by Andrew Goddard, Fulcrum
When those with power seek to pass legislation explicitly contradicting church teaching and thus face strong and united opposition from denominations across the Christian church, one tactic is to seek out one or two Christian leaders who are happy to disown their church’s teaching in order to provide support for the views of the political elite. It is, therefore, no surprise that Lord Alli of Norbury, in the week before the Marriage Bill is debated in the House of Lords, should seek out a bishop who might be willing to contradict the Church of England’s clear, consistent and critical voice, a voice which will doubtless be raised by bishops and others during the Lords‘ debate.
It is also, in one sense, no surprise that Lord Alli should turn to the Bishop of Salisbury given he has previously expressed his support for same-sex marriage. The tensions that intervention caused in the diocese and with partners in Sudan had, however, led him to reaffirm his commitment to “supporting marriage as it is currently understood”. It was therefore far from certain Lord Alli would get the response he sought. He was, however, supplied with a short two-page statement in the form of a letter, quickly made public, including on the diocesan website. This sets out “why I am sympathetic to the possibility of equal marriage and have a different view from that stated in the Church of England’s response to the Equal Civil Marriage consultation”. Unfortunately for Lord Alli, the statement is flawed in almost every area it addresses and so simply confirms the weakness of the Bishop of Salisbury’s case.
Its main weaknesses relate to five central areas in the debate: history, theology, theological method, the character of human sexuality, and logic.