The Rt Rev’d Wallace Benn is the Suffragan Bishop of Lewes on the south coast of England. Dublin-born Benn is also an influential figure within Church of Ireland Evangelical circles, and visited Northern Ireland at least twice in response to the civil partnership of openly gay Church of Ireland Dean Tom Gordon last autumn.
The book in question, Britain in Sin by well-known fundamentalist Stephen Green of ‘Christian Voice’, accuses the Queen of breaking her Coronation Oath by signing into law 57 pieces of what Green describes as ‘unrighteous legislation’ which he claims offend Biblical principles. These include the Criminal Justice Act 1994, which introduced the offence of marital rape. As recently as 1990 (R v Sharples), a man avoided prosecution for forced and unwanted sexual intercourse with his estranged wife, by successfully arguing that even a Family Protection Order did not constitute a withdrawal of consent to sexual intercourse by a married woman. Green claims that “the marriage service of the Book of Common Prayer” establishes “a binding consent to sexual intercourse” and a married woman therefore has no right to refuse unwanted sexual advances from her husband. The book also criticises the 1970 decision to abolish a man’s right to petition a court for “the restoration of conjugal rights”.
Green also supports the economic exploitation of women, describing the Equal Pay Act 1970 and Sex Discrimination Acts 1975 & 1986 as unbiblical. Concering women in the workplace, Green says in Britain in Sin “[t]hat mothers should deprive their men-folk of work is a national scandal.”
Benn recommended Green’s book in glowing terms, saying, “This makes interesting and disturbing reading. We desparately need to understand, as a nation, that our Creator knows what is best for us, and to return to His way as the best way to live.”
Green was exposed last year as a violent and sexually exploitative man, who over a period of years bullied his wife into unwanted sexual intercourse, who birched his wife so hard that she bled, and once beat one of his sons so hard with a piece of wood that he needed hospital treatment.
The connection between Green’s violent and sexually exploitative nature and the theology he promotes is easy to see. Green is a transparent Bible abuser, pushing a warped interpretation of Scripture to facilitate his own need to dominate and abuse women and children. It would be easy to dismiss Green as a lunatic fringe figure, the pantomime villain of the UK fundamentalist scene, who calls for the death penalty to be restored for adultery and homosexuality.
Wallace Benn, however, who recommends the book as a means for understanding how to return to our Creator’s way, is a Bishop of the Church of England, and a leading light of its Conservative Evangelical wing. Benn is a erekey player in hardline Church of England organisations such as Anglican Mainstream. Green is hardly a low-profile figure, and Benn’s recommendation of a book so transparently promoting an alter Christus must, at the very least, call his judgement into question. However, one must not merely question Benn’s judgement, but also the degree to which Green’s theology is shared by people on the Conservative Evangelical wing of the Church of England.
As a Bishop of a Church whose supreme governor is the Queen, his recommendation of a book that accuses the Queen of breaking her Coronation Oath will also raise serious questions in many quarters.
As noted above, Benn is a frequent visitor to Ireland and is an important ally and advisor to the Irish Church’s conservative Evangelical wing. In the aftermath of Dean Tom Gordon’s Civil Partnership, he travelled to Northern Ireland twice to address significant public meetings of Church of Ireland Evangelicals opposed to gay ordination. Benn is due to speak at an event for clergy in the Diocese of Down and Dromore in the next month. Down and Dromore is a stronghold of Evangelicalism in the Church of Ireland.
NB - Britain in Sin is mirrored here and Wallace Benn's recommendation is mirrored here.