Unrest in Salisbury Goes All the Way to the Top?

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Salisbury Diocese in the Church of England has had a bit of a rough go of it lately. Everything was bubbling along nicely until the outspoken Vicar of St Martin in the Fields, Nicholas Holtam, got made diocesan bishop in 2011. It didn’t take long for Holtam to stick his oar into the quagmire of gay marriage and begin stirring around furiously.

As I reported on Stand Firm back in 2012,

Over in England the same game is being played. The freshly-minted bishop of Salisbury,Nicholas Holtam, has come out in favour of gay marriage, contrary to the current position of the Church of England. And that right on the eve of General Synod – I mean, who would have thought?

What made the whole thing particularly interesting was that his suffragen, Graham Kings, a prominent “moderate” evangelical had made very clear statements in the past about orthodox understandings of marriage. We documented the difficult position that now put Kings in.

In the run-up to the current debate in the House of Lords on “gay marriage”, Holtam has been at it again.

JUST as Christians had to rethink what the Bible teaches about slavery and apartheid, they may cease to view marriage as “essentially heterosexual”, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, suggests in a letter sent to every peer in the House of Lords.

Regular readers could probably write the rest of the letter themselves, there’s nothing new there. Nor is there anything new in Salisbury Diocese, it seems – they are back in a state of unrest over their outspoken and heterodox bishop.

And this time it looks like the unrest goes (almost) all the way to the top. Last year when Holtam spoke out, Kings was diplomatic in his response to our questions:

We are new colleagues but old friends. We are committed to working together creatively even when we disagree. The position of the House of Bishops and the Church of England remains unchanged.

I wrote,

I feel for Graham Kings. My sense is that Holtam has put him in an almost impossible position.

Well now it seems, faced with an even bigger problem with his diocesan’s letter, Kings has decided to do something about it. Yesterday he got active on twitter. First came this:

The link there is to a statement that Holtam put out last year when his first statement blew up in his face. There was lots of stuff about “open and robust conversation” etc. and then this at the end:

At the end of the meeting I reaffirmed my commitment to:

  • Supporting marriage as it is currently understood
  • Upholding the current discipline and practice of the Church of England
  • Supporting those clergy whose standpoint differs from my own

It’s hard to argue, now, that Holtam has any intention of upholding the first two (remind you of anyone?) and I would bet those clergy referenced in the third don’t feel very supported at the moment. One of those clergy, it appears, is the Bishop of Sherbourne himself.

Next tweet by the good bishop:

So now here for all to see is the piece in the Church Times which articulates his boss’s position. A position that undermines marriage as it is currently understood (since he is clearly pushing for marriage to no longer be “essentially” heterosexual) and takes a leg out from under the current discipline and practice of the Church of England.

Following those 2 tweets are a number of quotes from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s speech in the Lords.

Holtam signed off his 2012 press release with these words:

I ended by welcoming future opportunities to continue the conversation.

Well he’s got that opportunity for conversation now. It looks like his suffragen is gently but quite deliberately taking him on in public. I think we’ll be seeing more of this one.

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  1. Adrian Light

    Bishop Niicholas should resign following his abject failure to promote biblical teaching that gay marriage is clearly non-scriptural.
    Bishop Graham is to be commended for speaking against this attempt at re-writing holy scriptures.

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