Rev Julian Mann: The Salisbury dean was wrong to bless a gay pride festival

The decision by the Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, the Very Revd June Osborne, to bless the city’s gay pride parade this summer highlights the crisis of spiritual accountability in the Church of England.

Accountability is crucial in authentic Christian ministry. Public Christian ministers must be held to account if they speak or act against the received biblical teaching of the Church or if they demonstrate a pattern of failure to uphold biblical teaching in teaching and in practice. If accountability does not happen, church members are pastorally damaged and the cause of Christian truth is adversely affected in the wider community.

An accountability vacuum is in fact profoundly unloving to people both inside and outside the visible Church.

In an episcopal denomination such as the Church of England, the Bishop of a diocese has the responsibility under God to hold public ministers to account for their life and teaching.

Two things in relation to the Church of England’s public teaching are noteworthy about Dean Osborne’s action at Salisbury gay pride.

Firstly, she pointedly did not pray for the parade in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is of course a relief on one level. At least, the precious name of our Lord Jesus was not dragged into this ungodly gesture. But Dean Osborne’s decision to omit Jesus effectively avoided a specifically Christian note in front of a crowd of politically correct activists. A prayer to God in general projected a more multi-faith, populist appeal.

But for an Anglican minister not to mention the Lord Jesus falls far below the spiritual level of the Church of England’s gold standard public liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer. The BCP is careful to frame its public prayers and collects through Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

And such an omission also falls below the doctrinal standard of the Church of England’s 39 Articles of Religion, which teach clearly that salvation is to be found exclusively in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Secondly, Dean Osborne’s attempt to invoke God’s approval on a parade celebrating sexually active relationships outside heterosexual marriage runs contrary to the biblical moral standards of the Church of England. For example, the Book of Common Prayer, faithfully reflecting the teaching of the Bible, unequivocally describes sex outside man-woman marriage as sinful.

The Dean of Salisbury should therefore be held to account for her action at gay pride. The fact that no criticism of her conduct has emerged from the Bishop of Salisbury is reflective of a disturbing accountability vacuum in the Church of England, which is deeply damaging to the spiritual and moral integrity of its public ministry.

Episcopal responses to bad ministerial behaviour, however necessary, will not of course properly address the problems in the national Church. A deep work of divine grace is needed for that.  The Church of England will only recover its lost spiritual authority if its ministers become full of the Holy Spirit like Barnabas, as described in Acts 11: ‘He was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord’ (v24 - Authorised Version).

(Image: eGuide Travel)

Julian Mann

  • Mez

    I think it was Jesus who said, “let he who is without sin caste the first stone”. There’s no indication I can find that Jesus had anything specifically to say about homosexuality, (one up for Jesus since experts have discovered why they are born different); what you appear to be relying on is the unloving God of the old Testament, which seems to be more of an issue for Jews than Christians. Bisexuality appears to be the biblical sin, because that’s a choice made by individuals. Isn’t the New Testament itself about replacing the law of Moses which corrected every aspect of Jewish life along with its punishments?

    • Little Black Censored

      “let he who is without sin…”
      I am sure Jesus was more grammatical than that.

      • Andy

        ‘and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’.
        Jesus was lucky to have William Tyndale working for him.

    • Tricia

      Jesus had no need to speak of homosexuality as he was a Rabbi and his hearers were perfectly well aware of the teachings in Jewish Scripture. To the woman caught in adultery who was about to be stoned (where he said “let him who has no sin cast the first stone) he said “Go and sin no more”. Adultery is a sexual sin as is homosexuality. His instruction was “to go and sin no more”. It was an opportunity which is available to us all to turn our lives around and begin afresh – it was not an open ticket to carry on with her lifestyle. He did not replace the law of Moses – he said “I am come to fulfil all the law and the prophets”. The food laws were removed – the sexual laws were not. The Christian Faith was born into a Greek and Roman world full of sexual deviancy – the teaching of the early church was “once you were like this, now you are a new creation in Christ”.

    • Phil R

      Jesus said nothing about throwing babies into the sacrifical fire of Molech and burning them alive. (Condemned in the OT)

      Are you implying that Jesus was OK with this because it was not recorded that he condemned the practice?

      Jesus I assume only taught about what needed to change,

      Homosexuality was not one of these so nothing needed to be said.

  • Terry

    Blessing involves speaking over people on God’s behalf words which will have positive consequences in the lives of the recipients. There is no way a gay pride festival can qualify for blessings from God so it is just a charade, supposedly giving the church’s public approval. Cursing, now that’s a different matter!

  • NogbadTheBad

    I’ve wondered about her theology ever since she had a hit with “One of Us”

  • Coniston

    Parts of the Church of England (and also many other churches) are becoming secularized. They are being hollowed out, retaining only a thin veneer of Christianity. Already Evangelicals in the CofE are making plans for a separate, orthodox Anglican Church, as are some Anglo-Catholics. A secularized ‘church’, which conforms to the world, is not a Christian body.

    • John Thomas

      ” …becoming secularized …” – This is what I refer to as “the Church Compliant – IN the world and truly OF the world, seeking to convert the Church to this-worldly ways, and values”, ie. the opposite of the Church Militant, which it used to be.

    • Bonce

      This pretty much sums it up.
      The CoE has completely lost its way is now a laughing stock, not just among many of its members (many of who are thinking of leaving) but also among the general population at large who know they are selling out to try to be popular.