1st April 2022
Like many Christian ministers, we were very pleased to hear from Downing Street yesterday that ‘Having explored this sensitive issue in great depth the government has decided to proceed by reviewing how existing law can be deployed more effectively to prevent this in the quickest way possible, and explore the use of other non-legislative measures.’ This is exactly the right approach, since coercive and abusive practices are already well covered in UK law. Moreover, the legislation as proposed in the consultation of November 2021, far from increasing protections, would have prevented effective medical, psychological and pastoral care for many people who willingly seek it
and for young people who particularly need it.
We have no interest in defending any kind of disreputable practices which purport to ‘cure’ homosexual or transgender feelings. Our concern with the proposed legislation was that it would have made it a criminal offence to teach the historic, orthodox Christian understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and to help people of every age to live according to it. Christian teaching has never categorised people according to sexual feelings but has always held that the right and good thing for all people is to refrain from all sexual activity other than between husband and wife.
It was for this reason that we wrote to the Minister for Women and Equalities in December explaining our serious reservations, in a letter signed by over 2,500 Christian ministers and pastoral workers. Given that the government is sponsoring a global summit to promote Freedom of Religion and Belief in July this year, it would be extraordinary and appalling for it to legislate in the same year to criminalise mainstream Christian ministry. We are heartened that the issues raised by us and many others too have clearly been heard by ministers and officials.
It is with considerable concern therefore that within a few hours of the statement from Downing Street yesterday the position of the government has changed again, and now we hear that a ban is to go ahead. We are of course pleased to hear that trans issues are to be left out, which removes the threat of criminalising those seeking to help vulnerable young people on this issue. But it remains the case that a poorly-drafted ‘LGB only’ conversion therapy law could still criminalise mainstream Christian teaching and ministry, by making it illegal for us to teach people and help people of every age to live according to the Christian understanding of marriage. The consultation document indicated that that would be the case, and campaigners for a ban have made it quite clear that that is what they desire and intend.
Therefore we wish to ask for urgent clarification from you whether you intend to legislate to make it illegal for Christian ministers to teach and pastor people of every age according to the Christian view of marriage. It goes without saying that we will do so, no matter what, for it is our duty to God; but it would be a terrible and tragic mistake for the UK government to make us criminals for exercising and teaching mainstream, historic Christianity.
Revd. Ray Brown
Revd. Dave Gobbett
Revd. Clare Hendry
Dr. Julie Maxwell
Revd. Graham Nicholls
Revd. Dr. Ian Paul
Revd. Thomas Penman
Revd. Dr. Matthew Roberts
Revd. Santhosh Thomas