An outspoken and controverial bishop will be visiting Scotland on Saturday.
The Right Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, has been a vocal supporter of marriage equality and LGBTI rights more generally. He is due to deliver a lecture at St John’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, on the subject of Christian Ethics.
Last year, he told Pink News that “allowing gay people to marry enriches the public understanding of marriage” and welcomed same-sex marriage as “a significant milestone on the way towards a more equal and just society”.
He also, in conversation with the Daily Telegraph, observed that “in very few years people will wonder what the fuss was all about. But for now it’s a path that calls for considerable courage and determination [from church leaders].”
He also appeared to express criticism of some within his own church when he insisted that “The Church of England says it welcomes gay people. Now we have the opportunity to practise what we preach.” He has been outspoken in his denunciations of a “tiny clique of reactionary activists” who he feels has essentially determined the Church’s position on LGBTI rights for decades and left it out of touch with ordinary people and true Biblical values.
The Bishop has also claimed that many clergy are “in the closet”, with as many as 1 in 10 Church of England bishops being “secretly gay”.
Mr Wilson has written a book, More Perfect Union? Understanding Same-sex Marriage, in which he puts forward a Biblical argument for same-sex marriage while also challenging the Church’s “serious institutional homophobia“. He believes that the official teaching of the Church is principally based on “our grandparents’ cultural dictates” rather than the teaching of Christ, and that the Church’s prohibition on clergy taking part in same-sex marriage – while permitting them to be in civil partnerships (although bishops must be celibate) – is an absurd example of double-standards.
The Bishop champions a well-defined and considered Christian ethics focusing on dignity and respect. In his blog, he wrote: “A moral revolution…has normalised gay people, entitling them to respect and equal treatment. The assumption that gay people have a stunted capacity to give and receive love and to structure their households around permanent commitment, has collapsed for most people under 50. Tragically, churches too often position themselves on the trailing edge of moral change — 1950’s C of E bishops railed against the abolition of hanging, quoting the Bible and warning of social collapse. Now it’s this.
“Jesus pointed out Pharisees can change, and longed for them to be born again, but it’s a harder process. They have more face to lose.”
As a voice of progressive Christianity, not only in relation to LGBTI equality, the Bishop is well-placed to apply his practical theology to many of the moral questions facing the Church today.