SALISBURY MP John Glen has criticised the Bishop of Salisbury after he appeared to liken those opposing gay marriage to Christians who defended slavery and Apartheid.

The Salisbury MP said he was “deeply saddened” by the reference, which was made by Bishop Nicholas Holtam in a letter to Labour Peer Lord Alli.

Bishop Holtam, the only serving diocesan bishop in the Church of England to give his support to gay marriage, was responding to Lord Alli’s request that he clarify his position on the issue as a member of the House of Bishops for members of the Upper House.

Mr Glen, whose letter was published in The Daily Telegraph, said growing congregations in Salisbury objected to gay marriage “not because they object to homosexuals, but because they believe marriage should follow the biblical pattern affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19”.

He told the Journal: “Many of my constituents were extremely surprised to read of the bishop’s views and I felt responsible as their elected member of parliament to gently challenge where he was coming from, particularly the lack of regard he had for the authority of scripture as a senior minister in our church.

“I believe the bishop knew very well how his views would be taken in terms of influencing the debate. To give the impression that people opposing same sex marriage should be compared to those who in previous eras used the Bible to oppose slavery and uphold Apartheid was a thoroughly misguided one and one that doesn’t sit well with most people’s understanding of history.”

Bishop Holtam said that he views gay marriage as a “matter of justice” adding that Christian morality comes from a “mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience” and that Christians have had to “rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience”.

Mr Glen accepted that with both Houses of Parliament having debated the issue “thoroughly” and large majorities being in favour of gay marriage, the argument against it has been lost.

He said: “While I have made my case strongly I now have to have the humility to recognise that I have lost the argument and we will have to move on.

“But for many across my constituency they remain mystified as to why this was necessary and why it was brought forward at this time, and I fear they will punish my party nationally at the next election.”

He added: “I retain great admiration for all that Bishop Nick’s achieved in his ministry among the poor in London and I look forward to working with him united on most other matters including the plight of Salisbury’s needy and homeless.”