The Bishop of Leicester’s shockingly inaccurate statement to the House of Lords

A comment was posted on the Thinking Anglican thread about your statement, Bishop Tim. The person wrote: “The bishop stands up in the House of Lords and he lies. At least three lies. So, what is the point of granting seats in the House of Lords to bishops? Certainly not for their wisdom or moral guidance. The CofE is caught in a spiral of self-destruction.”

Bishop Tim, it’s true, you made a number of factual errors in your response to the Government’s equal marriage proposals in his statement to the House of Lords. Why? You are an honourable man, and yet you have asserted as facts things that you must know perfectly well with another part of your brain are not true.

You began: “Those of us on these benches entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. That is why many of us supported civil partnerships as we believed that the rights and obligations that flow to those who wish to formally mark and celebrate their commitment to each other should not be denied to people simply because of their sexuality.”

Firstly, the Church of England does not treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as equal in the sight of God. There are many ways in which the Church marginalises us and diminishes our integrity and ministries, and you know this perfectly well.

Secondly, Church House itself reported that the large majority of bishops in the House supported a “wrecking amendment” (Church House’s own words) to the Civil Partnerships Bill in the name of the then bishop of Winchester.

Thirdly, the Church of England does not support civil partnerships. It bans them from being conducted or blessed in Anglican churches.

Fourth, lesbian and gay clergy entering a civil partnership risk losing their licence or further appointments in the Church if their partnered status becomes publicly known.

You said: ”…  one fundamental feature has remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.”

Again, you know perfectly well that polygamy is widespread and normative in the Old Testament and the C of E now allows the remarriage of divorcees. It’s quite clear from the Old Testament that the union of one man and one woman has not been a ‘fundamental’ feature of marriage from earliest times. I’m a truly shocked that you dare make such an untrue statement in the House of Lords.

You said:  “Does the Minister recognise that our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England’s position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities?”

Have you forgotten that LGB&T people are members of the wider community and the church community and are in all cases part of family life, as children and siblings and parents themselves? Your concern for stable communities MUST include us.

 “Can the Minister assure us that the great majority of members of the Church of England and other faiths will not be labelled as prejudicial to gay people for taking a traditional stand …”

Bishop Tim, taking a traditional stand in the Church of England, on gay issues as well as the role of women in the Church, does now mean taking a stand prejudicial to gay people for the majority in our country. The Minister should be unable to give you this assurance because the Church of England is all too clearly prejudiced, as it was in the past towards slaves and black people and is still prejudiced against women.

 “… polls consistently show half the population against this change …”

You are wrong, Bishop Tim. The latest Ipsos MORI poll for Freedom to Marry Around reports that three quarters (73%) of British adults think gay people should be allowed to get married to each other while a quarter (24%) do not want to allow gay marriage.

“… the Government and Opposition have together in their proceeding with this Measure led to division … between the political class and the vast majority of practicing religious people …”

I am repeatedly asked to provide evidence for claims that I make. Where is the evidence that shows the vast majority of practicing religious people are on one side of this divide with the Government and Opposition on the other?

As a member of the House of Bishops, and I assume, representing their views, I have to say that you have learned nothing from the missionary disaster which is the outcome of the headlines following the no vote on women bishops. Another disaster is unfolding for the Church of England, and it is one that many more people than those of us who are LGB&T are affected by. As a result, we are becoming more and more disenchanted by the Church which fails to respect us, include us, nourish us spiritually and proclaim with celebratory confidence that we are included in the Kingdom of God. If only …..


  1. says

    Cognitive dissonance on a grand scale? (See this speech by the same bishop in October ).

    As a psychotherapist you might be able to enlighten me on the role of disgust in different shades of homophobia for many of us. My guess is that at each step of the way (we shouldn’t kill gay people -> we shouldn’t flog or imprison gay people -> we shouldn’t blame people for wanting sex with the same sex, as long they don’t actually do it -> we should let people have gay relationships secretly -> we should let same-sex couples have property rights similar to married couples etc etc) we who may find the very thought of gay sex disgusting have to overcome that disgust to make another concession. I think Bishop Hugh Montefiore mentioned this dimension decades ago.

    If it isn’t cognitive dissonance, is it political manoeuvring? And when will the diocesan bishops who disagree with Tim Stephens (according to Richard Harries) speak out?

    • Erika Baker says

      Good question, Chris, but I do wonder about the “we who may find the very thought of gay sex disgusting”… that applies to most gay people too when they contemplate the thought of straight sex, and yet it does not seem to cloud their view of straight relationships or straight people.

      I’ve always found that those who are secure in their own skins and with their own sexuality do not as a whole discriminate against gay people and completely “get” that everyone is entitled to love and to fulfilling relationships. The problem comes when you think about gay people in terms of sex only… and it is instructive that every single argument against same sex relationships eventually boils down to the mechanics of it all.

    • Changing Attitude says

      Chris, it’s been such an overwhelmingly busy week, otherwise I would have responded sooner. I agree, cognitive dissonance is an apt description for what is going on in the Bishop of Leicester’s world. How he splits his thinking in this way I have no idea!

    • Laurence Cunnington says

      I can’t speak for Colin Coward but I guess an analogy could be Rosa Parks’ decision not to give up her seat.

  2. Alan Birt says

    Leviticus XXVIII 22 ( AV ) clearly states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination”

    The ban is re-affirmed in Leviticus XX 13 – “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with as woman, both of them have committed an abomination”

    Alan Birt

    • Nicholas Wright says

      But he also said that Blasphemy is to be punished with death (24:10-23), Handicapped people must not approach the altar (21:16-23), Insects have four legs (11:21, 23), and women are worth less than men (27:3-7), and I hope you’re really careful where you buy your clothes (19:19).

      You can live that way if you like, as they did 2000 years ago. I think it would be better to evolve.

      • Alan Birt says

        By ” it would be better to evolve” I presume you mean we should disregard Biblical teaching as old-fashioned and just ‘a load of superstition’ and twaddle. Instead we can have a so-called ‘Christian’ church which ignores the Bible entirely and we just make up a new religion to suit every whim and perversion as we go along.

        That is not my scene !

        Alan Birt

        • Changing Attitude says

          Alan Birt, you ignore Nicholas Wright’s point that you and everyone are selective in how you read and apply the Bible. That has always been the reality and thanks be to God is it so, otherwise we would still be supporting slavery, subjecting women to second class status and treating black people as inferior. Perhaps you do all these things? If not, then you must agree that is is indeed better to evolve our understanding of God’s word in the Bible. I do not ignore the Bible entirely and neither, I am sure, does Nicholas. My faith and teaching is totally rooted in God’s revelation in his Son Jesus Christ.
          Revd Colin Coward
          Director of Changing Attitude England

        • Nicholas Wright says

          There are some excellent morales and teachings in the Bible and they should be maintained. But the problem with the Bible is that you need to either treat it as a guide, or as something to be strictly followed. If you treat it strictly, you are living based on conditions a long time ago.
          If you use it as a guide, you reap the best of good morales and teachings while applying it to a different world we live in today.

          My opinion is – God is supposed to be a being of love. And the church is based on the morales in the Bible, and the examples of Jesus. Christians are known for their charity and caring. But if Jesus was here today, would he be accepting all people with love, or rejecting certain ones?

          Apparently 1 in 7 people in the world are “gay” of some form. They are not going away. You can either live hating them, or die accepting them at the very least. Which is going to look better at Peter’s gates?

          • Alan Birt says

            Any convoluted argument which seeks to dismiss Lev XVIII 22 would be equally valid for the dismissal of Lev XVIII 23. Therefore it appears those who wish to support the abhorrent practice referred to in v22 would also wish to promote the practice of bestiality, too ! And this is an honourable example of good Christian behaviour ?

            Alan Birt

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