Prepared to become Criminals: UK Christian leaders push back against gay conversion ban

A growing number of Christian pastors in the UK, now over 2,000, have signed a letter opposing restraints on Christian teaching as part of a bill to ban conversion therapy.

“It should not be a criminal offence for us to instruct our children that God made them male and female, in his image, and has reserved sex for the marriage of one man and one woman. Yet this seems to be the likely outcome of the proposed legislation ” the ministers write in an open letter to the government.

“We therefore very much hope (and pray) that these proposals will be dropped in their current form. We have no desire to become criminals and place a high value on submitting to and supporting our government. Yet we think it important you are aware that if it were to come about that the loving, compassionate exercise of orthodox Christian ministry, including the teaching of the Christian understanding of sex and marriage, is effectively made a criminal offence, we would with deep sadness continue to do our duty to God in this matter.”

A consultation period on the bill, due to end this Friday has now been extended to February 4.

The letter’s authors believe “the approach from the outset seems to assume that orthodox Christian ministry is unacceptable.”

The UK Minister for Equalities Mike Freer said in the government announcement  “I am confident that our proposals strike the correct balance to stamp out coercive conversion therapy, whilst protecting free speech.”

The UK government announcement says that the ban will “target talking conversion therapy with a new criminal offence where it is committed against under 18s under any circumstance, or committed against those aged 18 or over who have not given their informed consent, or due to their circumstances or vulnerability are unable to do so.”

The legislation as proposed would risk making it a criminal offence to teach or pastorally support people in following the teachings of orthodox Christianity on sexual ethics

The government also claims the “legislation will not affect parents’ ability to raise their children with the values of their faith.” And “Simply expressing the teachings of a religion or private prayer, will not constitute conversion therapy in our proposals – and we will continue to work with faith groups on the proposals.”

The letter organizers believe that Christian ministry is not safeguarded in the bill.

“The legislation as proposed would risk making it a criminal offence to teach or pastorally support people in following the teachings of orthodox Christianity on sexual ethics, which requires that we accept that our sex is God-given and not changeable and that we live either in the faithful marriage of one man and one woman or else in sexual abstinence,” the theological statement attached to the letter states. The authors  fear that the legislation as proposed “would quite possibly have the effect of making orthodox Christianity a proscribed religion.”

Christian Concern, a lobby group, points out that the letter has been signed by  “Church of England General Synod members, Free/Independent Church leaders, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and more, suggesting widespread concern about the government’s plans.”

“Those who are campaigning for the law, their stated aim is that prayers or any kind of encouragement to do what we would say the Bible is teaching in terms of sexual ethics, should be prohibited. We don’t know how the law will work out, but I think if those demands were met, then really any conversation with your family or if your child asks a question about their sexuality or their gender and you give them some advice, potentially, that could fall foul of the law. If you give them advice from a Christian perspective that questions or suggests there is a good or a bad path to follow.”

Graham Nicholls, Director of Affinity, an evangelical group of churches, explained to Premier Christian radio why he had signed the letter. “”Those who are campaigning for the law, their stated aim is that prayers or any kind of encouragement to do what we would say the Bible is teaching in terms of sexual ethics, should be prohibited. We don’t know how the law will work out, but I think if those demands were met, then really any conversation with your family or if your child asks a question about their sexuality or their gender and you give them some advice, potentially, that could fall foul of the law. If you give them advice from a Christian perspective that questions or suggests there is a good or a bad path to follow.”

 

 

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