Holtam speaks up for equal marriage

26 April 2012

by Madeleine Davies

IT IS a “disaster” that the Church has allowed itself to be seen as the opposition to equal marriage, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, has said.

In a speech to Cutting Edge Con­sortium, an inclusive alliance, on Saturday, Bishop Holtam said that “most people now see the Church’s avoidance of equality as immoral, and it undermines us.

“Increasingly, there is an evan­gelical imperative for the Church to recognise that covenantal same-sex relationships can be godly and good for individuals and society; that they are at least like marriage for hetero­sexuals.” This is a develop­ment that many Christians wel­come, he said.

While the Government has sought to reassure the Church that it does not intend to touch religious mar­riage, Bishop Holtam said that such a separation of civil and religious marriage “shows how deeply we have become separated from our wider society”.

On the same day, six bishops, and four senior clergy, signed a letter to The Times designed to counter the “mistaken impression” that the Church is universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples. It argues that the exis­tence of couples who want to “em­brace marriage” should be “a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church”.

The letter is signed by the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Revd Alan Wilson. On Saturday, he said that it is necessary to “apply some basic Christianity to the situation. . . I think all the hints about what to do are there in the Bible. I think the difficulty arises at other levels in the Church which try to find some kind of top-down wisdom on the sub-ject, and don’t seem to be doing very well.”

He was joined by 12 other sig­natories, including retired Bishops of Swindon, Chelmsford, Oxford, Worcester, and Sarum; the Deans of St Albans, Portsmouth, and Guild­ford; and a Canon of South­wark Cathedral, Giles God­dard.

A statement issued on Saturday by trustees of Anglican Mainstream Canon Chris Sugden; the Priest-in-Charge of St Peter and St Paul, Battersea, the Revd Paul Perkin; and Dr Philip Giddings of the Arch­bishops’ Council, described the Bishops’ letter as a “set of individual and minority views” that “privileges opinion and adaptation” rather than “biblical tradition”.

“The central public purpose of holy matrimony — literally the defence of the mother — is not private love, but the attachment of mothers and fathers to one another and to their children. Making gender in marriage irrelevant, and replacing its public purpose with private desire will deprive many children of secure attachments to mothers and fathers.”

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