Church of England bishop comes out swinging for same-sex marriage: ‘Time has come’

Bishop of Worcester Dr John Inge conducts a service

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, has urged the Church of England to change its anti-LGBTQ+ policy on same-sex marriage, which he believes cannot “be inherently sinful”.

In an open letter to his diocese, published on Monday (9 January), Dr Inge states “the time has come for the Church of England to celebrate and honour monogamous, faithful same-sex relationships”. 

Jayne Ozanne, director of the Ozanne Foundation – which works with religious organisations to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender – tells PinkNews she salutes the bishop for “speaking clearly” in support of same-sex unions.  

The C of E’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance means ministers of the church cannot carrying out or bless same-sex marriages.

Its website states, however: “Your local church is still there for you.” 

Dr Inge writes that he has observed “good, faithful, monogamous relationships between people of the same sex which I cannot believe to be inherently sinful.

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“I have been forced to ask myself the question, how is the Church’s teaching good news for gay people, created in God’s image? I feel bound to say, rather late in the day, that it is not. 

“I apologise to all those whom my silence has wounded in the past. My reticence was motivated by a commitment to the unity of the Church.”

The Church of England's Westminster Abbey, with a background in the colours of the trans Pride flag
The Church of England’s Westminster Abbey. (Getty)

In the letter, Dr Inge acknowledges his duty to uphold church doctrine, even while fighting for change. 

He wrote: “I would not marry a same-sex couple in church any more than I would have taken part in the ordination of a woman as a bishop before the Church of England allowed it. 

“I desire to live my life under the scriptures, and believe that it is possible to do so whilst holding to the understanding to which I have come about same-sex relationships.” 

Setting out a detailed argument, Dr Inge concludes: “Not to change our teaching would be a missional error of grave proportions,” but says those who hold a different view should have “an honoured place within the Church of England”.

Ozanne, who tells PinkNews she is “grateful for his heartfelt apology”, shared that she still has “grave concerns”, despite the open letter. 

“Why we are not calling out the severe harm and abuse that traditional teaching causes and why we are not prioritising safeguarding LGBT+ youth who are subjected to it,” she said. 

“Bishop John may want to ensure there is a place for those who hold these views, for my part I see this as continuing proof that the Church of England refuses to recognise the lives it is putting at risk.”

Jayne Ozanne poses for a portrait near Westminster Abbey
Jayne Ozanne campaigns against conversion therapy. (Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty)

The letter follows a statement that Dr Inge and the Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd Martin Gorick, released last year in response to the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft’s Together in Love and Faith: Personal reflections and next steps for the Church

The 50-page booklet, in support of same-sex marriage, apologises that the Church has been so slow “to reach better decisions and practice”.

It also states that his own views were “slow to change and that my actions, and lack of action, have caused genuine hurt, disagreement and pain”.

Majority of Anglicans back same-sex marriage

A YouGov poll, commissioned by the Ozanne Foundation, showed last year that 55 per cent of Anglicans in England believe that same-sex marriage is a right.

This was a sharp increase on previous years – when the same question was asked in 2013, only 38 per cent of Anglicans said the same.

The proportion of English Anglicans who believe same-sex marriage is “wrong” also dropped from 47 per cent in 2013 to 29 per cent last year.

PinkNews has contacted the C of E and Dr John Inge for additional comment. 

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