Alan Wilson, the Church of England's Bishop of Buckingham, was criticized for having compared the poem "After Orlando: Gay Love" by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy to the writings of St. Paul.
"The idea that Carol Ann Duffy's poem is similar to Paul's writings in the New Testament is an extraordinary and implausible claim," theologian Ian Paul told Christian Today. "I think it shows how little Alan Wilson really understands the New Testament, and how unaware he is of his own assumptions."
The poem was written following the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed and many others injured. Its last three lines read: "The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker,/our children, are gay./ And God is gay."
"The last line is shocking," Wilson said. "It is meant to be shocking. But shock is something we live with in Christian communities."
According to The Telegraph, Wilson believes that the negative reaction of people to the poem is akin to how people likely reacted to the epistles when they were written. The letter of the Biblical apostle Paul to the Galatians, for instance, tells of things like being "neither Jew nor Greek" and "neither male nor female."
"I think you can see that the language of what she is saying is very similar to some of the more shocking things that Saint Paul says about God," he said. "It probably annoys some people as much as the things Saint Paul said annoyed some of the Galatians."
On Christian Today, he explained that St. Paul wrote in Galatians 3 that it is not necessary to be circumcised, meaning that the Spirit is beyond the Pharisaic law. He said Pharisees were undoubtedly upset by the teaching "because it went beyond what they knew of God." He also said that it was about re-interpreting the teachings of 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," he explained. "If people are offended by what this poem says, they ought to Google 'queer theology' and do a bit of reading."
He also said that one of the sad things about the Church of England is its tendency "to operate in isolation from our own theologians." He acknowledged that there are many theologians that the church does not take notice of, who "are showing us how belief works for people today in an intelligent way."
Mr. Paul, however, said that queer theology is not another way of interpreting the New Testament; rather, it is "an ideological approach to texts which assumes its own perspective has authority."
"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," he said. "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."