Wallace Benn disassociates himself from extremist booklet

Wallace Benn, the Church of England’s Bishop of Lewes, has today withdrawn his endorsement of a booklet by the fundamentalist campaigner Stephen Green. He issued a statement after several bloggers drew attention to his endorsement yesterday.

The booklet, Britain in Sin, advocates the legalisation of rape within marriage and the criminalisation of sexual relations between people of the same sex.

As I pointed out in my blog yesterday, Stephen Green’s revamped website includes an endorsement from Wallace Benn, in which the bishop says, “This makes interesting and disturbing reading" (see http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/?page_id=79). The booklet opposes the welfare state, a legal right for equal pay for men and women, the UK’s membership of the United Nations and power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Today, I received a message from Bishop Wallace Benn’s office in which he made the following statement:

“Having now read the contents of this booklet in full I want to completely and absolutely dissociate myself from it".

Bishop Benn’s statement implies that he endorsed the booklet without reading it all. It remains unclear which part of it he thought worthy of endorsement, but I’m still willing to give him credit for the rapid withdrawal of his remarks. I have asked his communications officer if he has asked Stephen Green to remove the endorsement from his website.

However, I find it sad that the bishop’s statement does not include any expression of apology, or of regret for any upset or offence he may have caused.

[Note: subsequent to this post, Bishop Benn's office has issued a further statement with an apology and a clarification that he has asked Stephen Green to remove the endorsement from his website.]

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(c) Symon Hill is associate director of Ekklesia and author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Religion. For links to more of his writing, please visit http://www.symonhill.wordpress.com.

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