Bishop urges open debate

by Jonathan Ball last modified 05 Feb, 2012 04:32 PM

Bishop Nicholas said on BBC Radio 4’s 'Sunday' programme this week that there are more views on civil partnerships in the church than have been expressed officially.

Interviewed by Ed Sturton alongside the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, he suggested that the current position of the Church of England “does not meet the pastoral needs of people in our care”. He told listeners that it was now time for an open and honest conversation and to revisit the traditional, biblical portrayal of homosexuality in the Bible where it is predominantly “idolatrous, promiscuous and exploitative.”

As General Synod members from the Diocese prepared to travel to London for this week’s meeting in Westminster, Bishop Nicholas said: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. What has happened now is that we have begun to see in a way, which is not there in the Bible, that there are people in same sex relationships who are living faithfully and lovingly for life.”

He added: “I don’t think there is much there [in the Bible] which addresses the issue of faithful, same sex relationships. We are dealing with something where we need to work out afresh in this generation what it is for people who love each other faithfully together and how that sits within the life of the church.”

The Bishop said that the lack of any spiritual aspect of the current civil partnership ceremonies was an issue for Christian gay couples: “We have had the experience of civil partnerships for 6 years now and we need to review where we are.

“There are homosexual people within the life of the church living in faithful, same sex relationships. We need to find ways to support and sustain them in that and to find a way of praying with them.”

He told his Radio 4 audience: “What I am saying is that within the experience of Christian people in this country there are people who have formed same sex relationships. The church’s position, which was stated in Issues in Human Sexuality back in 1991, is to try to find a way of supporting them faithfully and lovingly within the life of the church. We have some experience of that.”

He added: The real problem with civil partnerships is that they are a contract: there is no religious content to them whatsoever. And Christians who have contracted civil partnerships are saying that they want a covenantal relationship in which they promise themselves to one another lovingly for life and where it is possible to be prayed with and for within the life of the church.” 

The Bishop said that “the quality and nature of the relationship is such that I think it is appropriate to use the language of marriage in respect of same sex relationships.”

Bishop Nicholas acknowledged that this was not the position of the Church but it was appropriate that a proper and open debate now took place: “There is no change imminent, but we are no longer talking about them, we are talking about us.”


You can hear the programme again by clicking here

The interview is contained within the last 10 minutes of the programme


Issues in Human Sexuality


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