The departing Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, used his final address to reignite the gay marriage debate by arguing that just as there are a number of different views on controversial subjects in the Bible, there is a way to interpret committed gay relationships as being acceptable in the eyes of God.
Morgan, who spent nearly 14 years as head of the Church in Wales, making him the longest serving archbishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, according to BBC News, examined a number of controversial topics in the Bible, from mass murder to incest and slavery, and assessed that while some passages condemn such acts, others suggest they could have been acceptable in the proper context.
"There is therefore overwhelming biblical support for slavery. Yes, masters are exhorted to treat them fairly but as an institution it is regarded as being a good thing. Indeed, during the American Civil War, some Christians advanced arguments based on biblical texts for owning slaves," Morgan pointed out, after offering a number of biblical verses that he said could support slavery.
"Why then was slavery abolished given overwhelming scriptural support for it? Why — because if you read the Scriptures in their totality, they are opposed to oppression, domination and abuse. 'I have come' says the Jesus of Luke's Gospel 'to set free those who are in prison, to loose those who are bound, to deliver those who are oppressed.'"
Morgan argued that in-depth interpretation of the Bible shows that "one cannot argue that there is one accepted traditional way of interpreting Scripture that is true and Orthodox and all else is modern revisionism, culturally conditioned."
"Scripture itself is diverse and theological views held in some biblical books are reshaped in the light of experience by other writers," he added.
The departing archbishop said that when one takes what the Bible says in its condemnation of homosexuality, it is not referring to "committed, loving, faithful monogamous relationships with persons of the same sex," but is referencing "something totally different."
Morgan rejected the argument that same-sex marriage supporters "abandon the Bible," and instead argued that people are trying to honestly interpret the life and ministry of Jesus and his message of inclusion.
"Christians have discovered that most people flourish best when this living for others finds its focus in a commitment to one other person: when a couple make a lifelong commitment within which sex properly belongs," he concluded.
"Those of us who were or are married have found that to be the case. Why would we want to deny such a possibility for those who are attracted to their own gender?"
A global disagreement on attitudes toward same-sex marriage has threatened to split the Anglican Communion, though the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby have stood in support of traditional marriage, defined as a union between one man and one woman.
Leaders of the worldwide Anglican body announced back in January that they are temporarily suspending The Episcopal Church in America due to its support for gay marriage, with the Primates explaining their decision, saying, "The traditional doctrine of the Church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."
Traditional biblical marriage supporting leaders within the Church of Wales have also said that they disagree with Morgan's comparison of slavery and same-sex marriage.
Archdeacon of Cardigan William Strange said that Morgan's views in support of gay marriage were already known even before his final address.
"It would be good to be able to debate the points the Archbishop makes in this address. On slavery, for instance, it is not correct to say that the church accepted it for 19 centuries. Through Christian history, attitudes varied between acceptance and opposition," Strange said, according to Wales Online.
"So slavery is a poor parallel to teaching on same-sex relationships, because on the subject of same-sex relationships the Church has been entirely consistent until very recently indeed. I agree with what the archbishop says about treating the Bible as a whole, but it is precisely doing that which convinces me and most other Christians in the world that the Bible from start to finish tells a story in which sexual relationships are only rightly expressed between a man and a woman within marriage."
He added that "nothing Jesus said changed any of this."
Strange shared his hopes that Morgan's time in office will be remembered for more than his controversial views on same-sex marriage.
Other traditionalists who have written extensively on sexuality and the Church, such as the Rev. Peter Ould, predicted that Morgan's final address will not cause as big of a stir as some might be anticipating.
"These are the words of a retiring archbishop who has always been liberal on these issues but felt constrained by his office, so no real surprise," Ould told Breitbart London.
"The Bench of Bishops in The Church in Wales decided not to change their stance last year and in reality, there is very little prospect of any dramatic change in Wales in the near future," he said, referring to the prospects of changing the traditional definition of marriage.