The Foreign Office and the Pink Bible

Heart Christian newspaper has run a story about the infamous Wilton Park Foreign Office Agency, implicitly calling for a new version of the Bible, that is LGBTQ-friendly. The report ominously discusses the need for Christian leaders to be ‘held to account’ for how they interpret texts and bemoans the ‘hateful’ contributions missionaries made to global Christianity. The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has remained strangely quiet about the whole thing. That a government agency would dare tell Christians how to interpret the Bible in order to fit in with their presuppositions is odious. But it’s not the first time.

Lovers of the Authorised Version of the Bible will be disappointed to discover that their beloved text was itself an attempt by the English government to impose its views on believers. I’ll not over-egg my pudding here; I acknowledge that the AV text is reliable and trustworthy, if archaic-sounding. However, one of the government’s reasons for promoting it was to de-popularise its rivals, the cumbersome Henrician versions, and more likely Calvin’s Geneva Bible, with its Presbyterian margin notes. King James was very keen that the word presbuteros would be translated bishop rather than elder, as this supported the structure of Anglicanism, rather than the Presbyterianism of his native Scotland. Calvin’s suggestions about the authority of kings was also deemed dangerous. For example, a marginal note for Exodus 1:9 indicated that the Hebrew midwives were correct in disobeying the Egyptian king's orders, something that James could not accept. The Puritan party that cut off his son’s head would probably have used Geneva more that the Authorised. Cromwell issued a pocket Bible to his troops, quoting it liberally.

Despite the historical precedent, I abhor any suggestion that the Foreign Office has the right to re-interpret scripture in order to weaken opposition to the current political orthodoxy. If it stuck to its day job of diplomacy, the country might not be facing as many international crises as we currently are.