John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, continues to employ diverting rhetoric and novel arguments in his campaign against marriage equality in the United Kingdom. From Sentamu’s recent statements one might conclude that he is not interested in succeeding Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Having likened Prime Minister David Cameron to a dictator, for attempting to change British law through legislation, Sentamu now claims that the Church of England would have to sign off on marriage equality before it could become law.
“They have got a problem because the definition of marriage is in the 1662 Prayer Book and Article 30 of the Church of England, which are both Acts of Parliament,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
However, legal experts questioned the Archbishop’s claim. “I can’t see why Parliament would need anyone’s approval to change the definition of marriage,” said Adam Wagner, a barrister and editor of the UK Human Rights Blog. “Parliament is sovereign, it can legislate what it likes.”
Giles Fraser sees things differently, arguing that the church should abandon its opposition to marriage equality:
One of the interesting things about the Bible is how, on the subject of eunuchs at least, it fundamentally changes its mind. In Deuteronomy, eunuchs are explicitly banned from the congregation of God. But this prohibition is later explicitly overturned in Isaiah chapter 56.
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters.”
In other words, doing what is right is more important than bearing children. Obvious to us. But in the context, this was radical stuff. And thus the Bible changes its mind. And it does so in the direction of greater inclusion. The current pressure for gay people to participate fully within the walls of the church – as priests and bishops, as gay married couples – is the extension of this same logic. Inclusion is the ever-widening gyre of the Biblical narrative. What a pity the church of today still cannot find it within itself to be as bold as the prophet Isaiah.