Monday 5 March 2012

Cardinal may have a point about slavery and equal marriage

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme Cardinal O'Brien when asked wan't equating equal marriage with slavery a bit too far said:

"it is a very, very, very good example as the what might happen in our own country at this time"

So let us look at what happened in the lead up to the abolition of slavery. As you may know the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 brought and end to Slavery in the UK. What you may not be aware of is that they could have been a abolition some 26 years earlier when there was the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807, however the Lords were rebellious including some of those who were Lord's Spiritual who spoke against the end of slavery. Some of those Bishops are recorded as saying slavery was indeed biblical and had provisions laid out and nothing in the Bible calling for its end.

The abolitionists started out with the non-conformist Christian people like William Wilberforce, a Quaker, like nine of the original committee of twelve for the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Mehtodists like John Wesley joined their cause, along with Baptists and other denominations who joined behind the call to end slavery.

The established Church dragged its heels on this issue and indeed even spoke out against the changes. Does that sound rather familiar to the cause that Cardinal O'Brien wishes to draw our attention to now? The Church of England much later in 2009 apologised for its implication in the slave trade. This was both through its ownership of slaves as part of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and through Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter who received compensation for the 665 slaves he owned in 1834. That compensation equates to almost £1million pounds worth in today's money for the Bishop and around £500,000 for the Church itself.

So if the Cardinal's analogy truly is a reflection of where our society is heading where are the Quakers who were at the forefront of ending slavery on equal marriage?

The answer is simple, they are at the forefront of wanting to offer equal marriage, not merely civil marriage but the same religious celebration they offer to any Quaker.

So before we get to harsh on condemning the Cardinal for linking the case of slavery with equal marriage. Let us consider whose stance we in the UK followed on slavery. Maybe what might happen in this country at this time is once again to follow the path of those who worship by waiting on God, rather than hearing the sounds of their own voices repeating liturgy.

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