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Same-sex marriage: Bishops of Worcester and Dudley next to go public

04 November 2022

Diocese of Worcester

The Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Martin Gorick, and the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge

The Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Martin Gorick, and the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge

THE Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, and his suffragan, the Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Martin Gorick, have become the first to follow the Bishop of Oxford’s lead in declaring their support for same-sex marriage.

In a letter to the licensed clergy in the Worcester diocese, the Bishops explain that they have followed the request to keep their views to themselves during the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process of “reflection, learning and discernment”, initiated in 2020.

After the College of Bishops meeting earlier this week, however, and in the run-up to a General Synod debate on the next steps forward, the two Bishops write: “In the interests of transparency, we think it is right for us to make our own beliefs and hopes plain.

“In short, we believe that the time has come for the Church to celebrate and honour same sex relations. People do not choose their sexuality and all should be able to express it within loving committed relationships.

“Our preferred option would be for same sex couples to be able to be married in church. We hope and pray that this will be the outcome of the LLF process.”

Rather than expound the reasoning behind their position, the Bishops commend the booklet Together in Love and Faith released yesterday by the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft (News, Comment, 3 November).

They add, though, that they believe their view to be consonant with the “biblical witness” — while acknowledging that others “feel very differently” on the topic.

And they add: “If the outcome of the LLF process is what we hope it will be, those who hold a traditional view should be honoured and they certainly will be in this diocese as long as we remain your bishops.”

The view expressed in the letter show how far Dr Inge has moved on this issue in the past five years. In 2017 he defended both the rejected House of Bishops’ report Marriage and Same Sex Relationships and the reticence of individual bishops, who were then criticised of “managing” the debate about same-sex relationships rather than leading it.

He wrote then: “To me, leadership involves seeking to discern an approach which will enable the Church to move forward together.”

But then he went on to give his own position: “I confess to being part of the problem as far as what is now known as equal marriage is concerned. Though I rejoice when gay people find love and commit themselves to it, I have difficulty with equal marriage.

“Bishop Rowan Williams once described it as a category error and that’s where I am. It’s a technical philosophical term, of course, but it causes me difficultly which I cannot, at present, surmount. I just think gay relationships are different. It is, after all, not that long since gay rights campaigners were condemning marriage as an irredeemably patriarchal institution. I’m afraid I haven’t moved as fast as some of them.

“Does that make me homophobic? I hope and pray not with all my heart. That really would be a betrayal of my gay and lesbian friends, some of whom are far holier Christians than I shall ever be.”

Responses on Dr Inge’s Twitter feed have been immediate. A large majority welcome his declaration, with messages such as “Brilliant to read this” and “Thank you for your leadership.” There are, however, a few dissenting voices: “You should resign Sir. You are no longer guarding the faith” and “I am sorry to see that you have ceased to be Bishops.”

One retired priest, the Revd Barry Naylor, remarks: “I hope more and more of your colleagues among the Bishops will have the courage to say in public what so many have said in private.” This appears to be the consequence, whether intended or not, of Dr Croft’s lead. In the next days, all the Church’s bishops will be asked their views. Now that the LLF gag is off, it is likely to become clear very quickly where the balance of opinion lies within the College of Bishops.

The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Jonathan Frost, has also expressed support for Dr Croft’s essay. He wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he was “in substantial agreement” with the “compelling essay”, and commended Dr Croft for “generosity towards your sisters and brothers in Christ with whom you disagree”.

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