Two bishops in the Church of England have spoken out publicly against the faith’s public opposition to marriage equality for gay couples, with one describing a “sea change” in opinion within the Church.
Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham and Tim Ellis, Bishop of Grantham, have separately criticised the Church’s response to the government’s public consultation on marriage equality, which closed a fortnight ago.
They questioned whether a House of Bishops-approved Church of England statement strongly opposing marriage equality represented the views of Church members and clergy.
The Bishop of Grantham said he suspected it did not represent the views of even a “sizeable minority” of those involved with the Church.
The official response to the government’s public consultation said allowing gay couples access would “dilute” the institution and threaten its role as state church by making canon and state marriage laws incompatible.
The Bishops of Buckingham and Grantham both said the statement was not representative of their views.
Alan Wilson told the Sunday Telegraph: “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 continued: “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 Bishop of Grantham wrote on his blog: “In truth, the bishops in the media have not spoken for me or the way in which I understand this thorny matter.
“I suspect they do not speak for a sizeable minority or even majority within the life of the Church.”
He went on: “You see, the Church of England is not like the Roman Catholic Church or other ecclesial bodies in having a central magisterium which speaks authoritatively for the Church on any given matter.”
He added that “freedom of interpretation” and “structural adjustment to changing circumstances” allowed the Church to make “serious advancements such as the ordination of women to the priesthood”.
“When we have veered from this freedom we have, for instance, caused ourselves the embarrassment of condemning Darwin.
“At the heart of this very attractive aspect of the Church of England’s life is the knowledge that we are a diverse and highly inclusive Church from which there can be no unified voice or opinion in these matters, and it this aspect of our Church that has kept me faithful to Anglicanism all my life.”
Father Ian Stubbs, the vicar of Glossop Parish Church in Derbyshire started a petition saying the Church was “undermining” its own “credibility and relevance” with the submission, which, the signatories say, is “not in our name”. The petition has nearly 3,400 signatories.