Two high-profiled bishops have publicly denounced the Anglican Church’s overt hostility toward the British Government’s plans to legalize marriage equality, saying that the Church’s opposition is not the “true mind” of its followers.
The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, said: “The statement is narrow and legalistic … Jesus didn’t say anything about being gay, but he said a certain amount about loving your neighbour as yourself.”
The Rt Rev Tim Ellis, the Bishop of Grantham, said the official position did not reflect the true “mind” of the Church.
But Bishop Wilson said: “The statement doesn’t speak for me at all, frankly. There is a groundswell of opinion that says, ‘This does not speak for us.’
“That’s just a matter of fact. It corresponds with the feedback I’m getting, and other colleagues are having the same experience. There is a sea change going on.”
He added: “What’s guiding me is Evangelical stuff. There is a disconnect between the statement and the Sermon on the Mount. We are saying to people, ‘You are thrice cursed because of something you are.’
“It is fair enough to expect bishops to have asked, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I don’t think they did.”
The Church’s position statement submitted to the Government during its marriage equality consultation called the plans a direct attack on the Church’s link to the state. It also said that marriage equality risked destabalizing marriage as an institution, would radically alter the country’s laws, and that it risked forcing church leaders into accepting same-sex marriage, whether directly or indirectly through a European Court of Human Rights suit, despite the Government’s assurances that it cannot and would not do so.
A secular legal analysis demonstrated that the Church’s claim was most likely false. While a human rights case could force the Church to allow liberty for individual church leaders to preside over same-sex marriages if they so wished, the ECHR has always given explicit deference to religious autonomy and so would be almost entirely unlikely, under the current legal framework, to intervene and force the Church into blessing same-sex marriages.
Around 3,000 concerned members of the Church have now signed a petition against the position statement. This petition will be presented by Ellis and associates to the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, both of whom have come out against plans to legalize marriage equality.