The SORs: make up your own mind!

The final vote on the Sexual Orientation Regulations will be taken in the House of Lords tomorrow night (Wednesday, 21st March).  Because of the way the legislative process has worked in this instance, the regulations can only be accepted or rejected in their entirety, not amended in any way.  The SORs have caused great controversy and been subject to strong opposition from some parts of the media.

It remains to be seen which way the vote will go, but many Christians are still confused and concerned about how they might be affected if the legislation is passed.  Faithworks has previously engaged with this issue, and back in January we presented an alternative Christian viewpoint, welcoming the regulations as a way of ensuring goods and services are delivered inclusively and in non-discriminatory ways.  We stand by what we have said.

Today we have issued a guidance document that answers some of the questions that are still concerning many Christians in the UK, such as:
– will my vicar be forced to bless same-sex partnerships?
– will my church have to let out its hall to a group promoting homosexual practice?
You can view this document by clicking here, and you are welcome to forward this document to others concerned if you feel that would be helpful.

We are confident that the SORs will not pose a threat to distinctive Christian identity.

But don’t just take our word for it!  The guidance document also has links to the legislation itself, as well as to other government documents summarising what the implications for faith groups will be.

Please do read this information for yourself, and let me know what you think….

34 comments

  1. I really do hope that you’re right in saying that the new legislation poses no threat to religious liberty. But I fear you are wrong. I guess time will tell. I see this as the thin end of a very large wedge. The Government is clearly responding to a very carefully strategised gay lobby of 30 years. They will not stop now. What else will they urge the Government to do? Soon, it will become impossible for a Christian Charity to get a grant unless it subscribes to an equal opportunity policy on homosexuality.

  2. Thank you for the Faithworks response to the SOR legislation. It is sane and reasoned – I wish the polarities would behave in a similar way. The outspoken prejudice taken by some Church spokespeople does considerable harm to public perceptions of Christianity.

  3. Hi, and thanks for the info emailed through Faithworks. One point I’d like to raise though, is where you wrote:
    “we encourage the church to continue to ensure that our service of other people is driven by the inclusive example of Christ, who served all people, even if he disagreed with their lifestyle.”
    Jesus was certainly inclusive, but I think this kind of wording leads to the wrong impression of Christ. For while he was inclusive on the one hand he was extremely exclusive on the other. He welcomed the woman at the well inspite of her long string of men, but then told her to go and not sin anymore. He welcomed the rich man but then told him to go and sell everything and follow him.
    If we make Christianity out to be wonderfully inclusive (which it is) but then play down the fact that dramatic change is essential then we are mis-representing the gospel. It seems to me that in an effort to show the appeal of God too many Christians ease off on the message of radical purity which runs unfalteringly through the Old and New testaments.
    Jesus was amazingly inclusive but his extreme exclusivity offended and turned away countless people, and he knowingly let it. When the rich man couldn’t part with his possessions Jesus simply let him walk away. If holiness is watered down even slightly then it simply ceases to be holy.

  4. Thank you for a sane balanced and informative document on SOR’s. While I agree there is a lot of lobbying out there, there has also been a lot of scare-mongering, which your factual approach does a lot to dispel.

  5. Dear Malcolm
    Thank you for your response to the debate about the SORs. There is a danger that both ends of the Christian response appear to only give one side of the answer. The Christian faith is all-inclusive. Jesus welcomed everyone. Jesus never turned anyone away. But He constantly challenged the lifestyle of those He had contact with, whether the Pharisees, Teachers of the Law, the woman caught in adultery, the disciples, Zacchaeus, among others. He constantly challenges us about our lifestyle as Christians. Whilst the SORs may provide some exemption for Christian or faith-based organisations, there is no doubt that the Government is sending out the message that the same-sex lifestyle is of equal value as the husband-wife lifestyle. That is clearly wrong from a biblical standpoint when marriage bewteen a man and woman is God’s ideal relationship and is His basis for family life. So, whilst we welcome all, offering love, grace, support and forgiveness where appropriate, we do not condone a lifestyle that is against God’s high standards. That does not make us homophobic or judgmental – it makes us distinctive as we seek to reach out holistically to a fallen world which will only be finally redeemed when Jesus comes back as King.

  6. The gospel of change is much more when we can see Evangleicals apply it to themselves. What I see here and elsewhre is a desire to preach to lgbt people. A desire to change us–and not yourselves to turn back, turn around. Motes and beams ?
    The majority community has persecuted us gays for a very long time now. And the churhces ahve been part of this.
    Maybe, just maybe it is time to give us a break ? We have lived at peace, contributed to family and society; and ahve never used terrorism as a tool to get change, unlike other groups in our community. Take us seriously anyway. Get to know a few of us. (We don’t bite, in fact! ;- )

  7. Thank you all for your comments and contirbutions. I appreciate you taking the time to reflect and respond and engage in the discussion. I am also very grateful for the gracious but clear tone of each of your posts.
    Let me go through them one at a time, if I may.
    Simon, thanks for your thoughtful comments. This may be ‘the thin end of a wedge’ as you suggest, but I think we should wait and see. Some have suggested that both I and Faithworks have been niaive in our response to the SOR’s – I don’t agree. I actually think we have taken the right stand on this issue, and have sought to guide and support local churches rather than engender fear. I also think I have a duty to believe the best in people and in others as a follower of Christ. I think we need to watch and see, but for the record, I do think it is vitally important that if we accept public funds, we accept public responsibility. We cannot and should not deliver services in discriminatory way. I don’t think someone’s sexuality gives me the right to treat them as any less than equal – I don’t have to agree with someone’s choice to love them.
    Andrew and Glimour, thank you for your comments. I am sure that our response is also one that needs to be balanced and reviewed and continually updated, but I am seeking to ensure that we are factual and gracious in what we do and what we say. I trust that the One whom we follow will be honoured in every aspect of this debate.
    Dominic, I absolutely agree that Jesus both accepted people and challenged lifestyles. But his service and love of people was not predicated upon their changed behaviour. It was his love and acceptance of them, and his respect for them that led to the opportunity for him to challenge their assumptions. I think we should model his example – accept and serve first and foremost. That relationship of love and trust will lead to the trust that allows and recieves challenge. I also think it is very important to understand the strongest challenge and criticism of Christ – be that in the temple when the tables are overturned or in Matthew 23 or in countless parables and exchanges with religious teachers and leaders, was with those who were so ready to sit in judgment of others. We must not be afraid to accept and love people unconditionally – this is the Jesus model. That acceptance and love does lead to challenge – and we must not be afraid to be ready to do that as well. But we must also ensure that we do not transfer the prophetic and moral challenge that we should bring to one another as members of Christ’s body onto a community or a society that does not claim to follow Christ or have any regard for his moral code. We must live as examples of Christ’s people not tell everyone else that they should do that when they may not even know the God whom we claim to serve. But inherently my position is not one based on moral approval or disapproval, it is solidly based on unconditional service – which I would suggest is the way of Christ. Once again, acceptance does not equal agreement.
    Roger, I think the polarisation of this debate is very dangerous, and I think we must maintain our commitment to the truth (a person not a statement as I understand both the Older and Newer Testaments and particularly the teaching of Christ in the last discourse in John 14-17. Once again I do not think that acceptance and challenge are mutuallu exclusive or unhappy bedfellows. My response to Dominic unpacks what I mean.
    Laurence, thank you for posting your comment and for the courage you show in doing so. I am so grateful that Christ is more gracious and compassionate than many of his followers – including me. I have consistently refused to comment on homosexuality without talking about human sexuality and my understanding of biblical teaching on the subject in its fulness. In fact in an earlier entry on the blog I also talked about the challenge of sawdust in other people’s lives and planks in our own. There are many areas of challenge for each of us to deal with in out lives – and I have many areas of weakness that I need Christ to deal with. We too often consider ourselves perfect and then judge others – a very fallen human trait, I think. The challenge is, both for you and for me, when I choose to live in a way which is contrary to the injunction of Scripture and do so in a continual and unchanged way. By so doing, I in effect say that my choice is more important than the teaching of Scripture. Whether that is our sexual preferences, our attitudes to money, the climate, people who are difference or to how we use power and influence, a continual lifestyle that doe snot subject itself to Scripture leads us to an experience of humanity that is less than God intends for us. There are challenges for this lifestyle of repentance and humility for every follower of Christ. May God help us both as we seek to life for him. I myself have a conservative view of sexual practise, but respect that you may have a different view. May God enable us to be all that he wants us to be.

  8. The SORs only add to the alienation that many already feel, by introducing major new areas of discrimination, emphasising the inequalities between established British rule, tradition & law – based on orthodox Judeo-Christian practices & beliefs – and an influential, intolerant, liberal elite.
    “Unconditional service does not demand endorsement of a person’s lifestyle – acceptance does not equal agreement”.
    1. Service-delivery (faith-based or not) is NOT and has NEVER has been “unconditional”. There are always “conditions” – eg: based on age, behaviour, legality, etc.
    2. The real issue is not whether service is conditional, but determining the basis for deciding which conditions are legal and which are not.
    3. What objective evidence exists to justify introducing the SOR’s?
    “There are differing moral views of same sex relationships in churches and we must at least acknowledge that”.
    1. True, denying this would be ridiculous.
    2. The SOR’s are NOT just about same sex relation ships!
    3. The SORs emphasise the difference between churches that have an orthodox, bible-based faith & practice and those that do not.
    4. Jesus was just as much concerned NOT to condemn the woman caught in adultery as He was to instruct her to “sin no more”! Separating the one from the other would be equally ridiculous!
    5. Today (eg) ACET couldn’t provide effective AIDS/HIV education to any group without emphasising the effectiveness of biblical practices in combatingthe disease – whether the bible is mentioned or not!
    “Local churches may have a moral view and a view of conscience on issues of sexual orientation, but they must also understand their responsibilities if they are receiving public funds – public funding must always be used for public benefit.”
    1. Public funding is precisely that – money derived from the public.
    2. Faith-based members of the public have as much right as any other group NOT to face discrimination because of the way they live out their beliefs.
    3. Public benefit has NEVER meant everything is available to everyone, without question.
    4. Most public funding is restricted – eg: by age, geography, disadvantage, etc.
    5. Christians are at the forefront in the delivery of open access, VolCom “public services”.
    6. Faith-based, VolCom provision supported by public funding commonly includes a far greater measure of private & voluntary support.
    7. Imposing the SORs on RC adoption services will close the most successful agencies in their specific field. There has NEVER been a complaint about discrimination or homophobia against RC adoption services. Is the theoretical protection worth the practical cost of threatening this vital work?
    8. In practical terms, recent years have seen both local and national government increasingly alienate faith-based groups by imposing ill-considered – arguably entirely unnecessary – extra regulations apparently based on the views of an influential minority.
    Eg: Faith-based groups being required to operate parallel, non-faith programmes, when the reverse is not required of non-faith groups.
    NB: The SORs cover all areas of service delivery, not just the public sector.
    “Widespread scaremongering and misrepresentation of the regulations has taken place in recent weeks and months – we urge local churches and Christians to be careful to think through their own position. It is important to remember that just because certain objections are labelled ‘Christian’ or carry legal language it does not make them either accurate or fair.”
    1. Equally, just because certain regulations (SORs) are labelled anti-discrimination or equal opportunities and carry legal language, does not mean they are accurate, fair or good either!!
    2. Are the Archbishops and Bishops, the Christian Institute and the EA all mistaken in the views they share about the SORs?
    3. Many faith-based organisations have already closed due public funds being withdrawn.
    4. Given the illegal, Christo-phobic and heavy-handed behaviour of the Police and local authorities, Christian concerns are real and probably justified.
    4. As the regulations will have to be tested by case law, is there any objective evidence to suggest that the Faithworks view is correct?
    “Christians and local churches retain many exemptions within these regulations. This should be clearly understood.”
    The exemptions are only needed because the regulations could not be passed without them.
    The Parliamentary Committee – perhaps indicating where the SORs will lead – wanted far more permissive SORs, pofoundly resrticitve of Christian social & community activity.
    The SORs are fundamentally flawed, misguided and inappropriate, presumably introduced to ameliorate a small, though extremely influential minority group.
    The exemptions are only concerned with areas of religious practice, which they separate in a wholly false and meaningless way, from faith-based social concern and action.
    In working with the homeless, you simp,ly do the best you can to meet the huge number of multiple needs presented each day. You don’t ask about orientation, persuasion, values or beliefs. BUT as a faith based group there ARE real choices to be made about who provides what sex and drug advice to the people you serve. The SORs will remove this choice and dictate that the service can be delivered by agencies whose “safe-sex” advice does not work.

  9. Hi Malcolm,
    Sorry, I still cannot understand the FaithWorks approach on this issue. In response to the “thin end of the wedge” fear, your response above is to “wait and see”. That is exactly how the thin end of the wedge gets thicker! You ask us not to be swayed by what we read in the press, but there are plenty of very well-informed sources who certainly do not share your confidence about the regulations. Surely even the obscene way the Government is railroading this through at breakneck speed, by-passing the normal democratic processes, should give you some cause for concern. The fact that the Government has insisted on whipping its members in both the Commons and the Lords on this sensitive issue (whilst the Conservatives have been given a free vote) should give you more concern. In fact, the comments in the joint parliamentary committee report prior to publication of the British SORS that they are not just changing the law but changing a culture must give us a whiff that this is the just a further step in a determined process. Personally, I am convinced that the real implications of these regulations will be worked out in the law courts over the next few years. By that time, it will be too late to have “waited and seen”.
    As an addendum, supposing a gay person decides he or she would like to open a guest house purely for gays. Should he have the right to do so? I would say so – but, presumably, the proposed regulations would disallow this.

  10. As a pastor of a church that has quite a few young families & school teachers, I am deeply concerned that a pilot scheme has already been introduced in selected schools to promote homosexuality as normal to children from the age of 4 using fairy stories as the medium of indoctrination. What long-term implications will this have for all kids – and teachers who do not accept the gay lifestyle as normal, but may be required to read these stories in a lesson?
    It’s one thing not to discriminate against gay people, but to actively promote their lifestyle to impressionable children is socially and morally irresponsible, in my humble opinion.
    I remember many years ago reading a true definition of the subtle process of moral decline – the unthinkable becomes thinkable, the thinkable becomes doable, the doable becomes done and the done becomes the done thing!

  11. In common with several others I add my hope that you are right. And I have felt that some of the more extreme “warnings” that we have heard have done little to advance the debate.
    But I also have to agree with those concerned by your “wait and see” approach. Do you really imagine that if, in a year or so, we do discover that that faith groups ARE in fact discriminated against or in otherways suffering, that there will then be any chance of then changing things?
    I have read the regulations; and it seems to me that (to use the adoption issue as the obvious case) in one part they seem to give one group (i.e. faith based groups) certain “rights” yet in another place a different group (in this case gays and lesbians) are given “rights” that may (will) override the others’.
    Earlier I used the term debate…this has been the problem all along. There has not been proper debate on this – although it has to said that the practice of putting extra regulations into bills in this manner has been a common tactic for some time and is by no means unique to this issue (and we should all be concerned by that in its own right!).
    But…the usual reasons for not debating openly are either because your arguments do not hold water – or that you are afraid of the opposition you may face!
    I wonder which it is here!
    I also think the “Inclusive Jesus” argument is all too often used as a blunt instrument which frankly just doesn’t make sense. Yes, of course He loved all equally; went to all; would never have withheld healing or the good news; or a cup of water from anyone. And, of course he requires the same from us…but would He have felt that everyone was appropriate to adopt a child?

  12. Thanks for the posts everyone. I think you are misunderstanding my approach when I talk of ‘waiting’. That is not a passive waiting on our part. I am, and faithworks is, actively engaged in a dialogue with government about the importance of ‘equality’ for service providers as well as service recievers. But the SOR’s are about ensuring that goods, facilities and services are not witheld from someone based on the issue of their sexuality. We need to remember that.
    My comments that follow are based on the legislation as it stands. I do believe that we need to work hard over the next couple of years to ensure that service providers are protected from discrimination – but that is an attendant but separate issue from the issue here.
    I think, Brian, your analysis of the situation at times is excellent and at times is somewhat flawed. Of course service always has conditions of one kind or another. But to jump from that truth into a list of reasons why the SOR’s are wrong is a step too far. Either you exist to serve the public or you don’t. If you do, then your provision must be within the context of legislation. You are of course right that people of faith are entitled to public service provision etc. But the taxation system in the UK is not, on the whole (With some exceptions) project linked, or issue specific. My understanding of most faith based initiatives in the UK (again there are some exceptions) is that they do not exist to serve people of faith only. They exist to serve their communities. If they exist only to serve people of faith, the SOR’s do NOT apply. In the same way as some groups, set up to support gay people, do not have to provide a service to heterosexuals. But to suggest that under current legislation faith based projects should be publicly funded to help only those of their faith seems somewhat ungainly, and unChristian, unless of course we believe that the Church is called only to serve those whose lifestyles we approve and whose faith we know to be true.
    Whilst I have a conservative view of sexuality, I am not prepared to write off others who share my faith but disagree with my view as ‘unbiblical’ or ‘unorthodox’. I may disagree with them, but I am determined to respect them. There is a great deal of disagreement about a great deal of the bible. Presumably you are not advocating that we conduct some kind of moral test on people before we help them? Surely we help because we are called to. We advise, we warn, we retain the right to speak openly and clearly about our views, our morals and our commitments when invited to do so or when such expression is vital to our work and our commitments, but we do not help the alcoholic on the condition that they never drink again? There may come a point when we tell them that there is nothing more we can do, and that they need to look elsewhere. The same is true for the addict. But surely we must be committed to helping and serving.
    I think the latter half of your observations sound defensive and reactionary. I know you will have taken a great deal of time to think through the issues.
    I do think you have a key point, though, when you talk about the need for the conditions of service delivery to be clear. There is further clarification to be had about how a stautory commissioning body sees the service provider they are commissioning – are they an extension of the statutory authority or an autonomous sub contracted service provider? You will know as well as I do that the answer is different in different locations.
    Lastly, I think your last paragraph is key. We do not ask people’s orientation etc before we help them – we just help them. As we build relationship, and trust and respect, they open their lives to our advice, guidance and support in increasing measure. The SOR’s cannot stop such relational guidance.
    There is work to of course work to be done to support delivery agencies – we are committed to doing that work, but to be committed to doing that work it does not mean that we must also oppose legislation that seeks to protect the rights of others.

  13. Andy
    I agree with everything you say. What I disagree with is the connection between serving people and morally condoning them. I do not think I promote homosexuality by serving gay people. I do not think the SOR’s put young people at risk, instead they challenge those who provide public services or commercial services to do so in a non-discriminatory way.

  14. Sorry Andy and Mike – my previous comment was in response to Mike (my mistake). This one is in response to Andy.
    I think you are misunderstanding what I mean by waiting. Our waiting is not passive at all, it is active. We are actively pursuing a positive way to support churches and Christian organisations and individuals through the confusion around the legislation. At the same time, we are pursuing a behind the scenes conversation to try to help government understand the need for equality and non-discrimination in service commissioning.
    I agree that the process has been badly managed and too ‘rail-roaded’. But that is a different issue to the detail of the regulations. We should be clear about objecting to the abuse of parliamentary process. The governments in the UK of the last thirty years have compounded this deterioration in the democratic process and each one has had its failings in this regard. New Labour also has its shortcomings and abject failures in this area – but I sense the New Tories will be equally as challenging (I am determined to remain politically active but not politically partisan in my engagement with politicians!)
    Lastly, you are right. A gay hotelier will be subject to the same conditions as a Christian heterosexual hotelier. That is right and proper. If either lives in their hotel, they can restrict their services. If they do not, then can also restrict their services, but not on the grounds covered by this and the wider equalities legislation.
    Lastly, I am not suggesting we have this all sown up and that other opinions are wrong. In fact, on 19th April we are holding a meeting of Christian leaders with a wide spectrum of views on this issue – not just those who agree with us. But some of the very vocal comments on the SOR’s do not match with the actual regulations and the wider context.
    You are right, though. The ultimate test of this legislation will be in the courts 0 but the judicial system is part of the democratic process in this country and is independent of the legislature. The clash of rights will ultimately go all the way to a European Court. And article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects you and me as much as it does others.
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments

  15. Chris
    Thanks for your comments – they are very stimulating and helpful. I hope my explanation of our ‘wait’ and ‘see’ terminology helps answer that point.
    I also think you are right about the issues of process and debate. These things need to debated properly and we should not be afraid to do so. The difficulty with this and other governments is that they do not fully embrace democratic debate. But the equal challenge is that some elements of the Christian Community do not debate either – we SHOUT. I have absolutely no problem with constuctive, heated and passionate differences of opinion and discussion. In fact I welcome them – see my comments in the last post about our meeting on the 19th April. I do however have a problem with language and exchange that suggests that the ONLY Christian view on this issue is the conservative, evangelical one. There are other views – I may and do disagree with some of them, but I do not think I have the right to shout them down. I listen to their argument and want them to listen to mine.
    I’m glad you agree with the unconditional service argument. And actually I agree with you concerning the issue of entrusting another person’s life into the hands of a fellow human being. I do not think that the argument around social compassion is the same as that around adoption etc. I have tried to articulate what we are trying to do to address that issue earlier – but one option is for the development of a mosaic approach to such services – in other words, the responsibility of a given borough or authroity is to ensure that they have a myriad of service providers who together provide an inclusive raft of services. This allows for distinctiveness in ethos and approach. This is a discussion we are having strongly behind the scenes at the moment and we would value your prayers.
    My only fear when it comes to adoption agencies is one of slight ‘pick and choose’ when it comes to biblical and moral ethics. Would the same adoption agencies refuse to approve potential adoptive parents who were gay and single, or divorced, or living together outside of marriage, or not married at all? And in their compassion (which I greatly admire and agree with) if they refer such people to ‘other’ agencies’ are they not also condoning them as adptive parents anyway, but just washing their hands of final responsibility when it comes to placing children in their care? I agree entirely with you, but I think we have to be critically self aware of the inconsistency in our approach to upholding biblical ethics. There are a number of examples where we wantonly break or ignore biblical injunctions when it comes to moral conduct, but perhaps that is a discussion for a good glass of red wine and a tete a tete!
    Thanks so much for the contribution and for the challenge it presented to me.

  16. “But to suggest that under current legislation faith based projects should be publicly funded to help only those of their faith seems somewhat ungainly, and unChristian ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,”
    Malcolm
    Thanks for your response. I have re-read my comments & struggle to see how this conclusion has been made?
    As I think you know from our previous contacts, I have spent the last 40+ years committed to faith-based, OPEN access service delivery ………. about as much time as I have had to “think thro’ the issues”!
    That said, the reality is – even prior to the SORs & other recent “equality” regulations – that successful open access, Christian projects across the UK have had their public funding seriously restricted &/or removed; most often because they cannot/would not accept secular/non-faith conditions being imposed on their programmes.
    Is it seriously suggested that in people have been badly served by the open access support from faith-based groups ……. at least any more than they are by non-faith groups??
    Can anyone say where there is ANY evidence to support this ……… in fact any of this at all??
    Despite study & enquiry, I can only find a little evidence in the US – which indicates that faith based provision is generally up to 10 x more “successful” – & often with the most needy groups.
    There doesn’t seem to be any evidence in the UK at all?!
    If this is true, it is mystifying why anyone – let alone Christians – would support the introduction of regulations based on opinion rather than fact?
    It seems 2 prominent supporters of gay rights – Viscount Bledisloe QC & the Law Lord, Lady Butler-Schloss – both said they would vote against the regulations.
    Lady Butler-Schloss commented on the poor drafting of the regulations.
    Also, of the only MPs given a free vote (Tory) 100 voted against the motion – while about 40% of the Lords were also against the SORs.
    It’s right to say that arguments about biblical interpretation exist – they will remain.
    But, the fact is that most of the Christian Church, worldwide, throughout it’s history, has maintained that any sexual relationship outside monogamous man/woman marriage is sinful & wrong.
    Is there a society or civilisation that has remained to disprove the point?
    Faithworks has a broad overview of the situation in the UK, where my experience has been of multiple, open access, local projects.
    But, in practical terms at grass-roots level, almost everything seen & experienced in the last few years, from both national & local government in these matters, only indicates that liberal, philosophical principle – detached from reality, commonsense, traditional British practices & beliefs – increasingly rules the day.
    Surely any debate shouldn’t be about the process – whether we “shout” too loudly or not – but about the loss of services and support to some of the most vulnerable poeplein our local communities?
    That really is something that we MUST shout about!
    Perhaps, I’m in over my head, but if a pro-gay Law Lord says the SORs are poorly drafted, why defend them??

  17. ‘The Message is onward onward Christian soldiers. A lot of good has come out of this fight against the SORs. Many Christians ‘smelt the coffee’ for the first time because of this issue and realised what this aggressive liberal New Labour Government is really about. So Christian please do not be too downhearted. Many believers have put up a sustained noble and dignified fight on this issue, sadly they have been undermined by some liberal Christians and even some non-liberal Christians who were perhaps taken in by the Government’s false reassurances and smooth sounding soundbites. Fool them!
    Eventually I hope and pray that all Christians unite to make a stand against this atheistic Government and it’s aggressive secularist agenda. I also hope in future fights on important moral issues, Christians don’t use Christian ‘grace’ as a poor excuse for cowardice and doing nothing.

  18. Dear friends
    This may seem naive but it is a passionately held belief.
    I have had several dear friends who are gay/lesbian who have been close to real faith after many years of searching and longing, who have been banished for ever by the lashing of a Christian tongue.
    I think we heteros should realise that there is as wide a spectrum of sexual practice in gays as there is in hetrosexuality, from none to promiscuity. Sometimes it comes over from the Evangelical wing that all heteros within a marriage are fine. Do the HTB marriage course as I did and find how far short many of us fall.
    Some of my gay friends are among the most selfless and sensitive of all my friends. Some of them as couples have wonderful stable giving relationships. Others are incredibly lonely and long for the love that a good church (and God) could give.
    Nick Viney

  19. Malcolm – thank you for the stand you are taking on this. Good to see you blogging again after a while of no posts here. I was beginning to feel a little lonely in my views of the SORs!
    There are some challenges in the SORs I think, but it would be good to hear some more Christian saying that legislation that outlaws discrimination is a good thing. If we Christians were the ones being discriminated against, i would want others to be campaigning against that, on my behalf. So why don’t we want to do the same for people with different sexual orientation than ours?
    It seems we are a bit paranoid, resisting losing our place of authority in Christendom, frightened of losing our influence. So much of the christian response to the SORs seems more like propaganda and scaremongering, than a gracious Christlike response. Thank you for offering something so different.

  20. Bro Malc,
    Your statement leaves me concerned.
    1. If u are correct why are a number of Christian groups including the Christian Lawyers Fellowship, greater experts in legal ramifications than you or I, converned about all this?
    2. What are your own views on homosexuality & the Bible? If you differ from how most Christians view this issue then you should declare it.
    As a black youth growing up in London in the 1970s, I saw how the police used vagrancy laws from the 1800s to harrass people.
    Reflecting on that I would say you cannot predict how a law may be used both now & in the future. Your view appears dependant on government goodwill, which in my view is a bit naive

  21. Thank you all for your comments – I appreciate them a great deal. Sorry I am only getting to the blog every couple of days – the nature of a rather hectic lifestyle at the moment – but I am trying to reply to you all personally.
    Brian,
    I KNOW you do open access – and I deeply respect your work. I just think you are seeing threat where there is no threat. I also think you have provided fantastic services, but you earlier comments did mention the right of people of faith to have access to services and the fact that some public momey comes from faith people etc. That is where your own argument became a little confused and I was confused in the process. So if I misunderstood you, a thousand apologies – and you know you have my continued deep respect.
    As far as the rest of your argument goes, it sounds to me like you are leaping from a moral argument to a pragamatic one and back and forth. Our support of the SOR legislation is not because we think it is perfect! I know there are things that need sorted out, issues that need discussed and particularly in relation to the way public fundind statutory bodies perceive the sub contracted service provider. However, we are seeking to help people through these regs, not force them into a sense of blind panic.
    I refuse absolutely to yeild to the conviction that to serve gay people unconditionally is to condone them. I have said it a thousand times, and will say it again here – acceptance and agreement do not mean the same thing. I have not engaged in this on the moral issue of sexuality, instead on the equally important (and moral!) issue of the call to serve. Public funding must be used for public benefit – end of story. Now I know that we then have to work out who serves whom etc, and you make some good points there – which I will relay to others but I think you are much more worried about these regs than you need to be. We want to help great people like you do the work they do, and keep doing it – there may be a battle to hoist our flag over and say ‘here we stand, we cannot recant’ but this isn’t it. You KNOW how much I respect your work – so keep goping – and I love the robust dialogue here too – thank you.
    Simon, I think your comments reflect your views well enough. I disagree with your tone and your inference, and do not think that those who hold the view that I do are in any way less Christian, less committed, less compasionate or less committed to truth. I also believe that there is a great deal of government policy (not just labour policy but tory as well from the last thirty years) that I am very pleased with and exceptionally grateful for. I fear you are much more of an exclusivist and separatist that I am – but thanks for your views.
    Nick,
    Thanks for your posting – and the plea that it makes. Not an easy stand to take – but one I respect and am very sympatheic of.
    Rupert,
    Thanks for the welcome! The blog has been busy – but so has life, hence the slight silence. A troll through the comments on this and other issues shows just how threatened and fearful some people feel. I want to work out a way of acknowledging their view, celebrating their passion and helping Christians work together to challenge the moral outrages of povoerty, discrimination and injustice – against anyone. Fear springs from insecurity or a sense of being threatened. But I do not want to sound as if I believe that those who are worried about such things as the SOR’s should be quiet – not at all. I do want the conversation to be gracious, measured and clear though! Some of the comments I have had directed at me personally leave me wondering if the argument is more important to some people than the example and attitude of Jesus. But there are far too many planks in my eyes for me to make anywhere near a fair judgment of others.
    Andrew,
    Thanks for the comments. Just because someone has the name Christian or Lawyer in their title does not mean they are accurate. There are some things that need explored in the regs – but I do not share the very pessimistic and well publicised view of the LCF – and am not a spokesperson for them. I admire their passion and am grateful for their love of God and commitment. I actually want to work out a way of helping them understand why I don’t think the regs are as threatening as they do, and I want to understand why they feel so strongly. I am trying to faciliate a meeting with one of their leaders to work out a way forward. I think we should follow the example of the people of Berea, described in the book of Acts by the Apostle Paul. They did not just accept what he said because he was a lawyer or a Christian – they checked it our for themselves. I think it is wise and expedient for you and me to do the same thing.
    As far as my view of sexuality goes, I am happy to articulate it – I have done so several times over the months on the blog and it remains the same. But I ask you to remember that this is not about whether or not I agree with homosexuality – this is a debate about service provision, not about condoning someone’s choice. We MUST SERVE UNCONDITIONALLY because this is what Jesus did.
    My view of homosexuality fits within my view of human sexuality. I believe the Bible teaches that sexual practise should be restricted to a lifelong partnership of marriage, as defined by Scripture – which involves a man and a woman, monogamy, public acknowldgement of their commitment and sharing of life, heart and resources. Any sexual activity outside of this is less than God’s best. Homosexuality, adultery, promosiscuity and anything else fall outside of this view of God’s best. But I also believe that sexual ethics are only one area where people fall short of God’s best and I am not prepared to label someone just because of their ‘sexuality’. The wider issue of faithfulness to God and living in a way that is what he intended as best involves everything we say and everything we do. Too often we label people just according to their sexuality – and that is both de-humanising and unbiblical. I resist the attempts by some to elevate sexual sin above other sin – this is both unbiblical and unhelpful. It creates a sense of moral legalism by many and victimization of a few. Legalism, greed, gluttony, pride, anger, jealousy, murder, hatred, judgementalism, idolatory, exxageration, lying, exploitation, wrong use of money and resources, manipulation, distortion of the truth, disobedience and a thousand other things are all equally sinful.
    I also think that a persistent choice to life in a way that ignores the guidance of God is a dangerous choice to make, and that there comes a point in a relationship of trust where such choices should be challenged – but I believe that such a challenge should always spring from love, trust and grace, not from taking a moral high ground, spiritual pride or a sense of self righteousness.
    I would say again, that although my view of sexual practise is conservative and clearly set out here, I also recongise that other Christians have a different view. Too often we proclaim ‘ this is what the Bible says’and that is the end of it. But we actually mean ‘ this is what I believe the Bible says’ and that is the end of it. Other brothers and sisters have a different view of sexual practise to me – I disagree with them, but I am determined not to dismiss them or treat them as second class. I want a discussion within the context of love and grace.
    Lastly, I do get worried about our selective use of the Bible. Accepting that there is a difference between the ceremonial law of the Scriptures and the Moral law, that still leaves me (and presumably you and every other conservative Christian) with some pretty big challenges. Should we still stone adulterers? Should we re-institute the Scriptural commands around lending money, rates of interest, debt cancellation, the mixing of fabrics, punishment for breaking the sabbath, for stealing, for false accusation? Should we endorse a ‘re-creationist’ approach to moral and civic life which sees our society as a theocracy and the government as inherently worng? If so, what do we do with the teaching of Paul about religious liberty and freedom and the reality of Christ fulfilling the law and the implications of Paul’s teaching on food and drink and sabbath?
    ‘Upholding the Bible’ is an often quoted phrase, but not one that we really think about too much. Should Christian lawyers refuse to defend people they know or believe to be guilty? Should they involve themselves in family and divorce law at all? What about Christian bankers – should they work in an insitution so clearly unbiblical? Or Christians in industry – they contribute to environmental sin? What should they do?
    Whatever you views on all of these issues, we are still left with this simple point, acceptance of an idividual and unconditional service of them does not equal moral endorsement of their lifestyle choice. We serve because Jesus did.
    Thanks for your comments and Godbless you as you serve Him

  22. In view of the Government and Liberal whips not allowing their MPs and Peers a free vote for this weeks passing of the new Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) as they were forced through the House of Commons and the Lords at unseemly undemocratic haste. Is this what the Government calls democracy? Using outrageous undemocratic and underhand tactics to force these unwelcome new rules on the majority. Should the silent majority now accept this so called democratic process and these unwelcome new rules?
    I would like to ask the Government and its liberal supporters; democracy what democracy? You mean riding roughshod over the majority without debate to appease a 3% militant minority? What is it now, the 9th piece of gay rights legislation in nine years of New Labour Government. That sounds more like a Government obsessed with gay rights to me. Like so many liberals when someone dares to make a stand and say enough is enough. Liberals make the ‘cheap shot’ of calling all Christians and people of other faiths who opposed these half baked SORs ‘homophobic’.(liberals are only liberal when people agree with them). There was enough legislation all ready in place to protect homosexuals from discrimination. In any case I see no evidence of your so called ‘homophobia’ from Christians. Merely Christians saying we have rights too; the right to our beliefs, our values and conscience, the same values and beliefs that have been around since Christianity began. But perhaps you think all Christians should now in the name of liberal modernism ditch those and values and beliefs to fit in with trendy new liberal thinking?
    As a BBC opinion poll revealed this week there is more discrimination against Christians than any other group in UK society today. If you want to talk phobias, maybe the ‘liberal trendies’ should address their real ‘Christianphobia’ before making false accusations of ‘homophobia.’
    The truth is if you are interested, as a Christian I love everyone and judge no one, as we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. The Lord will be the judge of us all one day, that includes you and me. Remember respect and tolerance cuts both ways. I don’t ever remember any homosexual being forced to accept Christian beliefs and values, however, with the new SORs, Christians will be forced to accept homosexual ‘values and practices’ and act against their beliefs’ or face being arrested.
    Now is that what you call democracy?
    Well I suppose it is, new labour government, ‘stalanist style’.

  23. My brother has pointed me to your blog and I appreciate the information and debate. Having read the regulations it does seem to me wrong in principle that a guest house owner cannot refuse because of his/her beliefs to let a double bedded room to two men if he believes that they will be indulging in homosexual practices. If he “waits and sees” he can still do nothing about it without fear of prosecution.
    I also think that it is wrong that a magistrate sitting on an adoption panel cannot on the grounds of his beliefs refuse to place a child for adoption with two men. And yet such a magistrate has been removed from the panel on just those grounds. It is a further indication of prejudice being wrong unless it is prejudice against sincerely held Christian beliefs in which case it is OK.

  24. Hi Cedric,
    Richard Dawkins (among many others) believes that the Christian faith is damaging to children if promoted in the way that many churches do.
    Should he be able to refuse to allow Christian couples to adopt on the basis of his sincerely heard (and well articulated) beliefs?
    I believe that growing up in a family with far-right beliefs is damaging for children and for society. Should I be able to ban members of the BNP for adopting. That has some appeal to me.
    Where do we draw the line of legislation?
    Warmly
    Steve

  25. I am very relieved to have found this blog where there is reasoned debate and teaching on the subject of the SO Regs and homosexuality. Many church members are clearly prejudiced because they use words like ‘disgusting’ and ‘abomination’ in regard to homsexuality and have no knowledge-based grounds for their views. I have also come across many Christians who equate homosexuality with paedophilia. Information and teaching is desperately needed yet the subject is taboo. It is very difficult when there are so many gay priests whose celibacy is questionable or enforced – and very good priests they are. I simply do not see how the church can hold its line in a changing world and I think your approach is the right one – one does not have to agree with homosexuality but must accept the difference – as one does with other human differences – and not make judgments.
    I am an employment law specialist and do not think the Regs will pose any problems for anyone if common sense is allowed to prevail.

  26. To take a different approach, let me tell you about two men who are not gay but perceived to be so by their workmates. The first suffered homophobic verbal abuse day in day out until he he became ill and unable to work. The second was pinned down by four workmates and his private parts daubed with a corrosive cleaning agent. Help is now at hand for the two men – but Christians must understand why homosexual people need the protection of the law – and why we must educate ourselves about the true nature of the problem – and be Jesus in our daily lives. The Regs also protect people who are discriminated against because they are perceived to be gay, or who suffer discrimination because a member of their family, or a close friend is gay.

  27. SOR DEBATE IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS WED 21.03.07 ONLY 4 BISHOPS BOTHERED TO TURN UP!
    Can you believe it, one of the most controversial moral issues facing the country in recent years and only 4 bishops decided to turn up! Thank God for the Archbishop of York and his two Bishop supporters but shame on the rest! The other Bishops should be ashamed of their cowardice and negligence in the course of their duties in defending the Christian Faith when it really mattered in Great Britain today.
    The reality….Bishops are running scared of this secular / atheistic Government, they couldn’t face up and stand and being counted on this controversial but very important moral issue…their cowardice is shameful..and these people are supposed to be the Christian leaders of our nation! God help us all.
    In view of this cowardice……
    The best thing that could happen for Christianity in the UK is for the Anglican Church to break free from the state. Then we could sort out the real Christians from the pretenders and disturb the comfort zones of the Anglican Bishops, Clergy and lay members who are only involved with the church for the status and the state privileges and comforts that go with it. I hope these hangers on leave in droves when the Anglican Church breaks free from the Government’s secular control.
    The Christian tree in the UK has needed pruning of it’s dead wood for many many years!

  28. Simon, the trouble with the logic of your last comment is that there are some “real Christians” who could ascribe to say the EA statement of faith, who have a real and personal relationship with Jesus, who fundamentally disagree with you and your position on the SORs.
    I think many people aren’t as scared of this government and their supporters, as they are scared of the response from other Christians who lambaste them for their “liberal views”.
    Please, you may not agree with Christians who support the SORs, but lets disagree with grace and kindness!

  29. Malcolm
    MANY thanks yet again for your robust blog, which so reflect your heart & mind!
    As far as the SORs – also the Equality and Gender Recogniton Bills – I can’t find ANY factual evidence or objective reason to explain why any of this legislation was required.
    This begs the question why the regulations have been introduced, each against considerable concerns, and some at least introduced in something of a questionable manner – eg: pushed thro’ on Budget Day!
    If the regulations have been so widely misunderstood, then the style & manner of their introduction only supports fears that there is another unknown, agenda at work.
    The increasing difficulty that faith-based (especially local Christian) groups have in accessing public sector funding for open access services is, perhaps, indicative of the economic climate?
    On the other hand, it may be a fairly rampant secular / humanist agenda ………. or a combination of the 2.
    Given that faith groups contribute such a large part of VolCom contribution – eg: 2 x the number of public sector youth workers – then surely you have to ask why?
    While HMG is so committed to to social integration & community cohesion, so much that it does only emphasises differences, polarising opinion & behaviour!
    That the opportunites are so great only doubles the tragedy of current events.
    Kindest regards as aye
    Brian

  30. Okay, simple question for you Malcolm. Do you think it exceptable to hand children over to gay couples for adoption?
    And, if so, on what Biblical basis?
    I would also not agree with handing children over to unmarried heterosexual couples for adoption, on the basis that if they can’t commit to each other by marrying how can they be prepared to commit to the future welfare of the children they are trying to adopt?
    I am not saying that being married and heterosexual automatically makes you ideal to adopt, but it is definitely a better starting point.
    In case you were wondering, I consider homosexuals the same way I would consider any other sinner – in desperate need of redemption through Jesus Christ.

  31. It seems at least Cardinal Cormac Murhpy – O’Connor agrees with me!
    Check out the link to Steve Doughty’s Article in today’s Daily Mail.
    Excellent article in todays Daily Mail. Thursday 29 March Page 19. It’s gay rights laws that are intolerant, says Cardinal.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=445280&in_page_id=1770
    I have been campaigning on this issue for the last three months, indeed I was one of the original protesters outside the House of Lords on Tuesday 9 January 2007 and was interviewed by Times religious Correspondent Ruth Gledhill a copy of that interview is now on the Times SOR Religion Blog and also on YouTube. I have written to many newspapers and appeared on many websites debating the unfairness of these new SORS.
    TIMES SOR BLOG AND YOUTUBE INTERVIEW
    http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2007/01/christians_torc.html
    If you would like to read some of my statements. Please just do a search for SIMON ICKE SORS I think you will find some of my views interesting and useful if you do any further writing on this subject.
    Regards
    Simon

  32. In view of my outspoken previous comments about the SORs on your site, perhaps an explanation of where I stand as a Christian might be of interest and why I feel as I do about the SORs. I hope this helps?
    Many unbelievers and liberal Christians make such assumptions about what they think Christians like myself think and why we take such a stand on being so strongly against these new sexual orientation regulations (SORS). I cannot speak for others but I can honestly say my philosophy of life is simple: I look up to no one and I look down to no one. I see everyone as my equal, I try and look for the good in my fellow man or woman no matter who they are. I hate no one and I try and show Christian love to everyone. I cannot be self righteous or believe I am better than anyone. As I am a sinner like everyone else, it is not by what I say or do that brings my salvation, but the price Jesus Christ paid for me on a cross at Calvary. He gave his life for me a sinner, even though I am not worthy. It is only by His unconditional love, amazing grace and mercy that I am saved from death and reconciled to God, my Father in Heaven. Therefore with humility I try and live my life and help others where I can. But as a Christian I also believe in justice and truth, which includes all people being treated fairly and with equal justice. It is my sincere belief that these ill thought out SORS do not achieve that. In the Government’s zeal to try and be fair to gays they have either deliberately or by default discriminated against Christians and people of other faiths, making new laws that show no respect whatsoever for peoples deep held faith, beliefs and values. In a democracy it should be justice and fairness for all not just a vociferous militant minority.

  33. Thank you Malcolm for your helpful writings which have encouraged me to keep trusting that the church can rise above folly.
    > sexual ethics are only one area where people fall short of God’s best … gluttony … and a thousand other things are all equally sinful.
    I agree, and I guess that different people would write different lists of sins. For example, bearing in mind how seriously biblical law regards negligence (e.g. the goring ox, Exodus 21:29) I would argue that habitual speeding is similar to homosexual practice.
    The “gluttony” catches me out as I snack too often.
    best wishes,
    Patrick

  34. > wrong that a guest house owner cannot refuse because of his/her beliefs to let a double bedded room
    And maybe he sees another guest carrying five packets of chocolate biscuits to his room and suspects that he may be planning to indulge in gluttonous practices?
    And those are only the more visible sins!
    regards,
    Patrick

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