There is nowhere in my reading of the four gospels where I see Jesus turning anyone away. There is nowhere in the four gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whoever he meets," Greenshields remarked in his affirmation of homosexuals.
Following a vote at the 2022 General Assembly, the Church of Scotland approved the "marriage" of same-sex couples.
Since 2005, the Church of England has allowed priests to enter into same-sex civil partnerships. Several provinces of the Anglican Communion, including the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Scottish Episcopal Church, permit same-sex so-called marriage.