Bishop of Oxford breaks ranks and calls on Church of England to allow same-sex marriage

Bishop of Oxford apologises for church's history on LGBTQ+ issues, calls for Church of England to approve gay marriage

The Bishop of Oxford has become the highest-ranking member of the Church of England to call for an end to a ban on same-sex marriage.

In a powerful 52-page essay, the right reverend Dr Steven Croft apologised that his “own views were slow to change”, called for the church to allow for same-sex marriages, and said that clergy should also be allowed to enter into their own same-sex marriages.

The Church of England currently allows LGBTQ+ clergy members to be in relationships, but only if they remain celibate.

“I need to acknowledge, right at the beginning of this essay, the acute pain and distress of LGBTQ+ people in the life of the church,” Croft said in the piece.

“I am sorry that, corporately, we have been so slow as a church to reach better decisions and practice on these matters. I am sorry that my own views were slow to change and that my actions, and lack of action, have caused genuine hurt, disagreement and pain. I remain on a very steep learning curve.

“Listening to this pain and distress has been key in my own journey and to the changes in my own views.”
He added that any future debate on same-sex marriage within the church should be “founded on love and respect”.

“Love and respect for LGBTQ+ people and their families within and beyond the church, love and respect for those who take different views,” the bishop explained.

Croft added that if same-sex blessings and marriages were allowed in the Church of England, as the former has been allowed in the Church of Wales, clergy should be able to opt out of performing them.

“Keeping a ‘traditional view of marriage and human sexuality’ is a “legitimate and honourable position”, he said.

Responding to the Bishop of Oxford’s comments, conversion therapy survivor and queer Christian activist Jayne Ozanne wrote that she was “reduced to floods of uncontrollable tears”.

“At last a full heartfelt apology for the pain so many of us have gone through – the trauma runs very deep,” she wrote on Twitter.

She added in a full statement: “Bishop Steven must be applauded for setting out clearly what he believes and being one of the few serving diocesan bishops to risk the wrath of the conservatives by saying in public what so many whisper in private.

“I hope that this brave prophetic step will encourage others to be open about their own views, but I fear many will continue to sacrifice LGBT+ people on the altar of expediency.”

In a survey in March, it was found that a majority of Anglicans now back same-sex marriage, despite the CoE’s rulings.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation found that 55 per cent of Anglicans in England believe that same-sex marriage is a right, compared to only 38 per cent of Anglicans when the same question was asked in 2013.

The proportion on English Anglicans who believe same-sex marriage is “wrong” also changed dramatically in the nine years since the survey was last taken, from 47 per cent in 2013 to 29 per cent in 2022.

The outcome of a “Living in Love and Faith” consultation is due in early 2023, with the church announcing if any changes or updates will be made to the church’s rulings on sexuality, marriage, relationships and identity.