Bishop Compares Opposition To Marriage Equality To Church’s Support For Slavery

Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam

As the British government prepares to advance marriage equality, an Anglican bishop condemned religious leaders on Saturday who speak out against same-sex marriage, comparing their anti-gay rhetoric to the Church’s support of slavery as “God-given” in the 18th century.

“Experience might lead us to be cautious about the certainty with which moral positions are built with Biblical support,” Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, said. “Before Wilberforce, Christians in this country saw slavery as having Biblical support for what was the God-given in the ordering of creation”:

“In South Africa, Apartheid was seen in the same way by the Dutch Reformed Church. “Within the churches, Christians conscientiously disagree about the interpretation and significance of the six Biblical passages referring to homosexuality.” […]

“Most people now see the Church’s avoidance of equality legislation as immoral and it undermines us,” he told the conference, organised by the Cutting Edge Consortium, a coalition of national bodies campaigning for sexual equality in religious organisations.

The bishop added: “It is a disaster that we have allowed the Church to be seen as the opposition to equal marriage.” He argued that by opposing the measure the Church had prompted the Government to create a “very disturbing” distinction between “religious” and “civil” marriage. “Some Christians might like to say there are more important issues than gay marriage but we are not connecting with our society and for the churches this should be a mission priority,” he said.

Holtam made his comments just days after the Archbishop of Wales embraced marriage equality and called on the Church to welcome “all life-long committed relationships.”


A group of Anglicans have written a letter calling on the Church to embrace marriage equality. “We believe the Church has nothing to fear from… civil marriage for same-sex couples,” it says. “It will be for the churches to then decide how they respond pastorally.”

Share Update