Bishop opens conversation on gay marriage in Salisbury

After Bishop Nicholas Holtam of Salisbury said that he was in favor of gay marriage in Great Britain, he met with clergy in his diocese who disagreed with him. After the meeting, the Bishop posted this statement on the diocean web-site:

The Bishop of Sherborne, the Archdeacon of Dorset and I met with 10 clergy from Dorset who had contacted me following my remarks on same-sex relationships in an interview published in The Times on 3 February, and on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme on 5 February.

Bishop Graham and I disagree about the appropriateness of using the word ‘marriage’ for same-sex relationships. He expressed his concerns to me privately and in the meeting. We are, however, committed to working together creatively.

I welcomed the open and robust conversation, which covered the following areas:

· My thanks for their constructive response to what I had said

· The context of the wider interview from which the published remarks were drawn

· The state of the debate about same-sex relationships

· My intention to encourage an honest conversation

· Our understanding of what marriage constitutes and means

· The place of same-sex relationships and couples within the life of the Church and our pastoral care of them

· The nature of same-sex relationships

· The difference between contractual and covenantal relationships and their relationship to Civil Partnerships and marriage

· The appropriateness of using the language of marriage for same-sex relationships

· Our understanding of the authority of Scripture and Tradition, and their immutability

· The significance of scriptural references to homosexuality

· The Church’s relationship with the wider community and its culture

· The current discipline and practice of the Church of England

· My role as Bishop and leader in the Diocese

· Pluralism, the width of the Church and the Bishop’s relationship to it

· How we address contentious issues within the Diocese

· Our relationships with the Church in other parts of the world, especially Sudan

· Concerns for local Ecumenical relationships

· How we might go forward constructively when we are in such profound disagreement about the definition of marriage

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

I ended by welcoming future opportunities to continue the conversation.

+Nicholas Sarum

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