Two Church of England bishops have criticised their denomination's official opposition to same-sex marriage. Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham and Tim Ellis, Bishop of Grantham, said that a Church of England statement strongly opposing marriage equality was issued without sufficient consultation and does not represent the views of the Church's membership.
The official statement, issued by the Church of England on 12 June, insisted that same-sex marriage would undermine the meaning of marriage and would threaten the Church's role in society and the establishment. It was a response to government plans to offer civil ceremonies for same-sex marriage in England and Wales by 2015.
The Bishops of Buckingham and Grantham have criticised the unrepresentative nature of the statement as much as its conclusions.
Alan Wilson said, “The statement doesn’t speak for me at all, frankly”.
He told the Sunday Telegraph, “There is a groundswell of opinion that says, 'This does not speak for us.’ That’s just a matter of fact. It corresponds with the feedback I’m getting, and other colleagues are having the same experience. There is a sea change going on.”
Tim Ellis wrote on his blog, “In truth, the bishops in the media have not spoken for me or the way in which I understand this thorny matter”. He added, “I suspect they do not speak for a sizeable minority or even majority within the life of the Church”.
Wilson said that he had “evangelical” reasons for opposing the Church's official statement.
He explained, “There is a disconnect between the statement and the sermon on the mount. We are saying to people, 'You are thrice cursed because of something you are'. It is fair enough to expect bishops to have asked, 'What would Jesus do?’ I don’t think they did.
The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, is so far the most senior Church of England cleric to have offered his support for same-sex marriage. Other bishops are thought to be be privately in favour of the idea but cautious about speaking out in public.