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Bishop of Worcester sets out pro same-sex marriage argument

12 January 2023

Diocese of Worcester

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge

THE Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, has written an open letter to his diocese, setting out why he supports a change of policy on same-sex marriage in the Church of England.

The letter builds on the statement that he and the Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Martin Gorick, released last year (News, 11 November) in response to the publication of Together in Love and Faith: Personal reflections and next steps for the Church by the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft (News, 4 November).

In the letter, published on Monday, Dr Inge reiterates that he thinks that “the time has come for the Church of England to celebrate and honour monogamous, faithful same-sex relationships,” and that he and Bishop Gorick believe this “to be consonant with scriptural witness”.

He emphasises that it remains his duty to uphold church doctrine, even while arguing for change. “I would not marry a same-sex couple in church any more than I would have taken part in the ordination of a woman as a bishop before the Church of England allowed it,” he writes.

“I desire to live my life under the scriptures, and believe that it is possible to do so whilst holding to the understanding to which I have come about same-sex relationships.”

Dr Inge refers to his predecessor Charles Gore, who was called a heretic for suggesting that not everything in the Old Testament should be taken as the “literal historical” truth.

“Most Christians would now take for granted the insights for which Gore fought and would consider those who hold to creationism a gift to atheists and vocal agnostics like Richard Dawkins,” he writes. “Those of us who accept the theory of evolution and still hold to the scriptures as being the inspired Word of God ‘containing all things necessary unto salvation’ find in the passages in question truth at least as profound as literal historical fact.”

The shift in understanding was an example of a reappraisal of the scriptures. “My understanding of Anglican polity is that we are bound by the scriptures, interpreted within the living tradition of the Church through the application of reason and experience. Reason and experience have caused me to come to the scriptures anew and reassess my reading of them.”

Dr Inge also refers to having observed “good, faithful, monogamous relationships between people of the same sex which I cannot believe to be inherently sinful”.

He continues: “I have been forced to ask myself the question, how is the Church’s teaching good news for gay people, created in God’s image? I feel bound to say, rather late in the day, that it is not. I apologise to all those whom my silence has wounded in the past. My reticence was motivated by a commitment to the unity of the Church.”

Having set out his argument in more detail, Dr Inge concludes: “Not to change our teaching would be a missional error of grave proportions,” but goes on to say that those who hold a different view should have “an honoured place within the Church of England”.

Dr Inge’s letter was largely welcomed by respondents on Twitter. The Revd Dr Ian Paul, however, who is a member of the Archbishops’ Council, questioned the decision to publish the letter a week before the College of Bishops, which meets next week, publishes its conclusions.

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