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Marriage and same-sex relationships

by Jonathan Ball last modified 27 Feb, 2012 09:17 AM

Statement re: meeting with Dorset clergy on 14 February concerning the Bishop of Salisbury’s comments on same-sex relationships in The Times and on BBC Radio 4

The Bishop of Sherborne, the Archdeacon of Dorset and I met with 10 clergy from Dorset who had contacted me following my remarks on same-sex relationships in an interview published in The Times on 3 February, and on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme on 5 February.

Bishop Graham and I disagree about the appropriateness of using the word 'marriage' for same-sex relationships. He expressed his concerns to me privately and in the meeting. We are, however, committed to working together creatively.

I welcomed the open and robust conversation, which covered the following areas:

  • My thanks for their constructive response to what I had said
  • The context of the wider interview from which the published remarks were drawn
  • The state of the debate about same-sex relationships
  • My intention to encourage an honest conversation


  • Our understanding of what marriage constitutes and means
  • The place of same-sex relationships and couples within the life of the Church and our pastoral care of them
  • The nature of same-sex relationships
  • The difference between contractual and covenantal relationships and their relationship to Civil Partnerships and marriage
  • The appropriateness of using the language of marriage for same-sex relationships


  • Our understanding of the authority of Scripture and Tradition, and their immutability
  • The significance of scriptural references to homosexuality
  • The Church’s relationship with the wider community and its culture
  • The current discipline and practice of the Church of England


  • My role as Bishop and leader in the Diocese
  • Pluralism, the width of the Church and the Bishop’s relationship to it
  • How we address contentious issues within the Diocese


  • Our relationships with the Church in other parts of the world, especially Sudan
  • Concerns for local Ecumenical relationships


  • How we might go forward constructively when we are in such profound disagreement about the definition of marriage


At the end of the meeting I reaffirmed my commitment to:

  • Supporting marriage as it is currently understood
  • Upholding the current discipline and practice of the Church of England
  • Supporting those clergy whose standpoint differs from my own


I ended by welcoming future opportunities to continue the conversation.

+Nicholas Sarum

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