The Bishop of Oxford has given insight into his reasons to support same-sex marriage and whether the decline in Christians in the UK could be linked to the church’s stance on gender and sexuality.
In a lengthy interview with The Telegraph, Rt Rev Steven Croft said the unresolved issue of same-sex marriage in the Church of England is “distracting” from the church’s everyday work in society and believes the issue is causing “a dislocation…between church practice and the practice in society” and “that can’t go on”.
He continued: “I wouldn’t say that the Church would be finished, but if the stalemate continues, it will hurt the relationship between the Church and society”.
Last month, Bishop Steven became the most senior bishop to publicly share his stance on same-sex marriage. Via a 52-page booklet, the 65-year-old said churches should have the freedom to offer public services of blessing for same-sex relationships and remove the legal barriers to the formalisation of same-sex marriage in the Church of England.
His booklet was criticised by conservative Evangelicals who argued his essay departed “from the clear teaching of the Bible in relation to sex and marriage" and accused Bishop of Steven of interpreting the Scripture in a way that fits changing circumstances in society.
For Bishop Steven “it is about giving priority to all those strands in scripture about giving affirmation to each person’s individual love by God, how all are equal in God’s sight. And, therefore, all the texts in scriptures that appear to prohibit relationships outside marriage fall into a clearer perspective”.
The father of four is advocating for a mechanism where those who object to same-sex marriage can remain part of the Church as he doesn’t believe the Church should be able to “de-church people in order to include others”.
However, he is adamant the church oughts to find a way forward. “If we were to wait until the vast majority in the Church of England made the same journey as I have in relation to same-sex relationships, we’d lose a lot more people than we have already lost. We have to learn to live with a diversity of views about same-sex relationships.”
When asked if he thought the treatment of the LGBT community by churches could be linked to the decrease in the number of people identifying as Christians he said it was “hard to asses”.
“It is part of the challenge of communicating the faith. We have a great deal to do in telling the Christian story to those who didn’t grow up with it.”