Bishop of Buckingham: Saying marriage is one man one woman is ‘a lousy definition’

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The Bishop of Buckingham Dr Alan Wilson has defended same-sex marriage during a tribunal today, saying the idea that marriage should be between one man and one woman is “a lousy definition”.

Dr Wilson was testifying at the tribunal of Jeremy Pemberton, 58, who was blocked from promotion after he married his husband last year, and says he was unlawfully discriminated against.

Canon Pemberton, 58, formerly a hospital chaplain, was the first member of the clergy to enter into a same-sex marriage, when he wed his partner Laurence Cunnington last April.

Pemberton’s marriage defied a decision by the House of Bishops, which has banned gay clergy from marrying, and he later had his permission to officiate revoked. This meant he was also unable to take up another job at the NHS, as he was declined the correct licences.

Also testifying, Bishop Richard Inwood said the marriage was “sinful and unwholesome”.

Dr Wilson went head to head with the lawyer for Bishop Inwood, Thomas Linden QC, saying the line “one man and one woman” was added in 1938 to Church law in order for clergy to refuse divorcees from remarrying.

He also said: “Different doctrines had different status… For example, in Article 37, it says capital punishment is OK, but that doesn’t mean it’s a requirement for every clergyman to agree with capital punishment.”

The Bishop was asked about the Church’s teaching on marriage, to which he replied: “It’s not that I don’t think it’s true, or the canons of England should not be followed, all I say is it’s a lousy definition, if it cannot tell you who is and who is not married.”

Going on, he said it would be better, “rather than shacking-up with his boyfriend”, for a priest to be allowed to choose to marry their same-sex partner “as a better reflection of God’s love”.

He also added that the church had a history of “evolving” its views on a range of issues.

“If nobody ever experimented with going ahead of the rules, the rules would never change and that’s the evolutionary process of the church,” he said.

The tribunal is being held at the Nottingham Justice Centre, and began on Monday.

It is expected to last all week.