THE assertion in last week’s report (MP’s concern over effects of same-sex marriage, Advertiser December 13) that the Church of England is “firmly against same sex marriage” is a bit of an oversimplification. There continues to be a very lively debate in which I have for years advocated equal rights in the church for gay people as well as women.
I find Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Bishop of Salisbury, the new Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral (a former Coventry vicar) and very many others on both sides of the Atlantic to be in agreement with me. For the Government to propose that it be made legal for religious organisations to choose whether or not to celebrate same sex marriage makes sense but to exclude the Churches of England and Wales is nonsense.
To take a parallel example, as a former local Anglican vicar, I was among many who took marriages of some people who had been divorced with a clear conscience, knowing that there was a time not so long ago when it was impossible to be married in church after divorce and still is in some Anglican parishes. Parliament left it to the church to sort itself out on this one.
It should be perfectly possible for churches to celebrate gay marriages on the same basis, while accepting that for some it is a step too far, at least for the time being. I was delighted to bless the partnership of two women, assisted by two Anglican lay readers who happened to be the parents of one of the women.
Jesus is quoted in the Bible as saying: “You shall love the Lord our God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength…..Love Your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” He didn’t give us a rule book, which is why some Christians differ on many issues: for example, some are pacifists and others are not.
Diversity, disagreement and debate on many issues will continue to be part of the life of the church as they are for the rest of society. Love is the essential yardstick. So I hope that the churches can get more relaxed about sex and sexuality, and concentrate more of our energy for justice on the huge challenges of sharing wealth more fairly and helping our planet survive and thrive for future generations.