Unpersuasive and unorthodox – a response to Bishop Gregory Cameron’s words to the Welsh Governing Body

Sep 23, 2021 by

by Martin Davie:

I was away on holiday when the Governing Body of the Church in Wales narrowly voted on 6 September to permit the blessing of same-sex marriages. Nothing I write now will change that vote, but I still want to comment on the case for such blessings that was set out by Bishop Gregory Cameron when he opened the debate on the matter on behalf of the Welsh bench of bishops and exercised a right of reply at the end of the debate.[1] The reason I want to comment is because what Cameron said at the meeting of the Governing Body provides a classic example of the weakness of the case for blessing same-sex relationships, and thus shows both why the Welsh church should not have voted to permit such blessings, and why the Church of England should not follow the Welsh example.

I have known Bishop Cameron for many years and greatly respected him as a colleague when I worked with him on Faith and Order matters when I was on the staff at  Church House, Westminster and he was at the Anglican Communion Office. I therefore find it very sad to have to say that his remarks at the Governing Body were a very poor piece of theology indeed.  However, there are a number of reasons why this has to be said.

Beginning with his opening statement to the Governing Body, Cameron’s claim that the bill to permit the blessing of same-sex marriages is not a ‘a sell out to the secular spirit of the age’ goes against the historical evidence.

The historical evidence is clear that until the second half of the twentieth century there was unanimity across the Christian Church that, in the words of  C S Lewis, the Christian rule with regard to sex was ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’[2] Furthermore, there was also complete unanimity that marriage was between one man and one woman. From the second half of the twentieth century onwards, however, there has been an increasing acceptance across the Christian Church (particularly in churches within the Protestant tradition) both that sex should not be restricted to marriage and, most recently, that marriage should not be restricted to couples of the opposite sex.

If we ask why this change has taken place, the answer is that during the course of the twentieth century Western Society has become increasingly dominated by two key ideas, that people should be free to live in whatever way seems good to them, and that human beings need to engage in sexual activity in order to find happiness and fulfilment.  The confluence of these two ideas, both of which were developed in deliberate rejection of traditional Christian teaching, has inevitably meant that Western society has embraced the further ideas that people should be able to have sex in whatever form they want, providing that it is consensual, and that therefore same-sex sexual activity should also accepted as legitimate.[3]

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