Christian sexual ethics attacked by MPs
The campaign for a ‘conversion therapy’ ban is framed by activists and politicians as an effort to end abuse.
But Christians across the UK fear that the legislation might go much further and limit religious freedom in a dangerous way. It is fair to ask what will be covered by such a law, since no one has demonstrated any gaps in our already very good laws on abuse and coercion.
LGBT activists are demanding legislation which outlaws the ordinary work of churches – prayer, preaching and pastoral care. They say that giving biblical support to anyone who shares struggles over gender and sexuality should be against the law.
The Scottish Government’s own advisors claimed in an official report that teaching “the importance of marriage” was part of conversion therapy. Other groups have spoken of the need to prevent calls for repentance or confession of sins. Key gospel principles are evidently at stake.
On Tuesday, a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ was proposed in Westminster, seeking to “enable clergy of the Church of England to conduct same sex marriages”. In practical terms such a Bill is unnecessary, since the Church can bring a motion to Parliament itself.
In reality, this motion was seeking to put additional pressure on the Church to change its mind over marriage. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who tabled the motion, said that there is a “small minority in the Church of England” who are “holding the majority back” regarding homosexuality.
Of course, were it only a small minority opposing changing the Church’s teaching, General Synod could make the change. But the truth is that there is a very large and growing proportion – of what is a very large denomination – which remains faithful to historic Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality. This view is maintained by the majority of churchgoers in the UK and around the world.
Those MPs who are pressuring Christians to look more like the surrounding culture are clearly misinformed about the state of religious belief in their own country. But they are also seeking to interfere with the freedom of religious groups to hold views that they disagree with. It is the opposite of the tolerant and free society MPs claim to promote.
Church Commissioner Andrew Selous MP responded to the motion: “it seeks … to remove the freedom of the Church of England to decide its own doctrine, a freedom that members from all parts of this House champion for religions and beliefs all over the world and one that we should therefore apply equally to the Church of England”.
Making churches bow to popular culture
Thankfully, Ten Minute Rule Bills rarely proceed through Parliament. They are usually used to send a signal rather than change the law. But what a signal to send! It looks very much like a threat of Parliamentary intervention should churches not change their views to suit popular culture.
It is precisely what Christians fear a ‘conversion therapy’ law will do. Talk of ending abuse appears to be cover for an attempt to make churches bow to LGBT ideology.
But unlike the Ten Minute Rule Bill, proposals for a ‘conversion therapy’ ban are a very active threat to churches. All four regions of the UK are seeing vocal campaigns for actual legislation which would criminalise Christians who fail to comply.
It is a startling moment for religious freedom in the UK. Are lawmakers prepared to outlaw pastoral care and prayer that accords with the Bible’s clear teaching on sexuality? Some seem poised to do just that.
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