People who believe in traditional marriage are equivalent to supporters of apartheid, according to a senior Anglican Bishop.
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, has suggested Christians need to “rethink” the Bible in light of a shift in social attitudes to homosexuality.
He accused supporters of traditional marriage of being like Christians who used the Bible to justify slavery and apartheid.
The controversial statement was written in a letter to Labour Peer, Lord Alli, who asked the Bishop to clarify his position ahead of a crucial vote on same-sex marriage in the House of Lords on Monday.
Bishop Holtam distanced himself from the Church of England’s official position on same-sex marriage, saying: “Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience”.
He added: “Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience. No one now supports either slavery or apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.”
In his letter, published in The Daily Telegraph, the Bishop claimed allowing same-sex marriage would be a “very strong endorsement” of the institution of marriage.
Last week MPs voted in favour of the legislation but it has now gone to the House of Lords where Peers will debate and vote on the proposals.
Earlier this week it was reported that Peers from all main political parties were expected to oppose same-sex marriage in the House of Lords on Monday, with a vote described as “too close to call”.
Crossbench Peer Lord Dear, a former HM Inspector of Constabulary, is leading the opposition to the Bill and said about half of Peers who are speaking during the second reading debate on Monday are against gay marriage.
Senior Tory Baroness Warsi, a practising Muslim, refused to steer the proposals through the House of Lords, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
And Lord Luce, who served as a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, said the issue has been handled in a “careless manner” with “little consultation” and “little thought”.
Lord Dear said: “This is ill-thought through legislation that is being rushed through”.