On Monday 6 September, the Church in Wales voted to allow its clergy to bless same-sex ‘marriages’ and civil partnerships. This was not entirely unexpected given the decline of Christian doctrine and ethics within the Church in Wales in recent years.
The Evangelical Fellowship of the Church in Wales was opposed to the move. It said that it does not uphold the “standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman”. Some of the press reported that the bill was ‘experimental’, only applying ‘for the next five years’. This is rather telling, suggesting that the bishops and the governing body want to see how many clergy and laity will leave the Church in Wales. People leaving would mean loss of money for a start. It looks as if the Church in Wales is trying to test the waters and see how damaging this vote could be.
Denial of the authority of Christ on creation and marriage
Permitting the blessing of same-sex relationships, be they secular marriages or civil partnerships, flies in the face of the entire Bible’s witness to God as the Creator. The Bible is very clear that in the beginning God created human beings male and female (Genesis 1: 26-27).
The Bible is also very clear that Jesus Christ rooted his teaching on marriage on this truth. Christ’s words in the Gospels of Matthew make this clear:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” [Matthew 19: 4-5]
To deny the true nature of marriage is to deny that God created us male and female. It is not surprising therefore that back in May the bishops of the Church in Wales called for a ban on ‘conversion therapy’. In so doing they expressed their belief that God creates people transgendered.
False analogies and pseudo-intellectual excuses
The bishops were aware that a faithful minority in the Church in Wales see blessing same-sex ‘marriages’ as a denial of Christ. Andy John, Bishop of Bangor and the most senior bishop of the denomination, responded thus:
“But every development is to some degree a departure; something changes wherever there is a new expression of practice.”
How this comes across is that if in society a sin is committed so often that it becomes a widespread practice, then eventually beliefs about what that sin is opposing and whether that sin is a sin will start to change. In this case, because the state has legislated for same-sex ‘marriage’, secular ceremonies for this have been taking place. This means that same-sex relationships acknowledged under such ceremonies are treated as marriages. Some people who have entered into these partnerships are members of denominations, such as the Church in Wales. Anglican clergy, often being lukewarm if not frankly unbelieving as far as Genesis is concerned, have had very few barriers to accepting such practice as ‘marriage’.
The other problem is that in Anglicanism the tendency is to view doctrine as formed by liturgy and worship. This means that changes in liturgy and worship can be taken to signal changes in doctrine and ethics. This can be a covert way to push anti-Biblical teaching through denominations. Now many in the Church of England are looking to see whether it will follow where the Church in Wales has gone.
Inconsistency and ambiguity about religious freedom on sexuality
In Monday’s session the Welsh Anglican bishops stated that the vote entailed respect for dissenting clergy’s views. No clergy would be forced to bless the marriages or civil partnerships of same-sex couples. However in reality this clashes with their public statement made over the summer supporting a ban on ‘conversion therapy’ in Wales and the UK.
In March, before the bishops made their statement, the Welsh Government’s Independent LGBTQ+ Expert Panel defines ‘conversion therapy’ thus:
“Conversion therapy includes medical, psychiatric, psychological, religious, cultural or any other interventions which seek to erase, repress or change the sexual orientation and/or gender identity of a person.”
As true marriage is monogamous and involves resisting sexual temptation, then the question arises as to whether this definition undermines heterosexual marriages where one or both spouses experience unwanted same-sex attraction. The bishops did not give a definition of ‘conversion therapy’ in their May statement. They simply said that this:
“Anything which seeks to suggest that there is something inherently wrong or sinful in those who are non-heterosexual or which seeks to force people to try and change their sexuality is, we believe, wrong.”
The bishops have never challenged the Welsh Government’s definition. We must assume therefore that they agree with it. We must ask whether this means that they consider all pastoral care helping people diminish unwanted same-sex attraction is in reality somehow ‘forcing’ people.
Grotesque hypocrisy about international persecution of Christians
The entire 8 hours of the official livestream of Monday’s session is available on the YouTube channel of the Church in Wales. This proves extremely useful for discovering what was actually said. At 16:13 Bishop Andy John announced that there would be a collection at the meeting in support of Open Doors, the charity supporting persecuted Christians worldwide. He promised that at the afternoon Eucharist he would say a little about ‘the martyrdom of the Afghan underground church’.
This is grotesque and unbridled hypocrisy, given that the Church in Wales bishops have over the summer already declared their support for a ban on ‘LGBTQ+ conversion therapy’. Internationally the outcome of a ban has been an increase in harassment and persecution of Christians. For example in Malta in 2018 government ministers, including the Minister for Equality, publicly attacked Matthew Grech for sharing his testimony of leaving homosexuality along with sharing his belief that God has ordained marriage only between one man and one woman. The silence of ‘liberal Christians’ at the time was noteworthy.
Church in Wales bishops support Pride Cymru
Also on Monday, the Diocese of Llandaff in the Church in Wales uploaded a video explaining why the bishops support Pride Cymru. This is highly relevant to the link between Monday’s vote and the bishops’ support for a ‘conversion therapy’ ban. Last week I exposed how the former chair of Pride Cymru and several of its current directors are effectively running the Welsh Government’s LGBTQ+ Action Plan consultation.
Fr. John Connell, a member of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, appeared on a Pride Cymru ‘Faith Tent’ video about ‘conversion therapies’ at the end of August. Both he and the other speakers ended up admitting that they wanted a ban from government on certain ways of praying for people. This is an extraordinary admission because here are clergy demanding that government undermine Christian teaching and religious freedom. History shows that whenever this happens persecution of true Christians ensues, often aided by apostates.
Apostate bishops – wolves in sheep’s clothing
None of the bishops of the Church in Wales can be said to have shown faithfulness for Biblical orthodoxy on these matters. We have already seen the word-games played by Bishop Andy John, bishop of Bangor. The rest are no better. Cherry Vann, bishop of Monmouth, is in a civil partnership. She spoke at length on Monday. June Osborne, bishop of Llandaff, gave a blessing to the first pride march in Salisbury in 2016 when she was Dean of Salisbury Cathedral. Joanna Penberthy, bishop of St David’s, presided over the ‘Pride Eucharist’ at Pride Cymru in 2017. Gregory Cameron, bishop of St Asaph, launched the first LGBTQIA+ chaplaincy in the UK in 2016. Cameron had been Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion from 2004 to 2009, where he worked closely with Archbishop Rowan Williams. On Monday Cameron said that “the Church in Wales has done the right thing under God for the LGBTQIA+ community”.
The bishops’ track-record speaks for itself. These are wolves in sheep’s clothing who should not be running a denomination at all. The minority in the Church in Wales who are Biblically faithful are now having to consider where they stand and who will support them spiritually.