In a letter to Lord Waheed Alli, one of the world’s few openly gay Muslim politicians, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Rev. Nicholas Holtam, reaffirms his support for same-sex marriage, stating: “It is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.” Responding to a letter from Lord Alli asking for clarification of the bishop’s views as the House of Lords begins debate on a same-sex marriage bill, Holtam writes:
You, as a gay Muslim, will not be surprised that there are a variety of views within the Church of England where we are experiencing rapid change similar to that in the wider society. This is complex to express, partly because there are those who see this issue as fundamental to the structure of Christian faith. It is also complex because of the worldwide nature of the Anglican Communion in which what might be said carefully in one cultural context (for example, the USA) can be deeply damaging in another (for example, parts of Africa). …
The desire for the public acknowledgement and support of stable, faithful, adult, loving same sex sexual relationships is not addressed by the six Biblical passages about homosexuality which are concerned with sexual immorality, promiscuity, idolatry, exploitation and abuse. The theological debate is properly located in the Biblical accounts of marriage, which is why so many Christians see marriage as essentially heterosexual. However, Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was Biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.
According to the diocesan Web site, Bishop Holtam is the only serving diocesan bishop among a number of retired and suffragan bishops in the Church of England who have given their support to gay marriage. His letter was excerpted in today’s Telegraph and is posted in its entirety here. In other news, Britain’s Church Society Council issued a press release yesterday in opposition to the proposed marriage bill.