The Big Social Issues &

An incarnational faith 

– one that lays great emphasis upon the facts of God’s full engagement with the world through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ – means that the issues of society are the concerns of God. For God matter matters – spirituality is not a running away from the world but a deeper way into it and through it into the beyond which lies so close to us in it. The life of Christ is sure indication to us of the justice and the mercy that is at the heart of God, and of God’s option for the poor, so that the whole created order may find redemption and fulfilment in its creator. The Church has sought to be alert to these issues and has engaged not only in pastoral work with those who are oppressed personally, mentally or physically, but also has addressed the causes of oppression through political and societal means. Many of the welfare services we take for granted in the UK were initiated by the Church of England which has retained its interest and critical involvement through the years.





I am convinced that the Church should be thoroughly inclusive of gay people and so wrote to the Church TImes in September 2012 the following letter:

Dear Editor,     Jeffrey John’s article challenges us all, especially us bishops, to “tell the truth about gays”, and offers a covenant theology of marriage which “does not depend on gender or childbirth.” I once sat in on a series of seminars offered at Harvard by a group of eminent Roman Catholic ethical and biblical scholars. Their scholarship convinced me that the few references to homosexuality in the bible are simply not applicable to the very different homosexual love that we meet today in our contemporary culture. The biblical text does, however, witness to the overwhelming inclusivity exhibited by Jesus. It was a loving inclusivity that Jesus’ immediate followers did not find easy to accept, and they were soon at loggerheads over whether the Church could include those who had not been circumcised and were therefore sexually and culturally ‘unclean’. The outcome of that debate rocked the early Church, but has since allowed such as me, a Gentile, to belong and play a full part, not by virtue of my own “gender or childbirth” but by virtue alone of the grace of God. That debate stands as a biblical “worked example” of why the Church should deal with these questions of exclusion by primary reference to God’s extravagant grace. Despite that, Cardinal O’Brien has told Scottish Catholics that marriage cannot be redefined to include gay couples. Social history however undoubtedly shows that “marriage” has been re-fashioned repeatedly. Moreover, Jesus’ statement that “the Sabbath is made for mankind, not mankind for the Sabbath” assures us that even God-given institutions can indeed change. So the crucial question becomes, “will this change to marriage impoverish or enhance it?” Perhaps it would be an enhancement, for example, if same-sex marriage reminded heterosexual couples that there should be more equality within our marriages. I have counselled many a failing marriage where one of the partners saw themselves as superior to the other by virtue of “gender or childbirth”. As a bishop, I must also be true to Church tradition. A theological statement, believed to date from before the formalisation of the Eucharist, is usually sung in Latin as, Ubi Caritas et Amor Deus ibi est – meaning, “Where there is Love, there is God.” So where we see love, this tradition says we should bless it. Our lawyers can, I’m sure, find ways around ‘establishment’ difficulties and allow the Church of England to fulfil the hopes and yearnings of many gay couples by affirming their love and offering them the supports that marriage provides. My initial reaction against gay marriage is being tempered by more careful reflection. Thus far I am finding the arguments ‘for’ increasingly convincing and those ‘against’, not sufficiently biblical. Yours Sincerely,


I believe that the House of Laity in the Synod has not listened to the will of Christian people in our Church who voted overwhelmingly in their local Dioceses that this legislation should be passed. I feel ashamed that we have this monstrous situation because some took it upon themselves not to listen to this clear mandate - and in my opinion have set back the Church's work for justice in the world. This puts a big question-mark against how we elect our General Synod. I, with so many who care about our Church - and even more passionately about Jesus' inclusive life for others - feel angry and upset.

I have to take comfort in words from John 11:35 -"Jesus wept."

Bishop Laurie at the Houses of Parliament speaking out on Credit Unions with Angela Smith MP (right). He also writes about the theology of debt amongst the poor in the UK in his book Blessed are the Poor? SCM

On the important issue of INTERNATIONAL DEBT read Bishop Laurie's booklet called

Jesus and the Jubilee, Bradwell Papers 4, 1997

Introducing 'Political Theology', January 2002

In the Kingdom of the Shopping Trolley, Church of England Newspaper

A sermon on aging, preached in Chelmsford Cathedral at the 50th Anniversary for Abbeyfield Homes

The Kingdom of God and the Year of Jubilee, January 1997

Jesus and the Jubilee, Bradwell Papers 4, 1997

Learning to care, 'The Winged Fellowship', article in East Window, April 1998

Growing old gracefully, article in East Window, July 1998

The Christian at Work, reflections on Bishops in Mission in the Thurrock Deanery, 22nd March 2000

Social Exclusion, a short paper introducing the term to Synod

Feeling Better, article in East Window after a prolonged illness, January 2003

Trust them or sue them?, article in East Window, Spring 2005

Love in Action!, article in East Window, June 2005

You'll be a man, my son?, article in East Window, July 2006

Happy in my Skin, Simon Bell Christian Education, article in East Window, 2006

Unity and Plurality from an Anglican Perspective, a seminar paper, Stockholm, Sweden, February 2007