An Invitation to the Feast: A positive biblical approach to equal marriage

by Simon Taylor

This excellent article by Simon Taylor, Canon Chancellor of Derby Cathedral, is taken from Modern Believing, the journal of Modern Church.  Many of us are looking for strong arguments based firmly on Scripture and this is one of the best in an increasing field of research, study and argument.  Highly recommended.

The article may be downloaded as a PDF document from our Resources section. Do read it in full and send it out to those you know who are looking for such works. As a taster, here is the abstract or summary followed by the introductory paragraphs.


This positive biblical argument for same-sex marriage begins by noticing that it is unlikely Christianity should be interested in marriage at all. That interest comes from the eschatological account in Isaiah and Revelation of the relationship of God and creation as one of marriage. This eschatological approach enables a deeper reading of the household code in Ephesians and its account of marriage.

The paper then turns to an account of Gentile inclusion as a model of how the Church might accept gay and lesbian people. It challenges Andrew Goddard’s use of Acts 15 to reinforce the prohibition of same-sex relationships, by drawing attention to the way in which the Council of Jerusalem uses scripture.

The paper challenges the way in which the enforced celibacy imposed on gay clergy undermines the liberating origins of Christian celibacy. It argues that Genesis 2 is badly misused to support compulsory heterosexuality.

The paper then identifies a number of gifts that same-sex marriage brings to straight marriage, not least an undermining of patriarchal structures.

Finally, the paper turns to the First Letter of John and warns that, in failing to recognise love in same-sex relationships, the Church is in danger of failing to recognise God.

Some of the origins of this paper come from the disconcerting experience of finding myself in agreement with Bishop Keith Sinclair’s Dissenting Statement to the Pilling Report, at least in so far as he suggests that there is a ‘need for, and lack of, a biblical vision’ and that ‘the report does not give an adequate account of biblical teaching’. I am not convinced, however, that Bishop Sinclair’s own paper on biblical teaching rectifies the problem.

Two words about what this paper is not. First, it is not an attempt to offer a new and refined method of reading the Bible, which will cause scales to fall from blinded eyes and hearts burn within previously frosty chests, and enlighten readers as to how the Bible should have been read all along. This is ordinary biblical theology, not a blinding flash of hermeneutical science!

Second, this is not a re-heated account of the seven texts in the Bible that refer to homosexual activity (Genesis 19.1–29; Judges 19.22–29; Leviticus 18.22; 20.13; Romans 1.26–27; I Cor. 6.9; 1 Timothy 1.10), which James Alison has called the ‘clobber texts’. There are many commentaries on these texts. Too many arguments in favour of equal marriage are content to dismiss the clobber texts, or to say that ‘Jesus never talked about it’ or that the Bible has been used in the past to support slavery and misogyny and leave it at that. The failure to develop a real positive biblical argument has ceded the Bible to those who oppose equal marriage, it brings the Bible into disrepute and it misses the riches that the Bible has to offer in this debate.

Now read on …