Oliver Wright in the Independent has an interview with Labour peer Lord Alli: Lord Alli: ‘I was called sinful and dirty. And that was in a Lords debate’. It includes the following comments on the bishops:
…He divides the opponents of gay marriage into two distinct categories. “There are those who have deeply held religious views and then there is a second group who oppose now but will probably repent later.
“They were the type of people who voted against the equalisation of consent and regretted it. They are the people who voted against civil partnerships and regretted it. And I’ll believe they’ll vote against gay marriage and they’ll regret it in five years’ time.
“I telephone them, I write to them I text them I try and make them turn up. I try and discuss the issues that worry them. It’s all the things you would expect me to do.”
But he is also attempting to persuade the Bishops – 26 of whom have seats in the Lords – not to present a unified front against gay marriage and to recognise that they do not speak for the whole Church when they oppose it.
To this end he recently had a meeting with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that led to a rather remarkable public letter from the Bishop of Salisbury that challenged Church of England orthodoxy.
“I said that I knew there were people in the Church – such as the Bishop of Salisbury – who were supportive of gay marriage and I asked him [that] if I went to see him and asked him to do a piece would he have your blessing? He said ‘Absolutely. And that goes for any bishop.’”
So that’s what Alli did; leading to a 1,200-word letter from the Bishop, now being sent to every peer, in which he explains why he does not agree with the current orthodoxy.
Alli thinks there are more who share the view of the Bishop of Salisbury but for political reasons find it harder to speak out. “You go to a meeting and they give their position and their eyes almost roll as they are leaving the room,” he says.
“Some of them don’t fundamentally believe their own position on this.”
He also points out the inherent contradiction in the Church of England’s position – that while they are protected from having to conduct gay marriages they don’t want to give other groups the freedom to do so.
“They argue religious freedom except where they don’t like it. They don’t want gay marriage – so that means the Quakers can’t have it or the liberal Jews can’t have it. They’re in a pretty hypocritical place.”