Christian leaders row over Poet Laureate's 'God is gay' poem

The Queen at Buckingham Palace with Poet Laureate, Carol Ann DuffyReuters

A prominent Church of England bishop has compared a poem that states "God is gay" to the writings of St Paul.

Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson was immediately condemned by a leading conservative evangelical theologian who accused him of failing to understand the New Testament.

Bishop Wilson was talking about the latest poem from Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, an honorary position appointed by the Queen. The Laureate often sees it as part of their duties to pen significant verses around important national and international occasions. 

Duffy's latest poem marks the Orlando massacre in which 49 people were murdered in a gay nightclub in Florida and is titled: "After Orlando: Gay Love."

The last of the 19 lines reads: "The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker; our children, are gay. And God is gay."

Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson told Christian Today: "The last line is shocking. It is meant to be shocking. But shock is something we live with in Christian communities."

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy (2nd L)Reuters

He said he had recently preached on Galatians 3 where St Paul writes that it is not necessary to be circumcised. The spirit goes beyond the Pharisaic law, he said.

"I am sure there were Pharisees in Galatia who were very upset by what St Paul was saying because it went beyond what they knew of God."

It was a matter of re-interpreting the Old Testament.

"This is what is called 'queer theology'. It is not about being gay. It is about questioning and querying what we thought we could rely on in our religious traditions."

The Bishop of Buckingham Alan WilsonDiocese of Oxford

He said queer theology had been studied and taught in academic circles for 20 years.

"One of the sad things about the Church of England is we tend to operate in isolation from our own theologians. This is a shame. There are some great theologians out there and we take absolutely no notice of them. They are showing us how belief works for people today in an intelligent way. 

"If people are offended by what this poem says, they ought to Google 'queer theology' and do a bit of reading."

Theologian Ian Paul, a member of the Archbishops' Council, a University of Nottingham honourary professor and author of the Psephizo blog, told Christian Today: "The idea that Carol Ann Duffy's poem is similar to Paul's writings in the New Testament is an extraordinary and implausible claim. I think it shows how little Alan Wilson really understands the New Testament, and how unaware he is of his own assumptions.

"Queer theology is not just another way of interpreting the New Testament. Like a number of current approaches, it is an ideological approach to texts which assumes its own perspective has authority and controls the texts in question, and so displaces the ability of the New Testament to ask any questions of us.

"Alan's approach appears to be: the NT was shocking; this poem is shocking; therefore this poem is like the NT. I suspect most schoolchildren would be able to spot the flaw in this logic. But it again raises the question: is there nothing that a bishop can say before he or she is held accountable? It is tragic that Alan is doing so little to listen to the views of others, and is not afraid to cause offence to many in his own church."

The dispute comes at a sensitive time for the Church of England, which at General Synod in York next month will go behind closed doors to discuss the results of the recent "shared conversations" on sexuality.