Thinking Anglicans

CofE bishop declares support for equal civil marriage

The Evening Standard reports:

A Church of England bishop today supported gay marriage, saying God is not “an angry old man out to get us”.

Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson, a married father of five, caused a row in the Church by urging leaders to “get our head around blessing gay people’s relationships”.

He said in a YouTube video for the Out4Marriage campaign: “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 video made by the Bishop of Buckingham, The Right Reverend Alan Wilson can be viewed here.

But, according to the Evening Standard:

A Church of England spokesman contradicted Dr Wilson. “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.”

And the newspaper also reports:

Influential Tory Party Right-winger Lord Ashcroft urged the Prime Minister to ignore traditionalists urging him to abandon the proposed law. The peer revealed private polling suggested dropping gay marriage would offend more people than it would please.

He said: “Ditching gay marriage would probably be more likely to put off joiners and considerers — whom we need if we are to win a majority — than it would win back defectors.”

Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson also gave the campaign his support in this video.


  • badman says:

    There is no such thing as a spokesman for the Church of England. It is wrong for a person describing himself as a “spokesman for the Church of England” immediately to slap down a considered statement by a Bishop of the Church of England. That he did so shows that the central office of the Church, which has no powers of governance or opinion control, is fearful of the public getting the impression that views within the Church of England differ – although they do.

  • All I would add to the comment from Mr/Mrs/Ms Sockpuppet at Church House is (1) I am, of course, entirely committed to marriage between a man and a woman, but that does not exhaust the subject or the possibilities of marriage in the light of reality as we experience it. (2) This is about relationships and not simply law. The Church, of all bodies, should not be cynical enough to reduce marriage to a merely legal arrangement.

  • commentator says:

    Would the ‘spokesman’ care to comment on the lack of transferability across legal jurisdictions of the Civil Partnership as opposed to the generous recognition of the status of Civil Marriage?

  • Tobias Haller says:

    Few laws on God’s good earth have changed as much as has marriage law in England. This is not the land of the Medes and the Persians, after all.

    And yes, having a law that governs everyone, rather than special laws for special arrangements, is a good principle of responsible social governance. This is why we call it marriage equality.

  • Bill Dilworth says:

    I’ve never been able to get my head around the concerns about changing the definition of marriage for everyone. When the State decided that people could remarry after divorce within the lifetimes of their former spouses (changing the definition of marriage from an unbreakable lifelong bond) it didn’t affect the Church’s definition of marriage, nor did it interfere in the marriages of those not intending to divorce. No one ever hinted that the institution of marriage was threatened because people wouldn’t bother entering into a union that could be dissolved. Why should the fact that members if the same sex get married bother straight couples? Surely they don’t get married just because gay people can’t, do they? “I’m sorry, dear, but I want a divorce. Now that the queers can marry each other it’s just no good – I mean, what’s the point?”

  • Russell Goulbourne says:

    Three cheers for Bishop Alan! And since when has the C of E had spokespersons who speak for it as a whole and from on high? At least one of the participants in this debate shows some integrity.

  • dr.primrose says:

    We had a long discussion a few postings below on the “Church of England spokesman” issue. I still find this practice to be:

    1. Sloppy journalism. As I mentioned before, I can’t imagine any reputable U.S. newspaper permitting this kind of comment to be made so anonymously.

    2. Cowardly. If some press-spokesman (and it’s almost certainly a male) wants to publicly criticize a Church of England bishop in print, he ought to be man enough (ditto) to have his name attached to his pompous comments.

  • peterpi - Peter Gross says:

    God as an angry old man out to get us.
    I thought Christians believed God is love. I thought thunderbolt-hurling went out of fashion along with Zeus and the rest of the boys.
    But it appears that numerous individuals still need that judgmental old time religion – especially if they’re directing where the thunderbolts are hurled.
    Bishop Wilson,
    May I offer a heartfelt thanks for your video, and for your pastoral care for ALL of God’s children.

  • JCF says:

    THANK YOU Bishop Alan! God bless, and may your numbers (so to speak) increase!

  • Susannah says:

    It seems so wrong that somebody claims to speak for the entire Church of England as if there was a single ‘block vote’ view against Gay Marriage, and appearing to knock down views like Alan’s which reflect the truth and reality in the Church of England today – that there is no consensus whatsoever on this subject.

    There simply isn’t a single and determining viewpoint, and I think a so-called spokesman (who fails to speak for many) would be far more truthful and honest if he told the press: “Listen, in our Church there are divergent views just as there are in society.”

    That, at least, would be the truth.

    It would also be a step towards reality.

  • Counterlight says:

    Just when I was beginning to think that all English bishops were peevish headmasters, along comes Bishop Alan Wilson preaching Gospel and spreading hope.

    Thank you Bishop Wilson!

  • I welcome a heterosexually-married Church of England Bishop, who is also a husband and father of children, who gives his considered assent to the idea of extending the grace of Marriage to same-sex couples who love one another, who celebrate that love, and who wish to share their lives together. The intimation is that perhaps the Church could add a Blessing to such relationships.

    Granted a same-sex couple cannot beget children, but there is nothing to deny the fact that they might be able to offer otherwise ‘unwanted’ children a safe environment in which to grow and be nurtured.

    It’s good to see a Bishop who can stand up and be counted on this important issue of justice for all in the Church.

  • Father David says:

    It would seem that the Bishop of Buckingham has at last caught up with the former Bishop of Woolwich – John “Honest to God” Robinson in asserting that God is not “an angry old man” in the sky “out to get us”.
    Alas, reports of his demise are a little premature as some still seem to desire to cling onto this image – thunderbolts and all.

  • Randal Oulton says:

    >> Would the ‘spokesman’ care to comment on the lack of transferability across legal jurisdictions of the Civil Partnership as opposed to the generous recognition of the status of Civil Marriage?

    Further to your point, in Canada where we’ve had marriage equality for.. dunno a decade now maybe?? a few cases have come up it seems where British civil partnerships were not recognized as marriage in Canada, because they weren’t actually marriages and the courts don’t know what to do with them.

  • John Ross Martyn says:

    Now, we have marriage and civil partnership. If we have “marriage equality” we will have opposite sex marriage and same sex marriage. Underlying the discussion there is a confusion between equality and difference. Maybe all that is needed is alterations to the form of the civil partnership ceremony that align it with marriage, and the removal of any other differences between the legal effects of the two. Giving opposite sex unions and same sex unions the same name cannot alter the fact that they are different. It is rather like trying to deal with racism by calling everybody “White”.

  • Bill Dilworth says:

    No, Mr. Martyn; if we have marriage equality we will not have opposite sex marriage and same sex marriage, but simply marriage. On the other hand, if we tweak civil unions to give them the legal status of marriage we will have precisely two forms of marriage in everything but name.

  • My partner and I have been a couple since age 18; we are now 75. In 2009 during our 50th class reunion we were married by a UCC minister in our undergraduate alma mater’s chapel with Episcopal priests assisting. The Service, based upon the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (USA), is available at .

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