(Following is Mr Maitland’s speech as prepared. Because of a two-minute time limit on contributions, the paragraphs in italics, and some others, were not delivered.)
The motion to approve alterations to the canons to permit same-sex marriage has been supported by heart-rending appeals for including those who have felt excluded by the traditional teaching and practise of the church. In this age they are now asserting their right to be known for what they are and perhaps more important, what they feel themselves to be.
But I also have a sense of identity, as a sinner and as one under judgment, yet one also given new life and hope by and in Jesus Christ. As one who may – occasionally – think angry thoughts at being cut-up on the roads by aggressive drivers, I place myself under condemnation for even thinking “You fool – you total idiot.” And yet nobody here is proposing to set aside this part of the Sermon on the Mount for being too strict.
Equally, the same sermon warns us against even fantasising in the sexual realm. Again I find that I am under judgment in this area also but nobody is suggesting that this should also be moderated.
So if I cannot underwrite my own sins, and as you see the bar for total and complete godliness is extremely, even impossibly high, then I certainly cannot underwrite anybody else’s sins of whatever kind and in whatever degree of gravity. And that applies in all areas of human conduct and interaction: I do not have the authority to set aside the teachings of scripture or of the life and tradition of the church – and I do not know of anyone who does.
This does not mean that one person’s sins and issues of life are more worthy or more condemned than another’s. We all need each other’s support, and the New Testament does not set apart a special category of sexual sins. Sin, in all its forms, separates us from God and places us under judgment.
It is only the modern mind that seems to make sex special, and some sins are much more fashionable than others. At the moment it is sin implicit in same-sex relations that is being promoted. But that will change. But who is to say that there will not be pressure in the future for the law to change and so to provide for marriage between blood-relatives or to lower the age of consent, because some who are skilful campaigners are able to promote them? Will the church follow blindly then? To say that they are happy together does not itself justify such changes to our practice.
And yet we are being pressured to support same-sex marriage by a minority of openly gay churchfolk, who are a minority of those who are gay but wish to maintain privacy in their sexuality and their relationships. And these in turn are a minority of those who are gay but do not proclaim any kind of Christian adherence.
We are being asked to take steps to meet the appeals of a small minority of our members which could affect not only the unity of our own parishes but, far more seriously, will draw down levels of violence and persecution on our brethren in the church who live in lands where the destruction of the church is actively sought by wholly hostile regimes and religious systems.
These Christian brethren are already in jeopardy of their livelihoods, their freedom, their homes and their lives, never mind their freedom to worship the same Lord whose Eucharist we have just celebrated today. And all would be in even greater danger if this change were approved.
I must therefore appeal, for the sake of the love of the gospel, that you resist this amendment which may bring some a short-lived satisfaction but will cause great and long-term damage to the body of Christ as a whole. And to some, it will be fatal. This cannot be the way to acknowledge Christian love, fellowship and inclusiveness: and I ask you to reject this motion.