The weekend when Britain changed

By Andrew Symes

Saturday 29th March will go down in history as the day when same sex couples exchanged marriage vows on live TV and radio, and when a large proportion of the debate was taken up by what Christians believe. The official voice of the Church of England, and the establishment-leaning voice of evangelical and catholic orthodoxy were virtually silent on the weekend itself and in the days leading up to it. Revisionist Christian opinions were given free rein in the media, and the fiction of a church united in doctrine was exposed, as was the delusion of basing a strategy of witness to Christ on accommodating to anti-biblical cultural trends.

My own article of two weeks ago, suggesting that Christians disturbed by current developments at this time could turn to prayer, was picked up by veteran Guardian religion correspondent Andrew Brown as an example of swivel-eyed loony reactionary opposition to the march of progress and civilization. I was grilled about my article on Premier Christian Radio, formerly a strong voice for evangelical Christianity but now sadly increasingly a mouthpiece for the views of Steve Chalke and Brian Maclaren. Having to explain and defend the concept of corporate prayer at a time of concern about a major change to a supposedly Christian audience is a sign of the times we are in. Brown’s article, in which he claimed that the Archbishop has signalled an end to resistance to same sex ‘marriage’ (and thereby suggesting that the church may change its policy on the issue) was not refuted by Lambeth Palace or Church House but was bizarrely posted on the C of E website along with a similar Daily Mail article as the only information available about the issue on the day.
In another radio interview on the Saturday, this time national BBC Radio 4, I found myself pitted against Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham. He had got onto the front page of the Telegraph that day with his public call for the church to “rejoice” over gay marriage and make plans to celebrate them in church in future. The Bishop has form on this (see here for a more detailed critique of Wilson’s views). For all his urbane smoothness, Wilson’s argument seemed to be lacking in theological depth: “I know some gay couples who are very nice and who appear to have a good relationship, therefore we should allow them to marry in church”; and “the church has changed its position on things in the past, so it can change its views on anything now and in the future”.  He will have received a lot of applause from liberal Anglicans, and in this he has received his reward in full. In my response I simply pointed to the Bishops’ statement of February 15th about marriage, and asked why this Bishop was contradicting it.
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