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 …..