The­o­log­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion needed

The Church of England - - ENGLAND -

The Bishop of Buck­ing­ham, Alan Wil­son, has be­come a fig­ure of con­tro­versy ever since he ‘came out’ for gay ‘mar­riage’.

He blogs reg­u­larly and en­ter­tain­ingly on his chang­ing views. In his lat­est blog he re­flects on the ‘500 or so mes­sages he has re­ceived since he first put his head over the para­pet. He con­cludes from his mail­bag that: “it is sim­ply false to claim there is no ho­mo­pho­bia in the Church. There is plenty of it, ap­par­ently, and if church lead­ers do not wake up and act to tackle it, the Church will be­come, even more than it al­ready is, a last ditch for soft or hard prej­u­dice that has now faded else­where in so­ci­ety.”

Putting to one side the fact that I know of no one who se­ri­ously pre­tends that ha­tred and prej­u­dice does not ex­ist in the Church, I have to ques­tion what his postbag really tells us. He rather spu­ri­ously con­cludes that be­cause the vast ma­jor­ity of his re­spon­dents are Chris­tians this im­plies that non-Chris­tians have moved on. The thought that Chris­tians are more likely to write to bish­ops is a more likely con­clu­sion to be drawn.

About 400 of his re­spon­dents are in sup- port of him, leav­ing 20 per cent in op­po­si­tion. Thank­fully this does not lead him to ex­plic­itly con­clude that 80 per cent of Chris­tians are in favour. Of the 100 neg­a­tive replies he points to 90 per cent which can “only be seen as ex­pres­sions of crude prej­u­dice and big­otry.”

He writes that he has had a re­spect­ful and in­ter­est­ing di­a­logue with about 10 of his hos­tile re­spon­dents. It strikes me that very lit­tle can be con­cluded from an email postbag.

I am mak­ing a plea to peo­ple like Bishop Alan Wil­son, rather than re­sort­ing to per­sonal at­tacks and the use of terms like ‘big­otry’ to ex­plain in clear the­o­log­i­cal terms how and why he has changed his mind. He cites only ‘five’ key pas­sages as­so­ci­ated with the sub­ject of ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity but surely his pre­vi­ous the­ol­ogy can­not have been so im­pov­er­ished that key Chris­tian con­cepts of an­thro­pol­ogy es­caped him? I ap­plaud the fact that his change of view is driven by a burn­ing de­sire for jus­tice and com­pas­sion, but it seems to me that the vi­sion he of­fers is im­per­illing to the sal­va­tion of the very peo­ple he should be safe­guard­ing.

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