The Bishop of Buckingham has become the most senior member of the Church of England to join the Out4Marriage campaign to introduce equal same-sex marriage in the UK. But a spokesman for the Church says that his message of equality is not the official view of the Church of England.
Released just days after the Mayor of London joined the cross-party and cross-religion campaign group Out4Marriage, the bishop said “the Church of England took a leading role in decriminalisation homosexuality 50 year ago. Today, I wish we could get our head round blessing gay people’s relationships.
“It all comes down to how we see gay people and how we see God. We don’t actually believe gay people are sick or stunted or criminal. We don’t believe God is an angry old man out to get us – let’s stop behaving as though we did. Recognising gay people are equal means they won’t dilute or spoil marriage, but potentially enrich it.”
The bishop added that he has “been surprised and disappointed by the number of Evangelical Christians telling me ‘I don’t actually go along with what the institution’s saying, but discussing it openly feels too risky.’ Surely we can do better than that? What about life in all its’ fullness that Jesus came to bring? Some people have told me it’s not about justice and equality, it’s all about theology. Really? All that’s saying is that the theology doesn’t take justice and equality that seriously – the Scriptures say God does.
“But my favorite green ink letter came from Mr. Angry of Suffolk who told me ‘It beggars belief that a bishop of the Church of England should think ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ should apply to homosexuals.’ Well, Mr. Angry, let me beggar your belief; the Sermon on the Mount isn’t a discussion starter, it’s meant to be a way of life. Jesus’ love is for everybody and Christianity is not about persevering the past but love as strong as death. The local church often manages to be Good News in a very easy way – it’s time for the broader institution to catch up.
He closed his video by saying: “Jesus came to bring life and life in all its fullness. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. God is love and those who live in love, live in God and God lives in them. That’s why I’m Out4Marriage.”
Joseph Musgrave, for the Out4Marriage campaign welcomed the bishop’s video: “People of faith, and those of none, will be heartened to see a bishop of the Church of England speaking so publicly in support of the campaign for equal marriage. We at Out4Marriage are thankful for, and commend, Bishop Wilson’s demonstrable courage, compassion and charity.”
But a Church of England spokesman contradicted the bishop’s message. “Our Church is committed to marriage as being between a man and woman,” he said.
“Opening marriage to same-sex couples would add nothing to the rights and responsibilities that already exist within a civil partnership but would require multiple changes to law, with the definition of marriage having to change for everyone.”
Duncan Boyd, chairman of Keep Marriage Special told the London Evening Standard: “The bishop’s statement is a disgraceful and disingenuous distortion of biblical teaching by someone who ought to know better.
“Scripture, the Church of England’s doctrinal foundation, makes clear that homosexual desire and practice are sinful.” He called it “a gross distortion of biblical teaching” to suggest such behaviour could be practised freely, adding: “The Government should not change the law and the bishop should teach what the Bible says or resign.”
The Out4Marriage campaign has featured videos from the politicians Nick Clegg, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Ed Balls, the Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, pop star Paloma Faith and the girl band The Saturdays.