This morning not one but two prominent evangelical ministers in the Diocese of Oxford appeared on BBC radio to call for the resignation of Bishop Alan Wilson.

vaughan-robertsFirst, Vaughan Roberts of St Ebbes Oxford, one of the largest churches in the diocese, appeared on BBC Radio Oxford. You can hear a brief grab from him here on the Charles Nove Show (available for 30 days from the time of broadcast) at 1:10 into the programme followed by Alan Wilson. Roberts says,

In any line of work if you as a leader of that organisation find yourself in a fundamental disagreement with that organisation and then you publicly speak against it, the only sensible option is to resign. He must be in a very difficult position and if he finds that he doesn’t now support this view on a fundamental issue (of marriage) by the organisation he is called to serve and to lead – obviously he should resign.

geeAn hour later Will Pearson-Gee, the Rector of Buckingham Parish Church appeared on the BBC Radio Berks Sunday morning show. The full audio of his interview and a response from Wilson is below.

Play

It’s worth noting a couple of things at this point.

  1. Both Roberts and Pearson-Gee make it clear that there is a wider issue here of Wilson’s constant speaking against the position of the Church of England; a position that has been held for a long, long time.
  2. Wilson prefers to talk about the technicality of the canon in question (B30), referring to marriage and divorce while deliberately avoiding the actual reason for the call to resign; that he teaches against the church’s doctrine of marriage.
  3. Wilson, in both interviews, describes the canon as a reaction to questions surrounding divorce in the 1930s (including the Abdication question) and seeks to give the clear impression that prior to this the church had not stressed these matters. The reality, of course, is that the church’s position on marriage as exclusively heterosexual is longstanding, grounded (as the canon itself states) in “teaching of our Lord affirmed by the Church of England is expressed and maintained in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony contained in The Book of Common Prayer“. Complicated questions over divorce (and even a loosening of divorce rules)  in no way undermine the basic principle of heterosexuality.
  4. When Wilson says he “doesn’t want the canon to change” it’s a little hard to believe. The canon amongst other things set out an orthodox position on marriage. Wilson has already campaigned publicly for the church to recognise “gay marriage”. Any such change would quite obviously require, amongst other things, a change in the canon.
  5. Wilson repeatedly seeks to portray the evangelical position of Pearson-Gee and Roberts as fringe and reactionary, rather than recognising that it is the majority historical and global position of the church.
  6. Wilson clearly charges Pearson-Gee of acting in a dishonourable way and particularly with refusing to meet with him and “not turning up” to a meeting, and then repeats the claim when asked for clarification. My understanding is that this is simply not true. Perhaps we’ll get some further clarity on that in the coming days. They are serious charges to make.

Pray for the clergy of the diocese of Oxford and for Bishop Wilson as he considers his position. I am told that he may very well get his bluff called, and it could end up being very expensive for the diocese. The evangelical churches now uniting to ask him to step down represent some of the major contributors to the diocesan budget.

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15 comments on “Prominent Oxford Diocese Evangelicals call for the resignation of Bishop Alan Wilson

  1. There’s history here. Back in 2003, when Canon Jeffrey John, openly homosexual and partnered, was nominated Bishop of Reading, also in Oxford diocese, the big-money spenders of the diocese conspired to derail that appointment. Oxford diocese undoubtedly relies on some key evangelical churches to pay its way, so expect Alan Wilson to have a hard time.

  2. God is the Bishop’s employer: that is why normal employment law doesn’t apply to the C of E. The argument made by Vaughn Roberts above is corporate rah-rah thinking. God speaks to us in many ways, and to each of us as individuals. Those of us (I write as a heterosexual, married, Christian, born-female human being) who don’t accept binary biological sex as a controlling norm, who believe that God made gay people too, and who don’t think we have the right to impose permanent celibacy on others, disagree a great deal with this organisational argument. It is tosh.

    These two men are not speaking for me or for many other members in good standing of the C of E. I would like them both to look more appreciatively at the good ways in which gay Christians bless their communities and their relationships, instead of concentrating on the trivia of which genitalia fit which cultural norms. I don’t think God can be boxed in – you should excuse the expression – by our obsession with slot A and tab B. God, the Spirit, is bigger than that.

    Maybe instead of chasing Bishop Alan we should remember the million children now in poverty in the UK, the absence of acute care mental health provision and beds, especially for teenagers, the millions who rely on government top-ups because their employers don’t pay a living wage, and the continuing subsidies to banks at the expense of children, nurses, teachers, firefighters, the police, and the disabled? Maybe you’ll win my teenaged son back into the church: he thinks all evangelicals are hypocrites and stranger than strange for their constant harping on about sex and organisational purity…

    • Thank you, Katherine, for your reply. I couldn’t have put anything like so well. For two of my children, this is a deal breaker on their continued involvemeny with church.

      They have been told countless times that God is the creator. To hear Christians says that homosexuals are an abhorrence and not of God, confuses them. It makes no sense to them. And to hear judgmental comments against homosexuals goes against the teaching that we are not to judge.

      My own view is that yes, God created homosexuality too. It is not an illness or a disease o be treated. It is not a problem to be solved.

    • As a mother and grandmother I would say to you that your children and mine, and it would seem to be that you also have been deceived by the zeitgeist of our time. Homosexuality is a very dangerous lifestyle and not one that God intended for His children. This is made clear from Genesis through into the NT. Jesus himself describes marriage in Matthew 19 as the union between one man and one woman becoming one flesh and this forms the basis of family. The terrible legacy of the sexual revolution upon our children is STD’s. Chlamydia is rampant and causes infertility. Gonorrhea is becoming resistant to treatment. And anal sex which is now becoming a heterosexual as well as homosexual issue is catastrophic – please read Christian Medical Assoc info. Children are now becoming commodities and an expected accoutrement to gay marriage. Thus making a child with only half a genealogical identity. Surrogacy exploits poor women and uses them as baby farms and makes a child motherless permanently as there is no identifiable mother. Birth certificates are being made meaningless by using parent 1 and parent 2 instead of mother and father. Who is the compassionate Christian, the one who accepts and blesses or the one who speaks the truth in love. Have these conversations with your children and grandchildren. I have.

      • Tricia, I appreciate your worries, but, in fact, sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and chlamydia were worse when homosexuality was illegal, and heterosexual people didn’t use condoms and/or antibiotics. Anal sex has been used by heterosexual couples as a form of birth control for centuries. Your historical perspective on medicine is lacking in information.

        I have concerns about surrogacy, too, but the *vast* majority of surrogacies are entered into by heterosexual couples, not by gay men.

        When I look at the facts about child abuse and child endangerment – which are parts of the interpersonal violence I have to know about for my work – the reality is that children are more likely to be harmed in heterosexual families, by their parent, or by a close family member. You may have heard about the Duggars, in the USA? A “nice, Christian family” whose son =, fromn the age of 14, molested his own sisters when they were small? The family covered up for him. You may have heard of the recent judgement against the Jehovah’s Witnesses who, as an organisation, failed to protect a girl from repeated rape although they knew about it. You wil know of numerous vicars and priests who have been indicted and tried and found guilty of child abuse – and these people were not all gay, not by any means.

        No, Tricia, the worries you have aren’t related to treating our gay brothers and sisters with equality and respect and compassion, and the problems aren’t the ‘fault of the gays’. They’re not the wrong worries, but you ascribe the wrong causes.

        • If you look at the figures in Canada where same sex marriage was legalised 10 years ago and the degrading nudity and safe masochism on show in the Gay Pride marches you can see the future. Canada has the most draconian measures in place to not allow dissent from the gay agenda. Parents are rebelling against the horrific sex education of their children. The spike in sexually transmitted diseases has been enormous. There are now grown up children from same sex households speaking up and petitioning the Supreme Court in America to Not allow same sex marriage. Speaking of the trauma of the loss of the other parent. No matter how bad your parent is – they are your parent. You may need to be cared for by others because of circumstance but as in the case of adoption you should always be able to trace your heritage and you should have a birth certificate that is factual. Civil Partnership gave all the legal entitlements of marriage to same sex couples without affecting the natural family. And surrogacy should be illegal whether heterosexual or homosexual.
          When you look at statistics you find that the safest and best place where a child flourishes is in a family with their father and mother, using individual cases of bad parenting does not make for a good case.

          • Tricia, again, no. Children born into same-sex families, who never experienced ‘the trauma of the loss of the other parent’ are not the same as children of same sex marriages which were always same-sex. I’d like to see some citations, by the way, and please don’t include Regnerus, which is totally discredited. Spain, which has had equal marriage for some years now, has not seen the sky fall in, nor has Canada, actually.

            Gay Pride parades have always had outrageousness – just like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, for *decades*, or the huge heterosexual parades in Brasil, again, for decades, long before the legalisation of equal marriage.

            And as for “looking at statistics”: I do. I’m paid for it, not by activists of any kind; it’s just what I have to understand for my work. And the statistics show that violence against children is *not related to committed same-sex partnerships*. Read pages 9-13 of this report, please (http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publications/Unicef_ChildreninDanger_ViolencereportW.pdf) : yes, your concerns for children and violence are real, but again, the issues are *nothing to do with same-sex marriage*.

            • Katherine, it’s simply not true that “Regnerus is totally discredited”.
              The major criticism of Regnerus was that he had a very general category of “homosexual parent” which was so broad that it included the distinctive categories that you note above. But apart from that it’s a solid piece of work. The supervising University in Texas dismissed the criticisms of his methodology.
              Regnerus has also written a fairly comprehensive response to his critics which can be read here: http://www.markregnerus.com/uploads/4/0/6/5/4065759/regnerus_response_to_critics_in_nov_2012_ssr.pdf
              The data is also publicly available.

              The NFSS research remains one of the most comprehensive pieces of research in this area. it might not back up some of the more extreme claims by conservatives, but it’s certainly not a discredited piece of work by any means.

    • I realise the conversation has moved on, but I wanted to pick up on some of Katherine’s initial comments.

      First, Vaughan Roberts’ comment about organisations and resignation is indeed insignificant in light of the fact that the bishop is meant to be employed by God. In fact, this makes it all the more important that Alan Wilson resign. He hasn’t just set himself against the principles of some organisation; he has rejected the words of the God whose church Wilson is supposed to care for.

      Second, about the “constant harping on about sex”: these issues are primarily forced upon the church from outside. The church is speaking up about sex because the world is pushing the church relentlessly to change – to accept the tenets of the Sexual Revolution rather than God’s patterns for sex and family. If church leaders said nothing or very little, they would be guilty of neglecting their charge (to care for the flock by building it up in sound doctrine) and of lacking love for the world.

      But really, it all comes down to whether or not we will obey God’s will as revealed in Scripture. That’s the common denominator for all these controversies. The idea that “God is bigger than that” ignores the fact that God stooped down to our level, as to a little child, to communicate to us – through human language, and then through an actual human. He is infinitely big, but he was gracious enough to speak to us. And since he has spoken, we can trust and obey.

  3. Katherine. You misunderstood my point about trauma. This is not a comment that same sex couples abuse children. It is a factual statement from COGS the children of gay households who have been before the Suprene Court in America. The book involved is called jephtahs daughter by prof Robert Lopez and Rivka Edelman with many stories from COGS. They have suffered much abuse from the powerful LGBT lobby but have managed to get their voices heard. A comment from one young man is particularly poignant as the son of a gay father – he says that to enable his father to feel complete he had to be half a person. The fact is that a same sex family is not a complete family. When divorce and family breakdown occurs the family is split but identity is not lost.

  4. Katherine,

    I wish I could believe that God was the Bishop’s employer, but it’s very difficult to do that. Somebody, and it wasn’t God, appointed him via the fuzzy opaque system we have in the C of E. No-one knows how these things happen, but when an appointed Bishop starts describing the doctrine of his own church, the doctrine he swore to uphold and be loyal to, as ‘lousy’, clearly something has gone wrong with the appointment system.
    Something else Bishop Alan swore to uphold (and he will have done it several times in his life) is the Authority of Scripture – something I have noted is very lacking in this discussion so far. The authority of sociologists, politicians and even family anecdotes appears to have taken precedence over Scripture.If you want a balanced view of doctrine in this area, then read the first chapter of Romans, all of it and not just the juicy bits.
    Alternatively, if you’re really not interested in what the Bible has to say, then you’ve just demolished the whole foundation and reason for the church’s existence. If we’re not going to take scriptural authority seriously, we believe what we like, our Bishops believe what they like, and none of us has any idea of what the church believes any more. Sadly, this appears to be the case in most of the western world and, not surprisingly, the church is becoming a more and more irrelevant institution. No wonder GAFCON looks like a breath of fresh air.

    • Good – it’s time to stand up and be counted. This man is a wolf not a shepherd and needs to be removed from his post. The BBC continually wheel him out to put forward his heretical views. I would also ask the question – who considered him to be an appropriate candidate for a Bishop? They ought to go too!

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