A bishop of the Church of England cannot really express his or her view on gay marriage. The secular media has little interest in asking about anything else. Result: bishops sound comically evasive, having to ignore repeated questions on the issue with Michael Howardish determination. This is what happened in the newly-appointed Bishop of London Sarah Mullally’s first grilling on the Today programme.
This is what she should have said: ‘I don’t know. Sorry, but I don’t know what line the Church should take on gay marriage, or the ordination of homosexuals. I reject the secular assumption that everyone ought to have a firm opinion on every issue. So I affirm the Church’s teaching on the issue. And I trust that the Church will make the right decision as to whether to change its teaching in due course.’
‘But do you want its teaching to change?’, she would then have been asked. ‘I don’t know. And even if I felt I did know, my opinion would be less important than the collective mind of the Church.’
My point is that clergy should avoid sounding like government ministers, concealing their opinions for pragmatic reasons. They should sound different, other, strange. And this might involve questioning the assumption that one’s little opinions are so important.