Thinking Anglicans

opposing equality

The TA item below about the new Northern Ireland regulations prompted quite a few reader comments about “evangelical” opposition to this legislation.

Stephen Bates wrote about just this last month in the Church of England Newspaper.

View from Fleet Street
article for CEN, 27.10.06
By Stephen Bates

Next March I am sure we shall all be commemorating what is arguably the greatest and most progressive social and moral reform ever achieved by Englishmen motivated by Evangelical zeal: it will be the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. Men such as William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp – Evangelical Anglicans all – will be remembered for their determination to right a grievous wrong, as will those who inspired them, John Newton, the former slave ship captain who eventually repented and Olaudah Equiano whose autobiography opened English eyes to the horrors of the trade.

In preparation for this last week I attended a conference at Methodist Central Hall arranged by the Set All Free group, an umbrella body of Churches Together in England, which is coordinating the religious side of the commemoration. They – we –congratulated ourselves that England had pioneered the abolition movement, recollected that there is still more to be done – an estimated 12 million people around the world are still in one sort of indentured slavery or another – and adjourned for lunch.

As we did so, I was approached by a smartly dressed black man from the Evangelical Alliance who introduced himself and politely invited me to another press conference, this time one that the EA would be arranging, to launch its campaign to persuade the Government to exempt Evangelical Christians who run hotels and boarding houses from having to accept homosexual guests.

The irony of an Evangelical arguing in favour of discrimination at a gathering to celebrate the ending of discrimination’s most egregious example seemed to have passed him by completely. “Am I not a man and a brother?” was the abolitionists’ catch-phrase in the 1790s. Not if you’re gay, matey, seems to be the Evangelicals’ response in the first decade of the new millennium.

As I pondered this on my way back to the office, I fell to wondering about the practicalities of such an exemption. To put it bluntly, how do hoteliers know? An old Fawlty Towers episode sprang irresistibly to mind: the one where Basil, convinced a young guest of whom he disapproves has smuggled a woman into his room, climbs a ladder to peer in through the window.

You may remember the outcome: he just has time to register that he is looking through the wrong window at a perfectly respectable couple getting undressed for bed before he topples over backwards to disappear from view. When he does finally obtain admission to the room, Basil discovers that the young man (having hidden his girlfriend) is entertaining his sweet old mother instead. Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense, as they say in court circles.

You may say it is easy to tell if two men want to share a room together, but my thoughts went back to my first-ever visit to the US nearly 30 years ago, in the decadent days of that former Sunday school teacher, President Jimmy Carter, when a friend and I drove from New York to Los Angeles, sharing a room in cheap motels each night and never once being asked whether we were gay. I think we may even have had to share a king-sized bed in the only room available for miles one night in the middle of the Texas panhandle.

But if Evangelical hoteliers object to gays, aren’t there others whose lifestyles they also ought to reject? Unfortunately not all of them come branded with a scarlet letter or marked with a pink star. They are not all as easy to spot as black people or Irish in the bad old days of racial discrimination.But homosexuality is as much an identity as ethnicity is.

What about adulterers, or people “living in sin” – should they be required to produce their marriage certificates or, if appropriate, divorce papers, before being admitted? Are they sure that the guest’s children were not born out of wedlock? Or what about people who have had sex-changes? I understand some of these Thai ladyboys are very convincing these days: perhaps to be on the safe side, it would be best to require birth certificates as well. But even those can be changed now so I suppose you never can tell.

Better than being accused of hypocrisy or prejudice, perhaps it would be best to allow only those who are entirely spotless, which might mean limiting the clientele somewhat, or choosing another career in which one might not have to accommodate the world in all its imperfections.

But then I thought that perhaps it would be better after all to be allowed to hang a sign saying No Gays outside one’s door. Then at least those of us who don’t choose to associate with such bigots will appreciate that we wouldn’t wish to spend the night in their establishments.

Stephen Bates is the Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent.

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Simon Morden
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Simon Morden

I’m a long-time reader of this blog (informative and knowledgeable, tugs forelock) – but now feel compelled to add to the comments. Yesterday, I was discussing this matter with my lawyer wife, and used the exact expression “No Jews, no blacks, no Irish” in relation to the stance taken by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship. I find their briefing strange – in that they seem to want to decide who gets access to justice and who doesn’t – and odious – in that they are using bad theology to actively promote prejudice. They would, like the EA and the Christian Institute,… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“But then I thought that perhaps it would be better after all to be allowed to hang a sign saying No Gays outside one’s door. Then at least those of us who don’t choose to associate with such bigots will appreciate that we wouldn’t wish to spend the night in their establishments.” So, absent a No Gays sign, how do you spot an evangelical hotel or boarding house? A little fish outline discreetly displayed? And how would an evangelical establishment otherwise distinguish itself from the common run of hotels? Instead of wine at dinner, tiny plastic thimblefuls of grape juice?… Read more »

Craig Nelson
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Craig Nelson

I think that the Church needs to get hold of a biblical doctrine of the state. Over all the history of atrocities committed by Christian governments (who made the dark ages dark?) the Christian church didn’t speak out. Whereas now the Church is mobilising for the right to discriminate and against society’s moves to remove discrimination. Various scriptural injunctions tell us to be subjected to the government, to those who are in authority. When these injunctions were first given the state was a military dictatorship (surely the worst kind of government), yet obedience was ordained and Romans 13 talks about… Read more »

dave williams
Guest

Hi Craig, Interesting comments. I agree that we need a Biblical doctrine of the role of the state and I agree that the Church hasn’t always had a brilliant track record on that. But let’s not forget Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Wesley, Carey, Titus Salt, Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boon etc. A Biblical doctrine of the State certainly needs to include our responsibility to submit to Law but also needs to consider the responsibility to obey God before man and the recognition that actually Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over… Read more »

Ken Sawyer
Guest

To set the record a little differently following from Stephen Bates’ piece in CEN. This letter appeared in the 17th November edition of CEN. Language and policy. Sir, Let me first own up to be being the “smartly dressed” (others may beg to disagree) individual in Stephen Bates’ last piece (October 27, “Non-Discriminating?”), whilst at the same time express utter surprise at being referred to as a “coloured man”. In the modern political lexicon of race and cultural discourse it’s rather impolite (to put it mildly) to refer to black people as “coloured”. One expects better from a Guardian writer.… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

““Am I not a man and a brother?” was the abolitionists’ catch-phrase in the 1790s. Not if you’re gay, matey, seems to be the Evangelicals’ response in the first decade of the new millennium.”

Touche’, Stephen! (And published in CEN, no less—bravo! :-D)

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Ken
That’s interesting: the copy of the text above does not use the word “coloured” and it is an exact copy of what the author sent to the CEN. Maybe the word “black” was changed by the CEN subeditor?

dave williams
Guest

I’m not even sure why it is important that he was black or smartly dressed!

It’s just very odd that there are two such sharply contrasting reports. Unless there were two EA people at the event? Maybe the event didn’t happen at all but rather was a mythical concept that got turned into an oral tradition and then a number of sources put into writing. The next stage is for us to redact it into one story so that later on someone can come and unpick it back into its various sources again

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

One of the Dave Williams’s wrote “A Biblical doctrine of the State certainly needs to include our responsibility to submit to Law but also needs to consider the responsibility to obey God before man and the recognition that actually Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over all the nations and one day all governments will have to submit to him. We also are entitled to get involved in a discussion as part of the democratic process which is what is happening now.” Is what you are saying here,… Read more »

Oriscus
Guest
Oriscus

I noticed the discrepency between “coloured” and “black” in the letter as quoted, and as printed on this site. As I cannot at present, without donating some of my filthy lucre to CEN, see the article as printed, I must, presuming the word appears as alleged, wonder if the change were not either a deliberate misrepresentation of Mr Bates’ writing or a sign of the insensitivity of the editorial staff at CEN. Either way, it is a poor reflection on CEN.

Now, what precisely *was the EA press conference about?

hpb
Austin, TX

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Goran, You wrote “Is what you are saying here, that you want to be able to use the Coercion of the State against others, but reserve the right to decide when it is to be used against yourselves?” No the teaching of Jesus Christ in the NT affirms the condemnation of same-sex sex throughtout the Bible, it is the right to hold that view that is being sought. Also any evangelcial who doesnt believe in Jesus Christ is not a Christian, I would not necessarily say the Roman Catholic church is ‘evangelcial’ but it does recognise same-sex sex is… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

The other problem is that the definition of homophobia forced in by gay and lesbian rights activists includes being against homosexual pracrtice which makes all true Christian believers in this matter homophobic.
I mean I follow Jesus Christ not sex. I am gay the joy of the Lord is my strength and when I hold on to His teaching my joy is complete. John 8

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dont use evangelcial in this instance. The Roman Catholic church recognises that same-sex sex is wrong but it isn’t necessarily ‘evangelical’ The Christian objection to same-sex sex is Christian and not ‘evangelcial’ A Christian is not going to stop loving a sinner but they are not going to support sin. The danger with this legislation is that gay and lesbian activists may not only disgaree with the Christian view on same-sex sex but also prevent them from entertaining same-sex sex.

dave williams
Guest

Goran, Honestly, we really don’t talk about sex and bishops all that often when left to ourselves. It’s just no-one seems that interested in our views on other things! Personally I would love to talk about this wider range of things! With regards to the doctrine of the state. No I’m not saying what you suggest there. Just simply that a. We are entitled to use the means invovled in a democratic society b. We do happen to have the words of the one who has final authority over governments and so our desire/prayer is that governments will want to… Read more »

stephen bates
Guest
stephen bates

I had better own up that it was me who changed coloured to black before letting Simon have a copy of my article. It was the only change I made, but it was indeed in response to Dr Muir’s complaint in his letter to the CEN (which was published three weeks after my article originally appeared, so it took him a little while to get round to it). It was my fault originally too, to describe him as coloured (I am sorry, I am of an age where I sometimes get confused about which words are acceptable and which not… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

Christ is not ‘ruler over the nations’, as far as I can see. Nor am I persuaded that it would be desirable. For that matter, I do not know what this could mean. (I have read Watch Tower publications, though. I thought we were beginning to ‘get over’ the morphing of the Jesus of history into the (feverishly)imagined ‘Christ the ruler, conqueror etc’. These previous attempts having turned out to be spiritual poison ( the Spanish Inquisition, the genocidal treatment of indigenous peoples,languages & cultures the world over, by chritians conquering in the name of their ‘Christ the ruler, conqueror… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

‘..sadly it’s only when Evangelicals talk about sex or bishops that we seem to get an audience from liberals!…’

I wouldn’t be so sure !

Ken Sawyer
Guest

Stephen Bates wrote of the EA Faith and Nation report: “I did not subsequently write about the campaign launch in the Guardian because by the time it was held I was in Pakistan covering Prince Charles’s official visit there.” Could have left a report behind! Would/should have been an improvement on the one in 5th November edition of “Sunday Telegraph” headed “Christians ask if force is needed to protect their religious values.” Written by Jonathan Wynne-Jones, sometimes writer in the CEN (!), it was a very moderate piece of journalism picking out from a long report one section and then… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I simply find the supposed commitment of evangelicals to oppose homophobia utterly unconvincing,

When they start supporting civil equality rather than opposing just about every legal change ever suggested, and recognise that their own religion is inherently homophobic, then I shall start to take them seriously

J. C. Fisher
Guest
J. C. Fisher

Thank you, Stephen, for this clarification.

dave williams
Guest

Laurence,

Sure Jesus as inviter and even seducer within the context of his Church as his bride. But yes he is the rightful king as well. It goes with being God! That is the story of the Bible that humanity is in rebellion against her rightful King.

It’s a bit late to worry about anyone dying -He already did.

As far as it not being desirable to allow Christ to be ruler of the nations -who would you rather was?

dave williams
Guest

‘..sadly it’s only when Evangelicals talk about sex or bishops that we seem to get an audience from liberals!…’

I wouldn’t be so sure !

Well I’m posting on what do to about racism (in the light of the Church Times article about Trevor Phillips and the BNP), food allergies, Wesley on money and Christians and film on my blog at the moment. Would love to see more discussion on those topics

Simon Morden
Guest
Simon Morden

Dave Williams,

I’d have no trouble with accepting Christ to be the ruler of the nations. I would have trouble if there were intermediaries attempting to interpret his rule – because they would be imperfect and unjust, but using God’s name to enforce their imperfect and unjust interpretations on me, and everyone else.

I understand this to be the form of government called Theocracy. I also understand it to be highly undesireable.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

To be perfectly honest, Dave, I’m not concerned with what evangelicals think – as I have no intention of ever agreeing with them.

The main problem is that evangelicals and liberals share the same denomination. There is no sense nor logic in this.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Dave Williams, “Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over all the nations and one day all governments will have to submit to him.” I don’t think it’s all governments that will have to submit to Him. Nations and governments are not the same thing. I rather suspect that at the parousia, all human governments will cease to be. Christ will be ruler of the nations, not the governments. We have a right to comment on society and its ills, indeed, but to base that right on Christ’s kingship,… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

One of the Dave Williams wrote: ” No the teaching of Jesus Christ in the NT affirms the condemnation of same-sex sex throughout the Bible, it is the right to hold that view that is being sought. Also any evangelical who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ is not a Christian, I would not necessarily say the Roman Catholic church is ‘evangelical’ but it does recognise same-sex sex is wrong and not God’s purpose. Your definitions are confused.” My definitions are confused? The right to hold any view is established since Creation (not to mention that it would be very difficult… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

The story of the bible is God creating a creature that was capable of forgetting, ignoring or defying God. Yet loving that creature anyway, and then seeking to bring them back into an active relationship with God. It is an unfolding uncompleted story. Jesus was a huge milestone in that journey, but he wasn’t the first nor will he be the last “big thing” that God does. On the stuff about governance, the state, and the church. It has been a relief to see think tanks being set up to consider this more thoroughly. We are part of the state… Read more »

stephen bates
Guest
stephen bates

Ken Sawyer obviously does not read me very carefully, because I do differentiate between evangelicals. Indeed if he reads my book A Church at War he will see at least one chapter which defines the differences. And he’d also spot in that that my connection with evangelicals runs even closer than he supposes: my wife is an Anglican charismatic evangelical and my three children are being brought up in the evangelical tradition. So I do not need to be told what an evangelical is and when I write about the faction in the Church of England I always refer to… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

I agree with your first part, Cheryl, but not the second statement. God has done, is doing, and will do great things, but the redemption of Creation in Christ is a fait accompli, and the most important event in history. Nothing can be greater, nothing can have the Cosmic impact, of the Incarnation(in which I include everything from Gabriel’s message to the descent of the Spirit). And, Merseymike, tolerance is neither senseless not illogical. It is what we as Christians are called to. If the Anglican Church falls apart because of lack of tolerance, then we will have failed as… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

It would be good to have a policy (as numerous guesthouses have done) of not accepting unmarried couples – but why regard homosexuals as a special case here? They are no more nor less married than the others.

dave williams
Guest

Ford, I’m not arguing for us setting up our own government! I think you’re reading a lot more into what I’m saying. Yes at the parousia all governments will go. But if we are going to have a Romans 13 doctrine of the state then that state owes the authority that it does have to God I’m not sure why your last paragraph is meant to be a correction to mine? I’m not disclaiming that redemption is cosmic, nor that we are enslaved to sin and death I’m not sure if you’re trying to open up another discussion on atonement… Read more »

dave williams
Guest

Goran,

It’s not about hindering. The point is I’m not setting the agenda on TA. TA happens to want to talk about bishops and sex. All I can do is invite you to look at my own blog which has covered the range of topics I mentioned and note the fact that over the weekend I checked a couple of other conservative blogs and none of them are particularly talking about bishops and sex either!

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Dave Williams, I’m not trying to open up debate on theories of the atonement, I do enough derailing of threads as it is. I would certainly benefit from such a discussion, all the same. I am merely pointing out that the idea that the story of the Bible is thought of in other ways than as human rebellion against our “rightful king”. That is one way of looking at it, and a valid one, but it smacks of the Imperial Church. We are talking about the relationship between humanity, whose pride and arrogance caused the Fall, and God, who loved… Read more »

Davew
Guest
Davew

Dear Laurence, I would have to disagree with you. Christ is ‘ruler over the nations’ as far as I can see Matthew 12:18, Matthew 12:21, Matthew 24:7-9, Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Dear Merseymike, You wrote “To be perfectly honest, Dave, I’m not concerned with what evangelicals think – as I have no intention of ever agreeing with them.” Well I don’t necessarily disagree with liberals on every point but as to non-believers Merseymike, I don’t believe non-believers… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Christopher Shell wrote: “It would be good to have a policy (as numerous guesthouses have done) of not accepting unmarried couples – but why regard homosexuals as a special case here? They are no more nor less married than the others.”

It would seem to me that being able in law to marry but not wanting to, is not quite the same thing as wanting to marry but not being allowed to in law.

So I would say both more and less… ;=)

dave williams
Guest

Ford, Firstly I’m not arguing for one model on its own, I was picking up one aspect of the redemption story as it was pertinant to here. If I’d tried to cover every angle I’d probably have ended up sounding like Rowan. I guess we need to allow each other a bit of “shorthand allowance” in these short comments. Secondly maybe I need to put in some over emphasis the other way . I am NOT claiming that Christians should take over the government, stamp our feet until we get our way, blackmail with numbers, march on Westminster, create our… Read more »

Simon Morden
Guest
Simon Morden

Dave Williams – the problem here lies with the notion that your interpretation of “God’s authoritive word” trumps mine, and that if I disagree with you, I disagree with God (whilst not being, of course, a True Christian).

There is a market place of ideas – my faith leads me to oppose some of the ideas that your faith proposes. But let’s not pretend that either of our approaches is “God’s way”.

Craig Nelson
Guest
Craig Nelson

Just glad this thread lives on! If we have “access to God’s authoritative word” and a “duty to share it” does that inlcude the death penalty, slavery and the presecution of other faiths as well as a core part of what we ought to be sharing? If not why not and how are we to differentiate between the bits God does and doesn’t want us to follow? Again the spiritual leaders in Iran and the former Taliban – as well as many other countries – were doing exactly that – they have access to (as they see it) God’s word… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Dave Williams,
Yes I agreee. But Muslims would say they have the authoritative word and have a responsibility to share, indeed impose, it. When you said:

“Christians do have a special right to speak to governments based on the fact that Christ is ruler over all the nations and one day all governments will have to submit to him”

you seemed to be saying that Christians have special rights because of what we believe. This is what I was responding to.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

No blackmail with numbers???

Dave Williams wrote: “We do so knowning both that our understanding is imperfect but also that the Holy Spirit can use is now…”

Perhaps you should ask yourself/ves individually exactly why the Holy Spirit whould “use” you – and for what?

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Simon Morden, The key point here is that if the Bible is the word of God then the Holy Spirit does remind us of all Jesus taught and did because Jesus taught this and gave the Holy Spirit. Most people have faith in something, its what they have faith in that counts. God’s authortitive word is recorded in the Bible for those who believe it. Quite clearly an interpretation of a text can only be based on what the text says. We have to be careful we dont call disbelief ‘interpretation’. So for those who believe there isnt a… Read more »

Simon Morden
Guest
Simon Morden

DaveW – this is hubris, pure and simple. However you dress it up, you are stating that you believe you have the correct interpretation of God’s word, and anyone who disagrees with you, disagrees with God. You are free to believe whatever you want, free to organise your churches in accordance with those beliefs. But when you attempt to marry the legislative power of the State with those beliefs, the situation changes dramatically and dangerously. My faith in God and understanding of scripture leads me to oppose you. However, since I have no hesitation in acknowledging my understanding is incomplete,… Read more »

laurence
Guest
laurence

Davew Thanks for putting me right! : – )

All those delicious quotes I’d never read before…

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“God’s authortitive word is recorded in the Bible for those who believe it.” DaveW, in this sentence replace ‘God’ with ‘Allah’ and ‘Bible’ with ‘Qur’an’. You now have a statement a Muslim would agree with. In the discussion about religion and the state, how would you convince a Muslim that we Christians have some special right to influence government? “Quite clearly an interpretation of a text can only be based on what the text says.” An interpretation of a text can also be based, at least in part, on what we know the tradition to be and how the text… Read more »

dave williams
Guest

Guys,

So many points! And let’s face it we can’t deal with these things justly in 400 word answers. and I get the feeling I’m just going to end up repeating stuff I’ve already said here and elsewhere!

So all I can do is repeat my invitation -if you seriously want to know what a conservative evangelical believes on these issues come read and comment on my blog!

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Strongly agree, Simon. The point is that conservative evangelical Christians are a very small minority group and have no right to impose the tenets of their faith on those of us who reject it. They are welcome to continue to believe as they will, but not discriminate against others in civil society in doing so.

Cheryl Clough
Guest

Simon It is fair to point out that they have chosen to act as gods and pass judgment. Because that is exactly what they do. Then let them live with the rewards of men who would be gods and pass judgment. As they judge, so they will be judged. They reject variance, therefore there will be no tolerance of variance within their camp. They reject fallability, therefore fallibility will prove they are not gods. They reject abusive behaviour, therefore their collusion to impose or hide abusive behaviour will condemn them. They reject the words of compassion and Zion, therefore Zion… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Simon Morden, You wrote “…you are stating that you believe you have the correct interpretation of God’s word, and anyone who disagrees with you, disagrees with God.” On the contrary I have clearly stated, and I will repeat it, that the Bible has the word of God, so anyone who disagrees with it is likely to have the wrong interpretation. Now for those who believe it, it tells us we can receive from Jesus the promised Holy Spirit which helps us interpret it. As to the state, the decisions of the state will depend on the number and infulence… Read more »

Simon Morden
Guest
Simon Morden

If only there was a little “banging head against wall” smilie, like on Ship of Fools… DaveW – you are correct that I’m focussing on you and not scripture. You seem incapable of comprehending that we can have a different view on the same passage of scripture – and thus my argument is not with God, not with scripture, but with you. Whether you like it or not, you interpret scripture through a lens of tradition, culture, hope, fear, prejudice even. As do I. So I can oppose you from an equally scripturally (un)sound base. I read the same Bible… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Simon Morden, As I have said before we can do and should have different revelations from the same passage of scripture. What we cant have is interpretations from the scripture that are opposite to what the scriptures say. Whether you like it or not, I believe the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the way the life and the truth and there is no other until He returns or calls us… which is what He says. Incidentally on the topic of homosexual practice, if Jesus is right it obviously wasn’t God’s purpose even in creation Matthew 19, Mark… Read more »