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.
First, 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.
An 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.
It’s worth noting a couple of things at this point.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.