The Archbishop of Canterbury is to resign his membership of one of London’s most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in the wake of its decision not to admit female members.
Justin Welby has been a member at the Travellers Club in Pall Mall for years, but is breaking ties with the club just days after the Church of England voted to end centuries of sexual discrimination towards women by allowing them to become bishops.
It is understood that the Archbishop used the club – which was formed at the end of the Napoleonic Wars for gentlemen who had travelled out of the British Isles to a distance of at least 500 miles from London in a direct line – as a base when he was Bishop of Durham and Dean of Liverpool.
Although his membership is not listed on his Who’s Who entry, a Lambeth Palace spokeswoman confirmed he was a member when contacted by The Independent but added that he now intends to resign.
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Earlier this year the club’s chairman Anthony Layden, a former UK ambassador to Morocco and Libya, carried out a consultation among members of the illustrious club, whose patron is the Duke of Edinburgh, to consider the inclusion of female members; 60 per cent rejected the idea of widening inclusion whilst 40 per cent were in favour.
At present women are allowed as guests but remain banned from the smoking room and cocktail bar, which are reserved for members and their male guests.
A Lambeth Palace Spokeswoman said: “He is a member but is going to resign as he hardly ever uses it now that he has accommodation in London. He can’t remember the vote, which is usually done via correspondence, but would have voted for the inclusion of women.”
Hilary Cotton, of the organisation Women and the Church, welcomed the move. She said: “It seems the Church of England is not the last place where women are not treated equally as men. It sounds like he has made a sensible decision here. It is mainly thanks to him that we will finally have women bishops.”
After conducting the survey of club members, Mr Layden concluded that “no further steps should be taken towards admitting lady members for the time being”.
His report found the main argument against changing the status quo was that it “would irrevocably change the whole character of the club for the worse”.
One opponent replied: “Pretty, elegant and interesting women would have no interest in joining our club.”