The Letter in the Times – A Bit of a Damp Squib

Really, are we all getting excited over this?


A number of recent statements by church leaders past and present may have given the mistaken impression that the Church is universally opposed to the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples. We believe that does not adequately reflect the range of opinion which exists within the Church of England.

Marriage is a robust institution which has adapted much over the centuries. It has moved beyond the polygamy of the Old Testament and preoccupation with social status and property in pre-Enlightenment times.

While the Prayer Book states that marriage was ordained first for ‘the procreation of children’ the modern marriage service begins by emphasising the quality of relationship between marriage partners ‘that they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind.’

The Church calls marriage holy or sacramental because the covenant relationship of committed, faithful love between the couple reflects the covenanted love and commitment between God and his Church. Growing in this kind of love means we are growing in the image of God. So the fact that there are same-sex couples who want to embrace marriage should be a cause for rejoicing in the Christian Church.

We welcome current moves by the House of Bishops to consider again its view of civil partnerships and human sexuality. We hope this will lead to a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships and call on the Church to engage in theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature of marriage.

We also welcome recent reported statements by the Bishop of Salisbury and the new Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral calling on the Church to affirm same-sex couples who want to take on the commitment of marriage.

It is our belief that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples. It will be for the churches to then decide how they should respond pastorally to such a change in the law.


Canon Giles Goddard, General Synod, Southwark
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
The Rt Rev Michael Doe
The Rt Rev John Gladwin
The Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth
The Rt Rev Peter Selby
The Rt Rev David Stancliffe

The Very Rev David Brindley, Dean of Portsmouth
The Very Rev Graham Smith, Dean of Norwich
The Very Rev Victor Stock, Dean of Guildford

Mrs April Alexander, General Synod, Southwark
The Rev Stephen Coles, General Synod, London
The Rev Clair Herbert, General Synod, London
Mr John Ward LLB, General Synod, London

Let’s do the math.

  • 5 retired bishops. They have no say in the current House of Bishops. Of the currently serving bishops all they could muster is one Suffragan. So, none of the 44 diocesans and only 1 of the 65 suffragans. Less than 1%.
  • 4 Cathedral Deans, which is barely 10% of the Deans.
  • 3 clergy General Synod members
  • 2 lay General Synod members

Gosh, we’re positively quaking in our boots at this massive revisionist swing behind gender neutral marriage. Positively quaking…

7 Comments on “The Letter in the Times – A Bit of a Damp Squib

  1. These represent the ones who are willing to put their heads above the parapets.
    Most notable is Alan Wilson, who styles himself an ‘evangelical’. Anyone reading his blog will know he is a liberal from an evangelical background. Just like John Gladwin or James Jones

    Do you think similar liberals from an evangelical background (LFEB) like Nick Baines or John Pritchard or who may fancy a go at Canterbury would risk notoriety right now? But read their blogs and you can work out exactly where they are headed. It just isn’t politic now to say so.

  2. These look like the ‘usual suspects’ to me.

    As to Alan Wilson, I am currently seeing about three times as many Facebook posts from him on the sexuality issues than from any of my other ‘friends’ (including you, Peter)…

    • I’m loving the comment thread over at Thinking Anglicans. The usual, “This is the start of the band-wagon” nonsense that gets put around everytime one of these letters comes out, which is then conveniently forgotten when the next one comes out.

      And yes, the lack of names is telling. Given that Nick Holtham made an inflammatory speech yesterday and yet still wasn’t signatory on this letter indicates either:

      i) That the organisation behind this letter is pants and they haven’t managed to form a half-decent coalition OR
      ii) The likes of Holtham don’t want to be associated with this kind of thing

  3. Hi Peter,

    rather than slightly snippy comments about this letter, surely what’s more important is that it doesn’t engage with any of the debate about how to make same-sex marriage happen, what the process might be? The reference to “the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples” isn’t very heartening as it suggests the authors haven’t thought things through much more than the government has… 

    Your reference to Nick Holtam is because he spoke at the Cutting Edge Consortium conference yesterday, isn’t it – are you aware of any links to the text of what he said, rather than just labelling it “inflammatory” without backing that up? 

    in friendship, Blair 

    • Hi Blair,

      Yes, your first para is absolutely right and I’m really pleased that you recognise (like many on both sides) that the Government consultation betrays an ignorance around even the basics of the marriage law in this country.

      As to your second point – full text is here and I’ll be blogging about it later.

      Finally, met someone at the back end of this week who’d met you in person and said you were lovely!

  4. Hello Peter,

    thanks for the link – will have a proper read of what Nick Holtam said later but at a glance it looks at least half-decent. I note also that the Blessed John Halton, now blogging at, is critical of the government’s proposals while being generally pro committed same-sex relationships. 

    Flattered by the compliment but intrigued – maybe I will e-mail to ask more… 

    in friendship, Blair 

  5. Hmm, Giles Goddard, Jeffrey John, Michael Doe, John Gladwin, Richard Harries and Peter Selby..  
    Which of these hasn’t already written a book or led an organisation in support of blessing same-sex sexual partnerships? 
    Same old suspects?

    ps Why doesn’t the phrase “united … in … body …” make them uncomfortable?  It points to a major difference between same-sex partnerships and marriage?! 

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