Thinking Anglicans

Faithworks on the SORs

Statement from Rev Malcolm Duncan, leader of the Faithworks Movement
8th January 2007

The Sexual Orientation Regulations: an alternative Christian perspective

For all those Christians and churches who are planning to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), to be discussed in the House of Lords tomorrow, we want to voice concerns about this kind of virulent and aggressive approach:

1. There is misunderstanding of the SORs and their application
We are concerned that there is widespread misunderstanding of the SORs. They apply to the delivery of goods, facilities and services, but some Christians have misinterpreted the word ‘services’ to include religious ceremonies and rites such as baptism and blessing of same-sex unions, when this is clearly not the case. Churches will not be forced to ‘marry’ gay people. Likewise, youth groups and schools will not be prosecuted for not promoting a homosexual lifestyle.

We welcome the SORS as an attempt to ensure that goods and services are delivered inclusively and in non-discriminatory ways. It is right that any organisation receiving public funding should deliver services to genuine public benefit.

The delivery of goods and services can relate to situations such as hiring out of rooms, something many churches have voiced their concerns over. A commitment to diversity through doing this does not mean losing your faith identity: it actually presents an opportunity to develop a dialogue and put the Gospel into action through demonstrating love and service.

Government ministers have publicly answered questions of concern over the scope of the proposed legislation, and this information is freely available on Hansard, the record of proceedings in Parliament. The Government also made it clear in the consultation period that it would listen to the voices of religious groups. The Northern Ireland regulations already contain exceptions for religious organisations.

It is also important to remember that the measures contained in the SORs will not replace existing legislation on discrimination. Thus the protection from discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief that Christians currently enjoy will continue.

2. Double standards
Many Christians are very clear in their stance on the SORs as they relate to homosexuals. However, they have not articulated themselves so clearly when it comes to heterosexual relationships outside of marriage, which is something on which the Bible also contains clear teaching. Many opponents of the SORs have stated concerns that a Christian hotel owner would be forced to let out rooms to gay couples, but would they be as vociferous about letting out a room to an unmarried heterosexual couple? Why this inconsistency? It brings the Church into grave danger of sounding homophobic.

3. The SORs work both ways
The SORs do not refer exclusively to discrimination against homosexuals but to discrimination against people on the grounds of any sexuality. Just as a heterosexual could not discriminate against a gay person, neither could a gay person discriminate against a heterosexual person on grounds of their sexuality.

4. This legislation is an opportunity to demonstrate grace, inclusiveness and love
Christians are called to follow Jesus’ example, and he says remarkably little about sexuality in scripture. Rather, he treats all people he comes across with love and acceptance, and does not refuse his service to anyone, even if he does not agree with their lifestyle. Would it really be ‘Christian’ to refuse bereavement counselling to a gay man, or to exclude a gay person and their child from a parent-and-toddler group? We believe that Christian community organisations, and those of other faiths, can maintain their distinctive faith identities while still serving the needs of their whole communities. We do not interpret the new Sexual Orientation Regulations as a threat to that.

The Faithworks Movement is committed to inclusion and transformation. Thousands of members up and down the UK are working to build a better world by delivering services to their communities on this inclusive and non-discriminatory basis. The reality is that on a daily basis millions of Christians across the UK engage holistically, compassionately and inclusively with people in their communities.

The proposed SORs are an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ. However, vociferous opposition, a lack of constructive dialogue, and threats of civil disobedience mean that the Church is in danger of sounding homophobic and is doing little to give itself a credible voice.

Rev Malcolm Duncan
Leader of the Faithworks Movement
115 Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 0AX

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mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)Simon SarmientoNigel PiercelaurenceMalcolm Duncan Recent comment authors
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Cheryl Clough
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Beautiful.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
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mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

ConsEvs blissfully looking forward to tonight’s planned demonstration will doubtles dismiss this article as more faithless liberalism – but they should have a look at the ammunition which people like the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship has given Polly Toynbee in today’s Guardian. OK, Toynbee is journalism’s answer to Dawkins, but she gets read and people believe that the Christianity she attacks is the only one on offer. Without more volume from groups like Faithworks, ConsEv’s agenda will be the only one in the public field of view, and the only Christianity which will survive is that of the ConsEv variety, not… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

But of course, it won’t be “other legitimate and ancient expressions of the faith” that will be choked off, there are no such things. True Christianity(TM) died centuries ago and was only revived after the Reformation, when people decided that the Bible is where True Christianity(TM) comes from, doncha know. All that other stuff that people believed for 1500 years is just error brought about by “following the traditions of men” and thus sin and those of us who practice that kind of faith are all going to Hell anyway. My belief is that what is from God will not… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

But whose fault is that, David? Its the fault of Williams the Spineless and his fellow Bishops who have not supported this legislation

Church of England liberals are simply too wet. They should be telling the evangelicals without compromise why they are wrong.

laurence
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laurence

‘..but she gets read and people believe that the Christianity she attacks is the only one on offer. ‘

It appears to be the only version of christianity on offer in the C of E. I am not acceptable to that body as I am.

laurence
Guest
laurence

20 cheers for Malcolm Duncan !
I hadnt heard of him or his organisation. I look forward to hearing much more.

Craig Nelson
Guest

Really encouraging and, I must say pleasng statement. Glad he has made it. Hasn’t shown an evidence of permeating thinking of a good many Christian groups who haven’t been vocal in steering things in a reasonable way. This statement ought to have been made by the Archbishop of Canterbury – or any one of the Anglican bishops – why didn’t they? We are now (and it seems only now) seeing even evangelicals starting to peel off from the excesses of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship and the Anglican (so-called) Mainstream, because they see that the politics of the religious right leads… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
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mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

though a bit of me would have liked ++Rowan and the entire sane hierarchy to have come out guns blazing against the sillier responses of some Christians, I recall wondering a few weeks ago whether his tactic was based on spotting the inconsistencies and tensions within the extreme conservative movements and waiting for them to begin their process of self-immolation. No, we’ve not exactly covered ourselves in glory here, but perhaps the long game is to hold the middle together and wait for the extremists to throttle themselves. I was struck by last night’s (UK) TV: on the one hand,… Read more »

laurence
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laurence

Yes, David. I was touched and encouraged by the Helen House programme. (I’d wondered if it was SLG –good on em), It makes christianity seem just possible…..

Malcolm Duncan
Guest

Thank you for your responses to the statement and the ensuing debate and dialogue. I have received massive support from across the Christian spectrum, which is incredibly encouraging. Now I think we must continue to discuss the issue of how we serve others unconditionally and not just restrict the debate to issues of sexuality. One last thought on this is the fact that the Sexual Orientation Regulations for England, Wales and Scotland have not even been published yet so perhaps the aggressive tone and clear scaremongering should at least publicly acknowledge that the regulations have not even been put out… Read more »

laurence
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laurence

‘..Now I think we must continue to discuss the issue of how we serve others unconditionally … ‘

For such encouragement much thanks.

Hoping I can live up to it, and into it, in however small a way, myself ….

Nigel Pierce
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Nigel Pierce

The Lawyers Christian Fellowship makes some very good arguments and does not make some of the damaging arguments which Malcolm refers to.

Perhaps we should seal and heal this division in Christ and ask Malcolm and the LCF to work together on this issue in looking at the regulations for England Scotland and Wales and do our best to demonstrate a united Christian front displaying Love and Compassion, Inclusivity and Tolerance all within the biblical principles in which we believe.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Nigel
I should be most grateful if you can give me an example, or even two, of these “very good arguments” made by the LCF.

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

AN odd thought about the LCF. An ex-barrister mate of ours describes defending (successfully) those who had committed serious criminal offences. As counsel for the defence, his job was to do his best to ensure that justice wasn’t done.

Now, this is part of the job, and apparently causes no problem of conscience. So how come they’re getting all uppity about this problem of conscience, where they’re not even required to lie on behalf of someone?

Seems a topsy-turvy world to me….