Bishop sides with Pride against orthodox clergy

Feb 21, 2022 by

By Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream:

In the middle of the street in the centre of Oxford, a small cross made of cobblestones marks the spot where Anglican leaders were tortured and killed for following their conscience and refusing to submit to laws which conflicted with their biblically-informed faith. As Bishops Latimer and Ridley, and Archbishop Cranmer burned, fellow clergy and former colleagues watched and approved, as Saul did at the stoning of Stephen.

The love of acceptance by the establishment, the need for power, the fear of being on the ‘losing’ side, have caused Christians in every age to keep quiet or even approve while their brothers and sisters suffer for Christ. In many cases, they have convinced themselves that conforming and adapting their own faith to the demands of the ruling ideology, and attempting to eradicate authentic Christianity, is a good thing, perhaps for the stability of the nation, or for the sake of “justice” according to the new definition of the governing elites.

I’ve been reflecting on this as a historical scene-setter to the intervention by Gavin Collins, Bishop of Dorchester, Suffragan of Oxford Diocese, in response to the naming on social media by Oxford Pride of those Oxford clergy and laity who signed the ‘Ministers’ Consultation Letter’ calling on the government to re-think plans to introduce a ban on ‘conversion therapy’. The key documents are here:

Minister’s Consultation Letter opposing ‘conversion therapy’ ban

BBC report: Oxford Pride condemns conversion therapy open letter

Statement by Bishop Gavin Collins on the Diocese of Oxford website


In his statement, the Bishop makes several remarks which are incomprehensible without detailed knowledge of the background. They operate as slogans or tropes, signalling which side he is on rather than bringing wisdom and clarity. He does not address the actual concerns expressed in the letter which has been signed by some of his own clergy, for example that the government’s reasoning for the ban conflates already-illegal coercive and violent attempts to suppress homosexuality with looser definitions which end up including freely chosen counselling and prayer, and any perceived criticism of LGBT ideology or promotion of heteronormativity. He does not explain why a letter expressing concerns about retentions of basic freedoms should cause “people” (presumably, LGBT people?) to feel “upset” and not “safe or welcome in our churches”.

The Bishop goes on to say that the motive of the authors of the letter is to “diminish people” with certain identities and lifestyles. Since the purpose of the letter is to point out the need to retain freedom to practice Christian teaching and pastoral care relating to sexuality, and the Church of England officially agrees with that teaching, does this mean that Gavin Collins believes the doctrines and canons of the church of which he is a bishop inherently diminish people?

He ends with what could be seen as a summary of his ‘gospel’ message in three points: all are made in God’s image, all are welcome in church, everyone has a place at the table. What does he mean? Is he only saying, for example, that a Muslim or atheist should be warmly welcomed in a church service? Or is he going further – that they should receive the sacraments without discrimination? That they are members of God’s kingdom by virtue of their common humanity? The Bishop clearly has in mind all three interpretations. Again, some background is needed here: the Bishop is being consistent with the move towards “radical inclusion” outlined in the letter by Diocesan Bishops to clergy in October 2018:

Text of 2018 Ad Clerum: “Clothe yourselves in Love”

Anglican Mainstream commentary: “This interpretation of the full inclusion of LGBTI+ people in the church, then, is not simply about love of neighbour, and welcoming those who are different. It involves a radical change in Christian anthropology and sexual ethics.”

Oxford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship’s letter protesting against the Ad Clerum


The timing of the Bishop’s intervention is also significant, coming immediately after Oxford Pride published the names of clergy and laity from Oxford churches who had signed the letter, one of which was myself. Gavin Collins is signalling that he, and the Church of England leadership whose Synod voted for a ban on conversion therapy in 2017, are on the side of Pride against their fellow Anglicans. He no doubt sincerely believes that in doing so he is on the side of the oppressed against the powerful, but in reality it is the opposite, as he is aligning with the might of government, the media and the corporate world against those who dare to say that sexual desire does not define identity, and that God calls us all to repentance and conformity to his standards .

Collins is joining other bishops (eg the Bishop of Manchester) in saying he would support the future criminalisation of his own clergy if convicted of ‘conversion therapy’, perhaps if they teach the biblical view of marriage, or by counselling someone who wants to manage same sex desires in a faith-directed way, or leave LGBT identity and lifestyle. We are in a different era – they don’t burn people at the stake nowadays – but there is a parallel between the craven senior clergy who watched approvingly at the demise of the Oxford martyrs, and Bishops today who support laws banning their own clergy from fulfilling aspects of their ordination vows.

At the heart of the ‘Minister’s Consultation Letter’ to which Gavin Collins objects, is the assumption that people should be free to choose what to think and how to act, within the confines of the law, but that the law should not infringe on what happens in people’s souls. This idea began to develop partly in response to the horror of the persecutions of Mary commemorated in Oxford’s Broad Street, and eventually became enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief…(Article 18)

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression…(Article 19).

The proposed ban on conversion therapy contradicts these noble principles. In attempting to prevent people from, if they wish, deciding not to be gay or trans, and to be helped in this journey, it is a ban on making choices about what to think and how to live in their personal space. This is a return to Britain of the 1550’s, and more recent examples in other places.


Faithful Anglicans will need to weigh up how to respond to this. Here is part of my personal story. Until March 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown, I was a licensed clergyman with permission to officiate in Oxford Diocese. I have for many years observed and chronicled on this website, the drift away from biblical Christianity and towards revisionism and institutional wokeness by the Oxford Bishops and the Church of England as a whole, of which the intervention by Bishop Collins is the latest example. Eventually I no longer felt able to offer an oath of canonical obedience, putting myself under the spiritual oversight of these men and women. I have been in a privileged position of not being dependent on the C of E for my stipend and housing, and I fully recognise that this decision is not as easy for others, who also feel they have a flock to care for regardless of the views of the bishops over them.

I continued worshipping in a Church of England church, offering service where I could (I was banned from preaching by the Diocese in February 2021!) During this time I played a role in helping to establish the Anglican Network in Europe, working with Bishop Andy Lines under the oversight of the Gafcon Primates. Late in 2021 with a team which includes two other clergy who have left the Church of England, we established a small house fellowship in the Oxford area. We gather round the word, worship and share the sacraments in the Anglican way, hoping for freedom from interference from state-sponsored secular ideologies and their episcopal local enforcers, looking rather to global orthodox Anglicanism for our inspiration and human leadership, and ultimately to the King of Kings who knew what it was like to face the wrath of the alliance of worldly and corrupt religious institution.  This alternative way of being Anglican in Britain is now a serious option.


See also: The Bishop of Dorchester’s statement on ‘Minister’s Consultation Response’ on conversion therapy, by Martin Davie

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