The family is under serious threat today and we need to address this.

The biblical teaching

The Bible is quite clear in its teaching about the family:

God created humanity male and female

 “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Our society often focuses on people with a homosexual or bi-sexual orientation but, according to Scripture, these orientations are divergences from God’s intention. Obviously, we are called to love our homosexual or bi-sexual neighbour as much as our heterosexual neighbour. There is no excuse for doing otherwise, whatever emotional reactions we may experience. We must show compassion. But loving our neighbour does not mean accepting his/her sexual orientation as normal or approving of his/her behaviour. The Bible clearly teaches that God intended humanity to be male and female and the Genesis passages teach:

  1. It is not ideal for a man to be solitary.
  2. The best companion is a woman.
  3. Woman can also be his sexual partner with whom he can form a new family unit and, if possible, reproduce.

 God intended heterosexual marriage

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The term ‘marriage, is not used at this early stage but it is clear that God intended the couple to form a new, stable family unit. Jesus quotes this in Matt 19:4-6. Nowhere does the Bible (Old Testament or New Testament) contemplate an approval of homosexual behaviour or marriage. Some people try to argue that the Bible only condemns homosexual promiscuity etc., but would accept a loving, faithful homosexual (sexually active) relationship. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/homosexualityandthechurch.pdf pages 5, 7 on my website which shows this is not the case.

The reasons God intended heterosexual marriage include the following:

A heterosexual marriage brings the benefit of sexual complementarity

 Genesis uses metaphorical descriptions but they are conveying important principles (just as Jesus did in his parables). Having created a male human, God says: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Man in isolation is not ideal. Genesis goes on to indicate that the only adequate partner for a man is a woman, not another man. (The same can be said for a woman. Woman in isolation is not ideal. Genesis indicates that the only adequate partner for a woman is a man, not another woman.). Obviously, same-sex companionship can be a deep relationship. But Genesis speaks of a search being made for a complementary partner and the only adequate partner is someone of the opposite sex. (Obviously someone with a homosexual orientation will not find fulfilment with a person of the opposite sex, which is a serious problem for them. However, although we must be compassionate, we have to face the fact that everyone has to practice self-control and self-denial in the area of sex, e.g. before finding the right partner in marriage or for couples where health problems make sexual relationships impossible. And, of course, significant numbers of heterosexuals remain single).

We might legitimately add that children need the benefits of sexual complementarity in their parents. One aspect of the family is educating children and they need to be educated in the differences between male and female. For this they need both a male and a female role model. Many single parents (divorced or otherwise) do an excellent job of providing parenthood but this does not alter the fact that children are missing out on the benefits of complementarity in parents. The current sexual revolution has not yet lasted long enough for psychological studies on the effects on children and grandchildren to show up all the damage contemporary society is inflicting on the young.

  1. A heterosexual marriage provides for reproduction

Having created male and female humans, “God blessed them and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28).  God intends reproduction to be very important, where physically possible, in marriage because it guarantees the survival and growth of the human race. Same-sex couples may have children (by adoption, genetic donation, etc.,) but these children miss out on the benefits of sexual complementarity in parents.

God intended marriage to be regulated by society

The Old Testament law regulates marriage and divorce. The law restricts whom a man can have sexual relations with or marry (Lev 18:6-18; 20:11-12, 14, 17:19-21; Deut 22:30) and to whom he can will his property (Deut 21:15-17). If a man falsely accuses his wife of sexual immorality he is not allowed ever to divorce her (Deut 22:13-19). Adultery is forbidden (Ex 20:14). If a man commits adultery he must be punished (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). If a man marries a second wife he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights (Ex 21:10).  When a man dies his brother in law must marry his widow and this responsibility is governed by the elders of the town (Deut 25:5-10).

Jesus places restrictions on divorce, as does St Paul (Mt 5:32; 19:3-9; 1 Cor 7:10-15). So clearly God intended marriage to be regulated by society and not to be a purely private decision.

  1. God intended children to be brought up in the family

 This is clear throughout Scripture but is particularly so in the 5th commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12). This is not to say that the nuclear family of two parents and children is the only pattern in the Old Testament. Often there was an extended family. There was also polygamy in the Old Testament but this was disapproved of in New Testament times. Always, however, the family was based on heterosexual marriage.

The universality of the family

It is easy to speak of the family being a universal norm but it is not quite as simple as that, especially nowadays. As we mentioned there are extended families as well as nuclear families. There are other variations in certain cultures. Then, of course, there are single-parent and, more recently, same sex households.

Professor G P Murdock surveyed the family in 250 different cultures in 1949 and concluded that the nuclear (or extended) family was definitely universal. He defined the family as “A social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children, own or adopted, of the socially cohabiting adults.”[1]

However some dispute Murdock’s view, referring, for example, to the Israeli kibbutz movement. A kibbutz is “a voluntary democratic community where people live and work together on a non-competitive basis.”[2] Others point out that, whereas the kibbutz has taken over some family roles e.g. education, the family still functions, protecting the children in the early stages of socialisation. Another exception is said to be the Nayar people in Kerala, India. They had extended families (based on the female line) which are run by the oldest male. Some have doubted the accuracy of this historical information.

Others point out that the typical family before the modern era was not the intimate, caring family many have imagined. Before the industrial revolution children in poorer families joined in the family trade. After the industrial revolution children as young as 6 or 7 worked in factories or coal mines. But this doesn’t alter the fact that the nuclear (or extended) family was the norm.

In fact some claim that the industrial revolution encouraged the nuclear family. As work became available in cities parents moved, leaving behind the wider family.

Since the 1970s the nuclear family has reduced by one third and other family models (such as single parent families) have increased threefold. Nevertheless the nuclear family is still very significantly present in British society.

The functions of the family

It is the context for procreation

It is obvious from Scripture, physiology and common sense that God intended marriage to be heterosexual in order to create the family. Arguments to the contrary, however popular, are special pleading.

The nuclear family provides the context for a stable, committed and permanent heterosexual relationship between an individual couple. If individuals are involved in temporary sexual relationships these relationships are inevitably comparatively shallow emotionally. Hence the depth of a loving commitment possible in heterosexual marriage is important for the production and raising of children.

It is a “cradle of love.”

The Roman Catholic Church has stated: “The human being is made for love and cannot live without love.”[3] This requires a small circle of intimate associates. Only the family can provide this love, the wider community would be unable to do so. It means that “Each person is recognized, accepted and respected.”[4]

It provides male and female role models

It is important that children experience these roles in the intimate setting of the family. The father-child relationship differs from the mother-child relationship. They complement one another and are important for the children to experience.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote[5]: “There are a number of different family bonds, such as those that hold together a father with his daughter, a mother with her son, a mother with her daughter, a man with his younger brother, a girl with her younger sister, a brother with his sister. These bonds are all different and also asymmetrical. The relationship of a father to his daughter, for instance, is very different from that of a daughter to her father.[6] The relationship of a father to his children differs even more noticeably from the mother’s relationship with her children.

It is important that children experience these complementary roles and learn from them. It will ensure they are better adjusted to life in the community. G.P. Murdock commented that adults gain fulfilment both from these heterosexual relationships and as a result of the strong emotional bonds with their children which are sustained most easily in the nuclear family. These strong emotional bonds are conducive to the efficient socialisation of the children.[7]

The Roman Catholic Church comments: “Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the good of marriage and the flourishing of family life.”[8] It adds that in homosexual relationships there is an “absence of the conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological levels. It is only in the union of two sexually different persons that the individual can achieve perfection in a synthesis of unity and mutual psychophysical completion”[9]

Linda J. Waite (Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago) writes that children raised by their own married biological parents experience less poverty, less drug and alcohol use and less crime and delinquency; they gain more education; they are more likely to marry; and they have better mental health compared with children from other family arrangements. They provide the best environment for raising children.[10]

It provides security

This is not just physical provision and security (food, clothing, shelter) but psychological security. This allows children to develop their personalities in safety. The family is also an economic unit which ensures that the members are protected financially.

It forms the basis of society

Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The family … is the universal basis of all human societies and social structures.”[11] Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski wrote that the typical family, a group consisting of mother, father and their progeny is found in all communities.

The Roman Catholic Church stated: “The first and fundamental structure for ‘human ecology’ is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person.”[12]

Reasons why the family is the basis of society

It is the basic unit of social behaviour

It trains children in social attitudes, avoiding excessive individualism. As the Roman Catholic Church puts it, the family is “the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community relationships marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love.”[13]

It is the prime teacher of moral, spiritual and social values

As the Catholic Church puts it, “The family, in fact, constitutes ‘a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society’. By exercising its mission to educate, the family contributes to the common good and constitutes the first school of social virtue, which all societies need. In the family, persons are helped to grow in freedom and responsibility, indispensable prerequisites for any function in society. With education, certain fundamental values are communicated and assimilated … As well as being a source, the parents’ love is also the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love”[14] The child learns about love, cooperation, toleration, sacrifice, obedience and discipline in the family. These qualities enable him to grow into a good citizen.

It has to be acknowledged that many married couples fall short of providing a good example to children. But the failures of or within marriage do not invalidate the basic principle.

Professor Talcott Parsons (who was Professor of Sociology at Harvard) wrote of ‘basic and irreducible functions’ of the family:

  1. The ‘primary socialization of children’

This takes place largely in the family in early childhood. It involves ‘the internalization of society’s culture’ i.e. social values being absorbed and accepted by the child and ‘the structuring of the personality’ i.e. the culture of society becoming part of the child’s personality.  He added that ‘if culture were not internalized – that is, absorbed and

accepted – society would cease to exist, since without shared norms and values social life would not be possible.’

  1. The ‘secondary socialization of children’

This takes place when the child is older and the family is less involved. There is increasing influence from the child’s school and peer group.

  • The ‘stabilization of the adult personalities of the population of the society’.

When the primary and secondary socialization of children has taken place in the family, it needs to be kept stable in adult life. The emphasis is on the marriage relationship and the emotional security this can provide. So, again, the family is crucial. Parsons added: “This function is particularly important in Western industrial society, since the nuclear family is largely isolated from kin. It does not have the security once provided by the close-knit extended family. Thus the married couple increasingly look to each other for emotional support.”

Conclusion

The family, based on heterosexual marriage, is fundamentally important.  This is clearly taught in Scripture but it is also confirmed by logical examination. It regulates procreation, avoiding the chaos and damage of ‘free love.’ It provides a stable, loving secure environment for children (and also for adults). It affords children male and female role models. It is crucial to society as the primary context in which children can learn moral, social and spiritual values.

However, there is today an increasing attack on (heterosexual) marriage and the family which needs to be seen as leading to a very serious undermining of society and which will do enormous damage if left unchecked. I examine this in my next paper “Attack on marriage and the family.”

Tony Higton

 

[1] G.P.Murdock, Social Structure (1949), New York: Free Press.

[2] http://kibbutzprogramcenter.org/about-kibbutz/

[3] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 223

[4] Ibid 221

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all

[6] George Peter Murdock, Social Structure, The Free Press, New York 1965, quoted by Goldsmith.

[7] G.P. Murdock, Functionalism and the Family

[8] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 224

[9] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 504

[10] Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially (2000).

[11] The Ecologist, Vol. 6 No. 1 and Vol. 6 No. 2, 1976.

[12] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 467.

[13] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 493

[14] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 238-239

We live in an age when attitudes towards sex are changing radically with unprecedented speed. It is easy for Christians to become so taken up with what we see as sexual immorality or even depravity that we don’t discern the more serious effects of this revolution. The most serious effect is the destruction of the family in its biblical sense of a heterosexual couple committed for life, normally having children and bringing them up in their own home.  And this will lead to the undermining of society which will have very serious consequences.

The Bible makes it clear that the heterosexual family is fundamental to the welfare of society. Whatever symbolism is used in the Genesis account, the principle of marriage is clear. “It is not good for man to be alone” – he needs a suitable partner – a woman (Gen 2:18). There is an essential complementarity in the marriage relationship. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Obviously heterosexual marriage is fundamental to reproduction. It provides complementary role models for children (and they can learn from both parents, of opposite sexes). Parents must not act unreasonably towards their children but “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). Children are urged to honour their parents (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20). Jesus confirms this understanding of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 as does Paul in Ephesians 5:25-33.

The fact that there are examples of polygamy in the Old Testament does not undermine the principle of heterosexual marriage, nor does it alter the fact that the fundamental biblical idea of marriage is of a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, as Genesis makes clear.

It is so obvious that heterosexuality is the norm since only 1.5-3% of the population is homosexual. (It could be lower if young people were not encouraged to think they might be homosexual). Only those who have been brainwashed by homosexual equality propaganda could think otherwise. It’s an “emperor’s new clothes” situation. Having said that, homosexuals as people are equal to heterosexuals and should be treated with respect. But that is quite different from saying that homosexual behaviour is equal to heterosexual behaviour within (heterosexual) marriage.

 

The biblical vision is that well-functioning heterosexual marriages and their associated families will add to and maintain communities, will stabilise and strengthen those communities and will train children to be good citizens.

Some people are deliberately aiming to destroy the heterosexual family. Others have different aims but will have the effect of furthering this destruction.

Those campaigning for the destruction of the family

MARXISTS

Many, but not all, socialists in the 19th and 20th centuries rejected the family in favour of “free love” – unrestricted sexual relationships based purely on mutual love. Marx and particularly Engels criticised the family. Marx argued that in early human history sexual promiscuity was the order of the day. There was complete sexual freedom including incest. He and Engels argued that the family brought about the idea of private property, inheritance of property together with the oppression of women and children. They held that the abolition of private property (in socialism) and the abolition of inheritance would lead to the dissolution of the family.  The absence of private property would mean everyone would benefit from the economic opportunities in society. There would be no need for the financial support provided by the family. Instead of (‘slave’) labour in the family, women would work in factories and there would be communal child care which would remove the fear of unwanted children. Thus women would be liberated.

Engels wrote in Principles of Communism that communism “will make the relations between the sexes a purely private affair, which concerns only the two persons involved; a relationship which is in no way the concern of society. This attitude is made possible because private property will have been abolished and the children will be educated communally.”

Charles Fourier, a 19th century socialist philosopher believed monogamy was contrary to human nature and consequently an impediment to human happiness. He also believed that children should be raised, not in family units, but communally. His vision was of society being one big happy family.

In the 1920s Leonid Sabsovich, the leading Soviet urban planner under Lenin and Stalin advocated that children should be the property of the state, not the family. Children should be moved to specially designed children’s towns at a distance from the family.

Other communists have said that a preference for one’s spouse and authority over one’s children violates the principle of equality, which proclaims that we must treat everyone exactly the same.

RADICAL FEMINISTS

In the pre-industrial era men and women tended to work together in farming, etc., (accompanied by their children) but after the industrial revolution women were expected to stay at home doing domestic jobs and looking after children, whilst men went out to work. This gave men more power and created a much more patriarchal society. Many radical feminists advise women to avoid heterosexual relationships because they involve patriarchal (male) dominance. They see family as facilitating power relationships very much in favour of men. They also object to the large amount of unpaid labour which stay-at-home wives undertake.

Some feminists are influenced by Marxism and believe the family supports capitalism. For example Margaret Benston wrote that “As an economic unit, the nuclear family is a valuable stabilizing force in capitalist society. Since the husband–father’s earnings pay for the production which is done in the home, his ability to withhold labour from the market is much reduced.”[1] Also, within the family, children learn to conform and to submit to authority. The foundation is therefore laid for the obedient and submissive workforce required by capitalism.

Germaine Greer is a radical feminist who believes that “it is men who need marriage more. Married men score much higher on all measures of psychological well-being than unmarried men, whereas single women tend to be more content than married women.” She believes the only answer is segregation – women doing without male partners. She has been criticised for not taking seriously the progress made by women in recent times.

Michèlle Barrett and Mary McIntosh (1982) were influenced by Marxist feminism. They believe the family undermines life in the community – “the family ideal makes everything else seem pale and unsatisfactory”. Family members are so taken up by their family relationships that they neglect other social contacts. For example, they claim that the family encourages people to view life in other institutions (such as children’s homes, old people’s homes and students’ residences) as shallow and lacking in meaning.

GAY LIBERATIONISTS

In 1971 the Gay Liberation Front published its Manifesto. Peter Tatchell, the well-known gay campaigner said in 2013 that this manifesto was almost “the LGBT equivalent of the Communist Manifesto.” It envisaged an alternative society. The LGBT struggle was “part of the broader anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement, striving for the emancipation of all humankind. It critiques homophobia, sexism, marriage, the nuclear family, monogamy, the cults of youth and beauty, patriarchy, the gay ghetto and rigid male and female gender roles.” “Erotic shame and guilt would be banished. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone.” “What’s required is a revolution in culture, to overturn centuries of male heterosexual domination and the limitations of traditional gender roles.”

The Gay Liberation Front’s Manifesto stated: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” “Our entire society is built around the patriarchal family and its enshrinement of these masculine and feminine roles. … It is because of the patriarchal family that reforms are not enough. Freedom for gay people will never be permanently won until everyone is freed from sexist role-playing and the straightjacket of sexist rules about our sexuality. And we will not be freed from these so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

However, whereas lesbian and gay organisations in the 1970s were often very anti-family, since the 1980s the opposite has been the case and there has been the move towards same sex marriage.

Speaking of same sex marriage, Judith Stacey, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Sociology at New York University admits: “If we define the current ongoing effort to remake contemporary family life as the post-modern family … the term post-modern signals the end of a familiar pattern of activity and emergence of new areas of endeavour whose activities are unclear and whose meanings and implications are not yet well understood. Thus, the post-modern is characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt.”[2]

She claims that by the late 1980s, 6–14 million children were being brought up in gay and lesbian families. She says that research indicates that gay and lesbian relationships are at least as suitable for raising children as heterosexual marriages, that there is virtually no difference in the psychological well-being and social development of children with gay or lesbian carers and those with heterosexual carers. She added: ‘The rare small differences reported tend to favour gay parents, portraying them as somewhat more nurturant and tolerant, and their children in turn, more tolerant and empathetic, and less aggressive than those raised by non-gay parents.’

She believes children raised in gay and lesbian families are more likely to try homosexual relationships for themselves. But she does not believe the development of the postmodern family has no disadvantages. She acknowledges that it creates a certain degree of unsettling instability.

However, same sex marriage is not just a different form of marriage (and family). It contradicts fundamental aspects of family. It undermines marital complementarity and the fact that children are intended to have both a mother and father. It undermines the obvious fact that marriage is heterosexual because it is intended to lead to procreation. In other words, it serious undermines the divine intention about marriage. It involves homosexual social values being absorbed and accepted by children. And, as Judith Stacey says, it encourages children to try homosexual relationships.

The Church’s failure

The way things are going, it is only a matter of time before much of the western church will accept (and celebrate) same sex marriage. Already some denominations have.

The Church of Scotland recently discussed a report which advocated allowing ministers to celebrate same sex marriage. It has been committed to the church’s Legal Questions Committee to check the practicalities of a move to allow same-sex marriage in church. The Episcopal Church of Scotland has just approved (by only a one vote majority) same sex marriages taking place in church. It was reported that several prominent evangelical pastors in the US back same sex marriage.

The Church of England is maintaining a conservative position but, to a significant extent, is giving the impression that it will eventually change. I firmly agree that we should treat homosexuals as people with respect and apologise when we don’t. But the church has so overdone the apologising that it has given the impression that it is insecure in its position over same sex marriage. We seem to be intimidated by gay propaganda, especially being called ‘homophobic.’ Homophobia literally means ‘fear of man’ or ‘fear of the same’ but recently it has come to mean ‘fear of homosexuals.’ The Christian disapproval of homosexual behaviour has nothing to do with the fear of homosexuals but ‘homophobic’ has become an effective ‘put-down’ word. It often makes the church weaken the biblical position on homosexual behaviour.

Gay propaganda

The media can, of course, be a power for good. But it also has the power to change public opinion in unbiblical ways ways. Ever since the 1960s society has been transformed in its view of sexuality. Heterosexual couples living together, childbirth outside marriage, sex before marriage have all become widely acceptable and one of the main influences has been indoctrination by the media. To question these practices nowadays would seem archaic. And the same thing has happened, especially in the last 25 years, with homosexual behaviour. Same sex marriage is not so established in public opinion but it will be.

Then there is sex education in schools. Inevitably this has changed in line with public opinion.  This year’s annual conference of the National Union of Teachers called for compulsory teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues “throughout all phases of state education”, including in nurseries.

Peter Tatchell comments: “The right to love a person of either sex, to engage in any mutually consensual sexual act, and to enjoy a happy, healthy sex life, is a fundamental human right. This right to sexual self-determination should be promoted in every school, to create a culture of sexual rights where every young person understands and asserts their right to determine what they, and others, do with their body. This ethos of ‘it’s my body, I’m in charge’ is the best possible protection against people who try to manipulate and pressure youngsters into having sex.” He says schools should not promote any particular sexual orientation and he advocates schools teaching children about the whole range of sexual activities.

Allen Young, a member of New York’s Gay Liberation Front says: “Only because our capitalist values and nuclear family structure coerce children into sex roles do they become limited in their sexuality.”

The danger is already present of young teenagers who formerly would have known little about homosexual practice, now experimenting or even asking for gender changes, who, but for modern propaganda, would have grown up to form a heterosexual relationship.

The way things are going it is inevitable that marriage and the family are going to be increasingly undermined by a society indoctrinated by the sort of view Tatchell is advocating.

Other undermining of marriage and the family

Single parenthood

I am aware that many are lone parents as a result of divorce or unplanned pregnancies and many of them make every effort to be good parents, caring for their children. However the British Social Attitudes Surveys also show an increase in the acceptance of parenthood outside marriage. In 1989, 70% agreed that ‘people who want children ought to get married.’ In 2000 it was 54%. In 1961 2% of the population lived in homes with children and a single parent. In 2005 it was 12%.[3] In 1972 7% of children lived in single parent families. In 2002 it was 23%.[4]

Sarah McLanahan and Karen Booth of the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1991)refer to various American studies claiming that children are harmed by single parenthood. They say that such children have lower earnings and experience more poverty as adults; that are more likely to become lone parents themselves; and that they are more likely to become delinquent and engage in drug abuse.

Sara Arber, Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey found that the children of single parents suffered more ill-health than other children unless their parent was fully employed.

Sociologist David Morgan says the evidence suggests the children of single parents fare less well than those from two-parent households. In addition, many such children will experience the confusion and insecurity of their mothers forming successive relationships with different men.

Divorce

Divorce rates have been rising and this has obvious ill effects on both parents and children. However the remarriage rate is also high.

Conclusion

The rate of marriage in the UK is still quite high but marriage is declining as an institution. Cohabitation outside of marriage is widespread and single parenthood is growing. Also the divorce rate has grown considerably. Then there is the issue of same-sex marriage which, however popular, undermines the nature of marriage and the family.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The institution of the family has decayed in modern times, so converting society into an alienated agglomeration of disconnected individuals, susceptible to arbitrary, remote and authoritarian governance.”[5]

We need to recognise and watch these trends because ultimately they will cause enormous damage to individuals, families and society. Marriage and the family are under serious threat and so is society.

Tony Higton

[1] Margaret Benston, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation”, Monthly Review, 21 (4), September 1969.

[2] J. Stacey, Brave New Families. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

[3] HMSO, 2002a; Social Trends 2006.

[4] Social Trends 1998, 2006.

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all

The Sexual Revolution – a grave danger to society

 

We live in a time of sexual revolution but we seem to be largely unaware of its very serious implications. The main impact will be the undermining of (heterosexual) marriage and the family which the Bible teaches is fundamental to human society. Gender theory supports people (including children) choosing to identify as male, female, both or neither, whatever their biological gender. There are moves to undermine the idea of fidelity in marriage. Same sex marriage will undermine the complementarity of male and female which has undergirded the family. It implies that children do not need both a father and a mother. And all this is in addition to longer term problems such as the emotional effect (particularly on children) of widespread divorce.

 

One question is: what effect will this have on children in the long term? Pope Francis said recently that gender theory is part of “a global war out to destroy marriage.” This threat to marriage and the family has been around for 100 years but has accelerated remarkably in the last 20 years or so.

 

The Marxist attack on marriage and the family

 

The pope’s comment is appropriate to the aims of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School, now the Institute for Social Research, which emerged from the Russian Revolution. It became clear to Lenin after World War I that there would not be a communist revolution in the West and so a different approach was required. He encouraged the undermining of the family as a means of undermining capitalist societies. Lenin is credited with saying: “Destroy the family and you destroy society.” Whether or not this is an actual quotation, it does sum up Lenin’s opinion that undermining the family would undermine Western culture and pave the way for alternative views of society. 

 

The Marxists saw the family as supporting capitalism and encouraging children to accept the authority of their parents unquestioningly. It promoted the idea of private property and so could be open to the pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses,” becoming even more capitalist. It facilitated passing on private property to descendants rather than sharing it with the wider community. Engels wrote in favour of the care and education of children being “a public affair”. That way children could be educated in communism rather than in religion and traditional family structure.

 

He also spoke in favour of “the gradual growth of unconstrained sexual intercourse and with it a more tolerant public opinion in regard to a maiden’s honour and a woman’s shame.” Instead of private relationships everyone should belong to everyone. So premarital and extramarital sex and adultery would cease to have the same meaning. In 1919 sex education for school children was introduced in Hungary, with the clear aim of undermining the traditional family and morality by destroying children’s innocence. The first Director of the Frankfurt School, Georg Lukacs, promoted sex education for young children (encouraging sexual experimentation), pornography, free love, easier divorce and access to contraception. Now all those things are widely accepted in our society.

 

Homosexuality was first decriminalized in the Soviet Union in 1922. No-fault divorce was introduced for the first time in the Soviet Union in 1918 and abortion was decriminalized for the first time by Lenin, in 1920.

 

Marxists clearly intended that sexual anarchy and social disorder would lead to demands for ‘strong’ government and the loss of democratic freedom.

 

What other factors are behind the modern sexual revolution?

 

There are, no doubt, many individuals who support gay liberation who have no ulterior motives. They simply want to see homosexuals treated with respect, like heterosexuals. I believe that homosexuals, as people, should be treated with the same respect as heterosexuals. But we would be very naïve to believe this is the whole story. The modern sexual revolution is bigger than both gay liberation and Marxism. As Christians we should recognise a demonic strategy which will do enormous damage to society and will open the way to oppressive political rule. The relevance of this to biblical prophecies about the End Times is clear.

 

It is instructive to examine the Gay Liberation Front Manifesto published in 1971 and revised in 1978.[i] It is very similar to the Marxist aim of undermining the family and, in the Marxist case, subsequently society, preparing the way for political oppression.

 

It states: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” It criticises schools which, at that time, reflected the pro-family, anti-homosexual values of society. It also criticises the church “whose archaic and irrational teachings support the family and marriage as the only permitted condition for sex.” It adds “The press, radio, television and advertising are used as reinforcements against us, and make possible the control of people’s thoughts on an unprecedented scale. Entering everyone’s home, affecting everyone’s life, the media controllers, all representatives of the rich, male-controlled world, can exaggerate or suppress whatever information suits them.”

 

The Manifesto then goes on to say: “Gay liberation does not just mean reforms. It means a revolutionary change in our whole society.” It describes society (in the 1970s) as sexist and built around the patriarchal family “in which one’s biological sex determines almost all of what one does and how one does it … we will not be freed … so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

 

It finally states its aim: “The long-term goal of Gay Liberation, which inevitably brings us into conflict with the institutionalised sexism of this society, is to rid society of the gender-role system which is at the root of our oppression. This can only be achieved by eliminating the social pressures on men and women to conform to narrowly defined gender roles. It is particularly important that children and young people be encouraged to develop their own talents and interests and to express their own individuality rather than act out stereotyped parts alien to their nature.”

 

Current events

Sex education

One of the most disturbing factors is sex education in schools. Children as young as 4 are to be given compulsory sex education in school about safe and healthy relationships. There are moves to require all pupils to “learn the importance of respect, tolerance and commitment in all types of healthy relationships.” This covers any kind of sexual relationship so long as there is no coercion. Tory MPs are pushing for all schools, including primary schools, to be compelled to endorse same sex marriage.

 

Children as young as 5 have been alleged to have carried out sexual offences at school. The youngest victims were 5 years old. The number of allegations of sex crimes in schools rose from 719 in 2011-12 to 1955 in 2014-5.

 

The Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC TV reported that since 2015 three pre-school children have been referred to the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. They are among 167 children under 10. The Tavistock Clinic is a gender identity clinic for under 18s. In 2009 there were 96 referrals (40 girls and 56 boys). In 2014 there were 697 and in 2015 1398 (913 girls and 485 boys). Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Bernadette Wren commented: “It’s not really for us to approve or disapprove. … in the end, we maybe have to see through this social revolution and see how it transpires.” In 2016 a Church of England primary school in Hartfield, Sussex held a ‘transgender day’ event to “empower lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people.” The head commented: “As part of the national curriculum, we spend time talking to the children about British values of tolerance, respect and celebrating differences.”  Schools have begun to introduce “gender neutral” uniform rules.

Other examples

Over 50% of teachers have become aware of incidents of children sexting (sending sexually explicit messages) at school, some of them as young as 7.

 

Nearly all Europeans accept premarital sex. Countries vary as to the percentage believing that adultery is morally wrong: US 84%, Greece 79%, UK 76%, Spain & Italy 64%, Germany 60%, France 47%.

 

In Italy the Senate and it Judiciary Committee have voted to remove the word “fidelity” from marriage contracts as faithfulness in marriage is seen as “outdated and obsolete.”

 

A recent survey by Grazia and Onepoll found that a quarter of heterosexual women have had sexual experience with another woman. The press commented: “young women are increasingly having more fluid attitudes towards gender and sexuality … women are increasingly breaking away from traditional attitudes about gender, sexuality, marriage and family life.”

 

Conclusion

 

It may take a generation before the very serious effects of the sexual revolution are recognised by society. But it is very instructive to look back at how things have changed in the last 20 years or so. Some early 20th century attitudes to sexual morality, namely that sexual intercourse should be confined to heterosexual marriage, are now are seen as antediluvian. The media have, of course, been a major factor – effectively brainwashing the population into a radically different approach to sexuality.
The sexual revolution is not the most important challenge facing us. The fact that most people ignore or marginalise God is more important. But the sexual revolution is a catalyst guaranteed to transform society in a way contrary to the teaching of God’s Word and the church.
The only hope for our society is another Revival on a level with that which happened in the time of the Wesleys.

 

OTHER ISSUES

 

Abortion

 

British MPs have voted by 172 to 142 in favour of totally decriminalising abortion up to 24 weeks. They were backed by the Royal College of Midwives and the British Pregnancy Advisory service. Cathy Warwick, head of the Royal College of Midwives stated that abortion was never wrong but is a mother’s choice. In 2015 Fiona Bruce MP tried to make sex-selective abortion illegal but MPs rejected that by 292 to 201 votes.

 

The Global Life Campaign has researched over 100 nations, territories and regions up to 2015. They discovered that one billion babies have been aborted since the Soviet Union legalised abortion in 1920. It says that “current worldwide reported abortions are about 12.5 million per year”. One factor is the availability of on-line abortion pills.

 

The Evangelical Alliance commented: “Decriminalisation grants the unborn protection only in so far as it’s the property of its mother. Now, women holding the power of life or death over their children is framed as a victory for equality.”

 

Euthanasia

 

There have been moves to legalise euthanasia in the UK. It already is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg. The number of Dutch people killed by medical euthanasia has more than doubled in the 10 years since it was legalised, rising 13% to 4,188 in 2016.

 

Dr. Robert G Twycross, emeritus Clinical Reader in Palliative Medicine at the University of Oxford commented: “Dutch journalist Gerbert van Loenen shows in his book ‘Do You Call This a Life? Blurred Boundaries in the Netherlands’ Right-to-Die Laws’ that, although euthanasia activism begins with the wish to help suffering people of sound mind to achieve control in ending their torment, it never stops there. In both the Netherlands and neighbouring Belgium, once the barrier of legislation is passed, medically assisted dying takes on a dynamic of its own and extends beyond the original intent, despite earlier explicit assurances that this would not happen. As a disillusioned former member of a Dutch regional euthanasia review board has said: ‘Don’t go there!’”

 

Racism

 

Events such as Brexit and the rise of leaders like Donald Trump have raised the issue of national independence and control of immigration. Sadly, though, this has also encouraged racism. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance recorded a sharp rise in Islamophobic, anti-semitic and xenophobic assaults in 2016 including in Britain. It condemned David Cameron for describing asylum seekers hoping to reach the UK as a “swarm.” Some of the British media, especially tabloid newspapers were condemned for “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology.” An article in The Sun likened refugees to “cockroaches.”

 

In the US Rick Tyler, standing as a candidate for Congress, designed a billboard stating “Make America white again.” He wanted America to be like it was (according to him) in the 1960s: “It was an America where you didn’t have to lock your doors. You didn’t have to worry about carjacking and home invasions. You didn’t have to worry about Muslim sleeper cells down the street. You didn’t have to worry about Islamic mosques radicalising people. It was an America that was far superior to the America that we live in today, and – not coincidentally – it was an America whose demographic was 85 per cent plus Caucasian.”

 

Lack of concern for Poverty and Human Rights

 

When the Archbishop of Canterbury last Christmas asked people to pray for the poor, hungry and homeless, Nigel Farage responded: “Merry Christmas! Ignore all negative messages from the Archbishop of Canterbury and have a great day!”

 

UK government to cut sickness and disability benefits were condemned by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission which said the cuts will “exacerbate, rather than reduce, existing inequalities” as well as disproportionately affecting disabled people.

 

The UK has come in for criticism for its positive relationship with countries like Saudi Arabia which have a poor human rights record. S Arabia bombed various hospitals run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Yemen. They also destroyed schools. The UN criticised S Arabia for contributing to a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. A few days after the EU voted for an arms trade embargo on S Arabia, David Cameron praised British companies that have traded with that country. The UK government says it raises human rights issues with countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain privately but that means it is not possible to assess if that approach is adequate. In 2015 the most senior Foreign Office civil servant told MPs that human rights was “not one of our top priorities” and that the “prosperity agenda is further up the list.”

 

 

Christians need to wake up to the radical and very damaging changes taking place in our society and to pray for the Lord to bring a powerful revival of the Christian faith.

 

[i] http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/glf-london.asp

The dangers in controlling extremists

 

One of the great dangers facing us in a free society is that seeking to control extremists will lead to control of those who are not extremists. This is a current issue in Britain today. In February Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said that some of the views of conservative Anglicans “differ little from ISIL” (or ISIS). The Archbishop of Canterbury commented that some modern politicians can’t see “the difference between an extremist Muslim group like the Muslim Brotherhood and a sort of conservative evangelical group in a Church of England church”.

 

Fabricant’s profoundly ignorant and offensive comment illustrates the danger very well. The implication seems to be we must control ISIS so we should control conservative Anglicans too! He added that the Church of England risked becoming “out of step with 21st century Western liberal values.” My response is that it should be out of step with some 21st century Western liberal values and long may that continue. Fabricant is so ignorant of the Christian Faith that he imagines the church must change its views to suit society. To be fair though, some church leaders seem to agree with him!

 

Sadly, Fabricant is not alone in his ignorance of Christianity. The government’s counter extremism policy suffers from the same weakness and theological illiteracy. Of course, we must respect people of other faiths but that does not mean we should accept or support their beliefs or avoid reasonable criticism of them. The government’s official definition is: “Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” This could mean that Christians may be penalised for expressing opposition to beliefs or practice we disagree with.

 

The Archbishop also reported a conversation with a ‘very senior politician’ who asked: “Are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?” The Archbishop responded: “Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you … We do not believe as Christians that the rule of law outweighs everything else, we believe that the kingdom of God outweighs everything else.”

 

Speaking to the House of Lords in February 2016 he said: “It is widely agreed that all statements that tend towards causing hatred, contempt, violence, for other faiths should not be permitted. Nevertheless, it is not extremist in any way, and should be encouraged, that there are statements that are frank and categorical assertions of faith, or no faith, and that there is no right not to be offended, or to be hurt, by such statements.”

 

David Anderson QC said it was “dangerous” to introduce measures to silence people simply because they oppose certain Government-approved values. He added “the police are going to feel they have to investigate all sorts of people who are miles away from being terrorists but may just practise religion in a conservative way or may have eccentric political views … Silence coerced by law is a very dangerous business particularly when you’re looking at something as vague as extremism”.

 

The prime minister, speaking in the House of Commons in November 2016 stated that the ability to “speak freely, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion should be a jealously guarded principle” She added: “I am sure we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith.” However, the way the government’s anti-extremism policy is being interpreted threatens freedom of speech about one’s faith.

 

The indoctrination of children

 

We should be particularly concerned that children are a main target of the theologically illiterate counter-extremism activists. If they have their way these activists will gradually undermine Christianity much more seriously than it is undermined in current society.

 

In a particularly sinister development, despite earlier reports of it deciding not to do so, the government plans to register church groups and Sunday schools which involve children for a total of six hours a week and to make them open to OFSTED inspections. True, many church groups won’t qualify but not to see this as the thin end of the wedge of government interference in all church groups is naïve. The government arrogantly assumes that it is capable of defining mandatory “British values” whilst not informed about, respecting or understanding the centuries of Christian history in this country.

 

Simon McCrossan, Evangelical Alliance head of public policy, accused the government of treating religious freedom as “an after-thought at best” and added: “These plans could lead the way to a register of Sunday schools, and making the government the arbiter of what doctrine is or isn’t desirable.” Stephen Timms MP, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, accused the government of seeing religious faith as “a problem.” Sir Gerald Howarth MP said, “regulating groups such as Sunday schools is clearly absurd. It would place a huge administrative burden on such groups, would severely damage volunteering and would be a serious infringement of personal liberty and freedom of association.”

 

UN condemns compulsory school assemblies

 

A recent report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says that the fact that pupils are legally required to attend assemblies which are “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character” violates their human rights. They recommend that the UK government “repeal legal provisions for compulsory attendance at collective worship”. Parents can already withdraw their children from assemblies but the committee wants to give children the right to act independently of their parents.

 

Parents fear children will be rejected if they express faith

 

A recent ComRes survey commissioned by the Theos think tank found that 23% of parents didn’t pass on their faith to their children for fear the children would be alienated at school. 18% of parents said it was not their responsibility to pass on their beliefs to their children. Only 40% of parents said they had spoken to their children about their faith.

 

Moves towards enforcing support for gay marriage

 

UK Communities Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in the Sunday Times in December 2016 that people in public life should accept basic British values: “I’m talking about tolerating the views of others, even if you disagree with them. About believing in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from abuse. I’m talking about a belief in equality, democracy and the democratic process. And about respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass. Because if you do disagree, you can change it. That’s what freedom and democracy are all about.”

 

This all sounds good but it all depends on how it is worked out. Of course, all human beings are equal, but equality is sometimes referring to equality, not of people but of behaviour. This is particularly the case with the whole gay marriage issue. The danger is illustrated by the comments of Dame Louise Casey who works for the British government and conducted a review into integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities, published in December 2016. She supports an “equality oath.” Shortly after her review was published she called church schools who supported traditional marriage “homophobic” and accused them of using “religious conservatism as a veil for anti-equality views.” And this is despite the official line that schools do not have to support and endorse same-sex marriage. On being criticised she backed off. The Department for Communities and Local Government stated: “Dame Louise is a supporter of the right to gay marriage now enshrined in law, however she does respect and understand the Catholic Church’s long-held view that marriage is between a man and a woman, even if that is not her own view.

She is not threatening the right of the Church or individuals of faith to hold that view, or to include it in teaching it as a fundamental tenet of faith. That is indeed an important aspect of a shared British value of freedom of religious expression.” But the dangerous trend continues.

 

In November a school in St. Austell issued an apology to a teaching assistant whom they had disciplined for saying to a pupil who asked her about the matter that she did not support gay marriage.

 

Former MP Ann Widdecombe wrote about the case of the Ashers Bakery Co (a Christian bakery prosecuted for refusing to make a cake with a slogan promoting gay marriage). She said that historically being forced to affirm beliefs contrary to conscience was “rightly recognised as the hallmark of totalitarianism itself.” She added: “In the Ashers case, the principle of not being allowed to express a view has been extended to being forced to affirm one – an infringement of individual liberty that would have been unthinkable not so very long ago.” She warned Christians not to “sleepwalk through this”, or they would risk seeing more of their civil liberties gradually removed.

 

Even Peter Tatchell, a long-term campaigner for gay rights, strongly disapproves of the judgment against the Ashers:

“Although I strongly disagree with Ashers’ opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be compelled to facilitate a political idea they oppose. Ashers did not discriminate against the customer, Gareth Lee, because he was gay. They objected to the message he wanted on the cake: “Support gay marriage.”

Discrimination against LGBT people is wrong and is rightly unlawful. But in a democratic society, people should be able to discriminate against ideas they disagree with. I am saddened that the court did not reach the same conclusion.

This judgment opens a can of worms. It means that a Muslim printer could be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed and a Jewish printer could be required to publish a book that propagates Holocaust denial. It could also encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakers and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim opinions. What the court has decided sets a dangerous, authoritarian precedent that is open to serious abuse. Discrimination against people should be illegal but not discrimination against ideas and opinions.”

 

Queen’s chaplain urged to resign over defending Jesus as divine

 

The Rev Gavin Ashenden was clearly pressed to resign as a Queen’s chaplain after he opposed a reading from the Koran in Glasgow Cathedral which denied the deity of Jesus. The reading was about the birth of Jesus but denied that he is the Son of God and says he should not be worshipped. This is a very serious error and if the cathedral authorities were aware that this was going to be read they should resign. If they weren’t they should profoundly apologise. Here we have another ‘equality’ confusion. People of different faiths (or no faith) are equal as human beings and we must regard them as such. But we are not required to regard different religious beliefs as equally valid. So I will respect our Muslim friends but I regard their beliefs as seriously wrong, and have the right to say so publicly. Christian leaders who allow public contradiction of basic creedal beliefs in church services are incompetent and seriously failing in their duties. Gavin Ashenden said: “After a conversation instigated by officials at Buckingham Palace, I decided the most honourable course of action was to resign.” In other words he was pressed to resign.

 

It is obvious that the trend in society is moving towards serious oppression of Christians and we need to be alert to this without falling into paranoid overreaction. We need to pray and, where possible, act to oppose this trend.

The decline of the Church of England

No-one will be a member of the Church of England by 2082 and no-one will be attending by 2100, according to John Hayward. He is a Christian who was a university lecturer in mathematics and has a blog called Church Growth Modelling. He adds that the Church in Wales (C in W) and the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) will be extinct by 2043 and the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) in 2055.

He goes on to suggest reasons why the Church of England (C of E) is not in quite such a bad way as these other Anglican churches:

1. The C in W, SEC and ECUSA are episcopal by conviction whereas the C of E is a national church which happens to be episcopal. He says the C in W, SEC and ECUSA are more rigid in their views and don’t relate so well to other denominations.

2. Unlike the others, the C of E is established by law as the national church and so is not able to change so easily. The C in W, SEC and ECUSA have changed quickly and adopted liberal views e.g. accepting homosexual practice and same-sex marriage. So they have aligned more to secular society and, contrary to their expectations, this has caused them to decline faster.

3. The C of E has a much stronger evangelical section. In 2006 Peter Brierley, a Christian statistical expert, recorded that out of 870,600 C of E members (a smaller number than attenders), 297,500 (34%) were evangelicals (77,400 mainstream, largely conservative evangelicals, 114,900 charismatic evangelicals and 105,200 broad or less conservative evangelicals). 4273 (26%) of the C of E’s 16,247 churches were evangelical. Of the 160 largest churches, (1% of the total number of churches) with a membership of over 350, who make up 10% of the membership of the C of E, 83% were evangelical. Reform, the Anglican conservative evangelical group, calculates that about 70% of male ordinands (candidates for ordination) under 30 come from conservative evangelical churches.

4. The C of E has been much more influenced by charismatic renewal than the others. Hayward comments that “Perhaps the C of E has been more open to revival than the others.”

5. Wales and Scotland are more rural than England.

John Hayward then adds that maybe the C of E is more mission/evangelism- minded than the other three. I don’t have the information to comment on that except to say that, yes, the C of E does stress mission but sometimes it is better at discussing it and passing resolutions about it than doing it! He then makes the interesting comment: “It could be that … most of the pre-1900 denominations are coming to an end because they have put too many resources into themselves at the expense of mission. The way forward is not to work out how to save the organisation, but let it fade and try saving the lost. Something new will then emerge. Perhaps the Church of England, with its greater diversity, is much further down the road of that reinvention.”

Other commentators are more negative about the C of E. In November 2014 The Bishop of Truro said: “The Church of England has only five or six years to save itself.” Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates’ Commissioner, said at the July 2011 General Synod that, assuming the recent declines in younger people continued, the number of worshippers “would fall from 1.2 million in 2007, to half a million in 2030, and 125,000 in 2057.” Peter Brierley commented: “This means an almost 90 per cent decline in overall attendance in the 45 years between 2012 and 2057. It would mean not only that by 2030 the attendance would have dropped to 500,000, but also that the number of larger C of E churches (attendance over 300) in England would have probably declined from about 200 to 100, some Cathedrals might need to have been “decommissioned,” perhaps 9,000 of the current 16,000 churches will have closed as “unviable”, with large numbers therefore of redundant church buildings, half the eight Theological Colleges will have had to close, several Dioceses merged, the numbers of Bishops reduced, and so on, unless God revives his work again.”

In June 2015 NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Survey found that the number of people who describe their beliefs as being Church of England or Anglican (but many don’t attend or only attend rarely) dropped from 21% to 17% between 2012 and 2014. That is a loss of 1.7 million and now the number of people identifying as Anglicans stands at about 8.6 million.

On the other hand, in November 2014 Giles Fraser (an Anglican clergyman who writes for The Guardian) pointed out that about a million people go to a C of E church each week whereas the Conservative Party has 134,000 members, Labour 190,000 and the Lib Dems 44,000. Adding them together it is less than half the members of the C of E. More people go to the C of E than to Premier League stadiums on a Saturday. He commented: “We have survived every conceivable war, crisis, scandal, collapse and disillusionment. OK, we may not have the money to keep the heating on all the time. But don’t expect the “for sale” sign to go up any time soon.”

The C of E reported that in 2012 an average of 1.05m people attended C of E churches each week and this has been the case for the previous decade. Around 25% of churches are growing, 25% declining and over 50% remaining stable.

However, it is true that in some ways the C of E is becoming less and less relevant to the people of England. It is less trusted by the public than the army, charities, police, monarchy, legal system, the Bank of England and the BBC but more than parliament, the government and political parties.

But the picture is not consistent. A recent study found that 56% in England wanted the Church of England to remain the official established Church, with 15% disagreeing, and 29% neutral or undecided. It is significant that the Chief Rabbi and many followers of other faiths support the establishment of the C of E. Perhaps even more significant, an Opinion Research Bureau survey in 2004 found that 42% of Britons think that local churches should receive funding from the State through central taxation. This is probably related to the fact that nearly 90% of adults had been to a church or place of worship once in the previous year to find a quiet space or for weddings, baptisms and funerals and for community purposes, as well as for regular services of worship.

The state of belief in the Church of England

A 2002 poll reported that a third of C of E clergy doubt or disbelieve in the bodily resurrection of Christ and only around 50% believe in the virgin birth. But the poll was criticised because the question to the clergy provided five responses:
• Believe without question
• Believe but not sure I understand
• Mostly believe
• Not sure I believe this
• Definitely don’t believe

Many clergy ticked the second box saying they weren’t able fully to comprehend God and many of the beliefs that they apprehended wholeheartedly. But it appears that only those who ticked the first box were classed as believers. Nevertheless, there are significant numbers of clergy who do not believe in the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Christ. If they cannot sort themselves out and come to believe those doctrines they should resign with immediate effect. Not to do so is unethical. It is significant that an analysis by a Muslim scholar of the views the former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, who didn’t believe in the virgin birth and had serious doubts about the bodily resurrection of Christ, was found in Osama Bin Laden’s library. It argued that doubts about the resurrection of Christ could further the Islamisation of Britain.

On the positive side, in January 2015 a General Synod report outlined “Ten marks of a diocese committed to developing disciples.” These are:
1. A lifelong journey of discipleship and growth in Christian maturity is supported and modelled by all.
2. The importance of discipleship in daily life is affirmed.
3. Gatherings for worship celebrate the discipleship of all the baptised.
4. Disciples are equipped to help others to become followers of Jesus.
5. Diocesan work on vocations is based on the principle that all the baptised are called into God’s service.
6. Good practice in facilitating learning and formation is developed.
7. Gifts of leadership are recognised and developed among all the baptised.
8. Innovation and experiment are encouraged in mission, ministry and discipleship.
9. Specific diocesan policies and plans promote discipleship development.
10. Diocesan resources are committed to the development of the whole people of God.

Division in the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion, which is the third largest Christian body in the world with 80 million members, has been seriously divided by the issue of homosexual practice and also women bishops. Many African bishops and others from the southern hemisphere regard any acceptance of gay relationships as a serious denial of biblical truth. The liberals in the western church regard this as homophobic bigotry. Traditionally the 800 bishops of the Anglican Communion meet for the Lambeth Conference every ten years. But in 2008 250 stayed away, largely because of the consecration of the openly homosexual bishop Gene Robinson in the United States. The Archbishop of Canterbury has postponed the next conference, scheduled for 2018, but has called together the 38 primates (senior archbishops) to meet him in Canterbury in January 2016. Having discarded the failed approach by his predecessors to bring conservatives and liberals together he is going to propose that the communion be reorganised as a group of churches that are all linked to Canterbury but no longer necessarily to each other. He regards the attempts to bring liberals and conservatives together as “spending vast amounts of time trying to keep people in the boat and never actually rowing it anywhere.”

The African conservative bishops have formed an organisation called GAFCON (The Global Anglican Future Conference). If they decided to withdraw totally from the Anglican Communion other Anglicans may join them, including in England (thus leaving the Church of England).

Women priests are predominantly liberal

22% of clergy in the Church of England are now female. But Peter Brierley says: “There are very few Anglo-Catholic female clergy, and relatively few evangelical female clergy. Consequently the large majority of female clergy are of broad, or liberal, churchmanship, so that, as their number increases, so will the balance of churchmanships change within the ranks of stipendiary clergy.”

This is a serious matter. It will mean that gradually the proportion of Church of England clergy who are liberal will increase. Part of the cause is that many conservative Anglicans, evangelical and catholic, are against women priests and so their churches will not produce female candidates for ordination.

The damage caused by clerical sexual abuse

The most serious damage is, of course, to the innocent victims of this criminal behaviour. But it has also done enormous damage to the reputation and credibility of the church, including the Church of England. In October 2015 Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester, was jailed for two years and eight months for sexual abuse of 18 young ordinands. One of Ball’s victims committed suicide. Ball had been charged with some of the offences back in 1993 but he avoided a trial by accepting a police caution for abusing one young man and resigning as Bishop of Gloucester. However he continued to work as a priest in Truro. His victims are suing the Church of England for hundreds of thousands of pounds. The damage to the church caused by such appalling behaviour is enormous. The Archbishop of Canterbury has ordered an independent review of the church’s handling of the Peter Ball affair. The church published an official statement which said: “It is a matter of deep shame and regret that a Bishop in the Church of England has today been sentenced for a series of offences over 15 years against 18 young men known to him. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systematic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades.”

In 2014 Lord Hope, the former Archbishop of York resigned from ministry when an independent enquiry found he failed to deal properly with allegations against Robert Waddington, former Dean of Manchester, for abusing schoolchildren and choir boys.

Confusion over same-sex marriage

There is an old joke that “The Bishops of the Church of England are, generally speaking, generally speaking!” The House of Bishops seems to be in its “generally speaking” mode over gay marriage. On the one hand it upholds the fact that the official view of the Church of England is that marriage is heterosexual but it also produced a statement in which it acknowledges that there are strongly-held and divergent views in the House of Bishops about the matter. So the confusion continues, which is damaging to the church.

The pro-gay Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, acknowledged in 2014 that he couldn’t bless same-sex marriages but he added: “If I am approached by a gay couple, I think it perfectly possible to devise something with them which is as appropriate as it can be in the present confused situation. You can pray with people pastorally but you can’t use the B word [Blessing].”

A YouGov survey in October 2014 found that 51% of clergy believe same-sex marriage is wrong, 39% disagree, and 10% say they don’t know. 88% of evangelicals believe same-sex marriage is wrong.

A Church Times Survey in 2014 found that some 60% of Anglo-Catholics agreed with practising homosexuals becoming priest or bishops and about 55% of middle of the way Anglicans but only around 20% of Evangelicals. Around 39% of Anglo-Catholic and middle of the way Anglicans approved of same-sex marriage and 12% of Evangelicals. 51% of Evangelicals also disapproved of any kind of blessing for a same-sex marriage.

At least two Anglican priests have married same sex partners. Canon Jeremy Pemberton had Permission to Officiate in Southwell Diocese but the Bishop rescinded that permission. In 2014 the Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain married his atheist partner. He has the old-style legal freehold as Vicar of St Mary with All Souls in Kilburn and St James in West Hampstead, which makes it probably impossible for the bishop to remove him.

Then it was announced that Foreshew-Cain had been elected by fellow-clergy to General Synod. Some people called for him to be removed but the Secretary General of the Synod, William Fittall, said questions about eligibility were addressed before any voting took place and at a diocesan level. He added that any questions surrounding the suitability of a candidate was for the electorate to decide.

The House of Bishops has given an uncertain sound over same-sex marriage (as have many clergy) and this will do enormous damage to the church.

Bishops – the good news

It is easy to concentrate only on bad news. But some bishops are making great efforts to help the church face up to the great challenges facing it. In my own diocese we have two evangelical bishops, an evangelical archdeacon and rural dean. They are going to great lengths to encourage parishes to reorganise, co-operate with other denominations and to major on mission and evangelism.

Bishops speak out on other moral issues

Before the 2015 General Election, the bishops produced a letter encouraging “voters to support candidates and policies which demonstrate the following key values:
• Halting and reversing the accumulation of power and wealth in fewer and fewer hands, whether those of the state, corporations or individuals.
• Involving people at a deeper level in the decisions that affect them most.
• Recognising the distinctive communities, whether defined by geography, religion or culture, which make up the nation and enabling all to thrive and participate together.
• Treating the electorate as people with roots, commitments and traditions and addressing us all in terms of the common good and not just as self-interested consumers.
• Demonstrating that the weak, the dependent, the sick, the aged and the vulnerable are persons of equal value to everybody else.
• Offering the electorate a grown up debate about Britain’s place in the world order and the possibilities and obligations that it entails.”

More recently they called on the government to receive 50,000 rather than 20,000 Syrian refugees in the next five years.

Conclusion

The Church of England is facing decline in the number of worshippers and clergy, unbelief in fundamental doctrines by clergy, division and enormous damage over sexual issues: sexual abuse and same-sex marriage. There needs to be much repentance, some firm action and earnest prayer for revival. But there are encouraging aspects with growth in some churches and a realistic emphasis on prayerful outreach and evangelism in some quarters. Other churches are facing huge problems too. Then there is the old saying: “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it, you’ll spoil it.

Introduction: the Bible and the Church

My concern about the homosexual issue is to be clear as to what the Bible says about it. It is then up to the individual and the church to decide whether to follow that teaching or not. The Church of England’s position on Scripture is quite clear. Its Canon Law, which has legal status, states: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.” Canon Law also supports the 39 Articles of Religion which state: “It is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” Every Anglican bishop and clergyperson is legally bound to follow these rules. So ensuring an accurate interpretation of Scripture is important.

The official position of the Church of England on Sexuality is stated in a General Synod decision in 1987 based upon a Private Members Motion I put to the synod. The Bishops modified my wording but then the synod voted by a 98% majority that sexual intercourse belongs properly within a permanent heterosexual marriage and that just as fornication and adultery falls short of this ideal so “homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion.”

We now live in a very different society from 30 years ago. It has different attitudes towards homosexual practice. Homosexual marriage has been legalised. Even some evangelicals have changed their minds on the issue. But the Church of England is still committed to the 1987 decision and has been granted exemption from having to celebrate homosexual marriages. However, the pressure will increase and there are clear indications that the homosexual issue will be a cause of oppression and ultimately persecution for Christians who stand by the traditional biblical teaching.

We are called to love our homosexual neighbour, as we are called to love all of our neighbours. There is no place for antagonism towards or rejection of homosexuals as people. But loving our neighbour does not necessarily involve loving their behaviour. Homosexuals will, of course, claim that those who don’t accept their sexual behaviour are rejecting them as people. That reaction is understandable but it is illogical. We should strongly affirm that homosexual people are equal to heterosexual people. But that is not the same as saying that homosexual practice is the same as heterosexual practice. All people are equal but not all behaviour.

The marginalisation of the church

The fact that many in society do not make this important distinction leads to the church being seen as intolerant and judgmental. So Ireland, which in 1987 voted overwhelmingly against the legalisation of divorce, and only legalised homosexual practice in 1993, in 2015 became the first country to approve same-sex marriage after a referendum. But there were other factors. The influence of the Roman Catholic Church has hugely diminished. This is largely due to what is seen as hypocrisy, namely the allegations of sexual abuse amongst Irish clergy and of the church’s failure to deal with it properly.

A recent poll found that 52% of Americans favoured same-sex couples being allowed to marry and only 32% disapproved. Another poll found that 53% of Americans were favourable towards gays and lesbians compared with 42% towards evangelicals. 18% were unfavourable towards gays and lesbians compared with 28% towards evangelicals.

In July 2014 the UN stated it would recognise the same-sex marriages of its staff. An Ipsos MORI poll in April 2014 found that “the proportion of Britons who think homosexual couples should be able to marry has more than quadrupled in the four decades since 1975. 69% now agree with the statement that “homosexual couples should be allowed to marry each other”, whilst just over a quarter (28%) disagree. When the same question was asked in November 1975, support for gay marriage stood at 16% (with 53% disagreeing). Simon Atkinson, Assistant Chief Executive at Ipsos MORI, commented: “It is very unusual, even over a period of 40 years, to see such a sea change in public attitudes. People in Britain are clearly behind the recent legislation on gay marriage – a rare example of Parliament and public opinion being very much in tune with each other.”

Pro-homosexual evangelicals

Many Christians uphold the biblical teaching on homosexuality but some, including Evangelicals, support same-sex marriage. Jayne Ozanne is a prominent evangelical I know who was a member of the Archbishop’s Council. She describes herself as “a staunch evangelical … a fully signed up charismatic evangelical … an ardent evangelical” who has “an extremely high regard for scripture.” However she has been in a “gay relationship.” She lays down the challenge that if this is sinful “why then do I see so much fruit in my life? As Jesus said, “Do people pick grapes from thorn-bushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7). Why does God continue to answer my prayers? Why do I see his power constantly at work in my life; his voice whispering in my inner ear; his healing power touching the lives of people who have been deeply hurt and broken by a Church that has shunned them.” She said that back in 1999 her views on sexuality were “extremely black and white” and added “I did not believe it was compatible to be gay and a Christian.”

Jayne also wrote that in a General Synod debate she read “a draft suicide note written by someone struggling with their desire for love, but knowing that the only thing that could satisfy this hunger was ‘forbidden fruit’. The letter was my own, written during this time of pain – a cry from the created to the Creator, asking why I had been created with such a cruel dichotomy.”

One cannot read this last paragraph without one’s heart going out to Jayne and others like her. We need to pray especially for homosexuals and lesbians who face such trauma. We also need to be sensitive in our approach to the subject.

However, one cannot base moral decisions on emotion or on people’s motives. The crucial question remains: What is the biblical teaching on homosexual practice? The fact that Jayne experiences answers to prayer and spiritual fruit in her life is an evidence of God’s mercy. After all, we are all sinners and don’t deserve answers to prayer and spiritual fruit. Such experience does not justify what is wrong in our lives. Also, it is not just homosexuals who experience great traumas about their circumstances and who cannot understand why God has put them in such a situation. We need to understand them but that does not mean we approve of everything they do.

The Rev Steve Chalke, a very well-known evangelical leader and leader of the Oasis Trust which seeks to provide housing, education, training, youthwork and healthcare in various countries, similarly disclosed his change of view over homosexual practice. Ultimately this led to the Evangelical Alliance terminating the Trust’s membership.

The Evangelical Alliance has been criticised for this decision. Critics point to its “Evangelical Relationships Commitment” which states: “We respect the diversity of culture, experience and doctrinal understanding that God grants to His people, and acknowledge that some differences over issues not essential to salvation may well remain until the end of time. We call on each other, when speaking or writing of those issues of faith or practice that divide us, to acknowledge our own failings and the possibility that we ourselves may be mistaken, avoiding personal hostility and abuse, and speaking the truth in love and gentleness.”

Like Steve Chalke himself, the critics say that the issue of homosexual practice is a secondary one. Chalke commented: “It is extremely disappointing that this matter of sexual ethics has again been seen as more significant than central matters of the Christian faith. I would call on the Evangelical Alliance to reverse its decision and declare that acceptance of same sex relationships can be compatible with evangelicalism.”

Dr Justin Thacker, lecturer in theology at the evangelical Cliff College, wrote “My concern is that this looks like a decision, not born of confidence in the gospel or trust in the power of the Scriptures to transform, but rather one born of fear – fear that the church is becoming inevitably compromised by the world and that its time to pull up the drawbridges.”

Accepting Evangelicals is an organisation which states: “We are an open network of Evangelical Christians who believe the time has come to move towards the acceptance of faithful, loving same-sex partnerships at every level of church life, and the development of a positive Christian ethic for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” It has 960 members. It commented that the Evangelical Alliance “can … no longer claim to represent ‘the UK’s two million evangelical Christians’ as there are clearly many evangelicals who they no longer represent, or who they are unwilling to represent.”

Other Christian response

In May 2015 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed by 309 votes to 182 the idea that individual congregations could opt out of the tradition view of marriage and appoint a minister in a same-sex civil partnership.

However when Canon Jeremy Pemberton married his male partner the Church of England removed his licence to minister. The Bishop of Buckingham, who supports equal rights for homosexuals, said this was unjust and that homosexual clergy are subject to “harassment and victimisation.”

Steve Chalke’s Oasis Trust did a survey and found that the attitudes of churchgoers has undergone an “ethical earthquake” in the past decade, “despite the more hostile tones of the denominations they belong to.” Around a quarter of churchgoers believe that same-sex relationships should be affirmed by the church, but are reluctant to share their views, a new survey has found. 49.6% of Christians across the main 11 denominations believe that monogamous same-sex relationships should be fully embraced and encouraged. 68% said that their views have become more inclusive over the past decade, with 61% noting that the shift had come as a result of “understanding or interpreting the Bible differently.”

In October 2014 the Vatican published a synodical report which stated:
Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.

Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York put out a statement in February 2014 about the views of the Church of England House of Bishops which said: “We are not all in agreement about every aspect of the Church’s response. However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.”

The legal situation in the UK

In a March 2014 poll BBC Radio 5 Live found that 59% of people believed a person should not be considered homophobic for opposing the legislation that allows gay marriage. However there are increasing attempts to bring legal action against those who do not approve of homosexual practice. In April 2015 The Guardian published an editorial which stated: “It’s at least possible that conservative Christians might at some stage end up as despised and disadvantaged a minority as some of their victims have been in the past … In the west we privilege conflicting but broadly liberal values. We no longer privilege the authority of the Bible. So, once we have determined that discrimination against homosexuals violates the principle of equality – and that is the settled position in both law and public opinion now – the fact that some people are compelled by their consciences to disagree does not exempt them from behaving as if it were true. There cannot be a special exemption for mistaken beliefs held on religious grounds when these harm others.”

The same month an article in The Guardian stated: “Hostility to homosexuality, abortion or extramarital sex may be justified as the teachings of gods, prophets or scriptures … and anyone has the right to follow them. But actions based on those beliefs should have no particular privilege and, if illegal, the fact that the person undertaking them believes in the Almighty should be no defence.”

However the Equality and Human Rights Commission has stated that the UK Same Sex Marriage law provides “protection under equality law for ministers of religion who do not wish to marry same sex couples. The Commission stated that “churches and individual ministers will not find themselves forced by litigation to conduct same sex marriages and no one will be required to promote views about same-sex marriage which they do not support.”

Welcome though this is, it is also evidence of the increasing marginalisation of the church in today’s society. How long will it be before such protections are removed? There are already calls for that. For example Lord Fowler, former chair of the Conservative Party has said that the government should be able to prevent the Church of England from sacking clergy who enter same-sex marriages. We are seeing Christians accepting homosexual practice, despite the biblical teaching on the matter. We are also seeing a further trend towards oppression of those who uphold the biblical teaching. We need to recognise the seriousness of these trends.

I said recently that, although I have serious problems with Islamic belief, I will publish significant positive news about Muslims when it arises. It is part of loving our Muslim neighbour. I want nothing to do with hateful attitudes towards Muslims. The same is true with respect to homosexuals. Although I accept the Bible teaching on homosexual practice, I will publish significant positive news about homosexuals when it arises. It is part of loving our homosexual neighbour. I want nothing to do with hateful attitudes towards homosexuals. With that in mind, I want to share the following news item.

Jesse Bartholomew, a homosexual pastry chef, wrote on Facebook: “I cannot tell you how disgusted I am with my fellow gay and lesbian community that they would stoop so low to force someone to bake a cake for them who simply doesn’t agree with them. They don’t have to bake a cake for you. You are forcing someone. You are being a Nazi and forcing someone to bake a wedding cake for you when there are hundreds of other gay and lesbians that would gladly have your business. Shame on you.”

A US group led by a church minister is fighting against religious freedom laws which protect religious people and organisations from being forced to accept homosexual marriage. If we think present protection in law for Christians who follow the Bible’s teaching on such matters will last long-term we should take careful note. It won’t. Pray against this trend. See http://christiannews.net/2015/07/08/group-launches-national-effort-to-abolish-religious-freedom-laws-protecting-people-of-faith/

We can learn a number of things from this remarkable event:

1. It shows how quickly social attitudes can change. Homosexuality was only legalised in Ireland in 1993 (and divorce in 1996). The main factor is the dramatic loss of influence of the Catholic Church and the other the great improvement in Ireland’s economy since it joined the EU which encouraged secular attitudes.

2. It underlines the huge responsibility resting upon the church and the very serious consequences of its failure to meet those responsibilities. The paedophile scandals amongst Irish Catholic priests, the repressive Catholic schools and the failure of the hierarchy to deal with these problems adequately have had a devastating effect. Attendance at mass on Sundays was 90% in the 1970s but by 2013 it was 34% and around 18% in Dublin. The Irish Catholic Church has lost credibility and, although 94% of Irish people identify as catholics, many of them voted for gay marriage. The failures of the Church of England are not as bad as the Irish Church but there have been paedophile scandals and the church has confused the nation over its view of homosexual practice. This contributed to our government suddenly approving gay marriage.

3. The great joy and exhilaration expressed at the result by those who voted yes has a powerful and insidious emotional effect (I found it moving myself). Suddenly gay couples who had been together for years could enjoy the prospect of getting married. One man held a placard saying: “Thank you Ireland. This means everything. At last at the age of 60 I’m an equal citizen.” Another man was moved to tears as he said: “It’s an emotional day. I’m gay and I had two relationships for 20 years each. My partners both died and I would have loved to marry them.” This emotion is dangerous ….

4. The emotion over the gay marriage decision is dangerous because it will have the effect of further marginalising the church and applying pressure to Christians who don’t agree with same-sex marriage. On the other hand, it will lead some Christians to move away from biblical teaching and approve homosexual practice and gay marriage. So, with these Christians it won’t lead to marginalisation but to a partial departure from the faith. Both persecution and departure from the faith were prophesied by Jesus.

5. However, the issue is not one of emotion but of what God has said. We need to go back to the Bible on the issue and ensure we understand what it says about it. The following papers I have written may be helpful

What about Gay Marriage? (a short paper). See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/Whataboutgaymarriage.html

Homosexuality and the Church: a study guide for churches. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/homosexualityandthechurch.pdf

What does the Bible say on Homosexuality (a more detailed study). See
http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/biblehomosexualpractice.pdf
6. We should not only adhere to the clear teaching of Scripture about same-sex relationships but we should also have the right attitude to homosexual people. One of the factors driving the gay lobby is the wrong attitude that all too many Christians have – one of contempt for homosexuals as people. Ironically, the tables are now going to be turned on Christians as the gay lobby gets the upper hand. We are called to love our homosexual neighbour. That means we should respect them as people and be grateful for their companionship and care for one another whilst disagreeing with their sexual behaviour. In other words, we love our homosexual neighbour (like any other neighbour) but we don’t love his/her behaviour. We should also remember that homosexual behaviour is not the only sin! We are all sinners – but that doesn’t justify any wrong behaviour.

We are seeing massive social change at breath-taking speed. The consequences for Christians who uphold the teaching of Scripture will be very serious. We need to watch and pray.

A Christian bakery has been fined £500 plus costs for refusing to make a cake for a customer which bore the logo “Support Gay Marriage.” How should we respond?

1. We have to recognise that society is increasingly secular, including in its laws.

2. We can argue democratically (and strongly) for society to respect God’s law.

3. But we have to accept the reality of what society democratically decides, even though we disagree with it.

4. The balancing of opposing human rights is a complex matter. This is illustrated in the opposing rights present in the Belfast Cake controversy – gay rights afforded by society, on the one hand, and the right to religious freedom, on the other.

5. Society cannot accommodate every religious opinion (for example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal of blood transfusions for their children) but it was surely possible to prevent the infringement of Christians’ rights in a trivial case like this one.

6. It is sad that the legal case was mounted but the situation is complicated by anti-gay prejudice (as opposed to reasonable disagreement) and the danger of gay people wanting to get their own back.

7. The church should stand firm for God’s law (although always remembering to show compassion and respect for people themselves) but it has given confusing signals over homosexuality. For example, the official position of the C of E is that agreed by a 98% majority of General Synod based on my private member’s motion in 1987 which stated that “that homosexual genital acts … are … to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion.” But since then the church has confused society as to its position on the matter. It has also given the impression that we shall come round to society’s view in the end. The church therefore must bear a very serious responsibility for what is now happening.

8. As various people have said, the Belfast decision opens the way for similar prosecutions such as over:
• A Muslim printer refusing a contract requiring the printing of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed
• An atheist web designer refusing to design a website presenting as scientific fact the claim that God made the world in six days
• A printing company run by Roman Catholics declining an order to produce adverts calling for abortion on demand to be legalised.

9. I wish I could be confident that the government will sort out this situation where the law is an ass but I am concerned that the very beginning of real persecution of Christians in the UK has happened, although it is almost nothing compared with what is happening to Christians elsewhere.

10. I have long felt that approval of homosexual practice would eventually become a test of acceptability in society, failure in which would lead to serious consequences.

11. But how long will it be before the Christians come into much more serious conflict with the anti-extremism laws planned by the UK government? These, of course, uphold “British Values” (whatever they are) and particularly tolerance and avoiding causing distress to others. I anticipate that before long exclusive claims that Jesus is the only Saviour and even sensitive references to judgment and hell will be deemed illegal. Then we will be getting into deep water over persecution. In March 2015 Sajid Javid Culture Secretary made a very significant comment when he opposed the governments revived censorship proposal. He said it would be used “otherwise than intended, not least given the difficulty of defining extremism, and the consequent likelihood of the government being seen to be interfering with freedom of speech without sufficient justification”.

12. Christians need to learn now which are the primary issues of the Christian Faith, and which are secondary issues. If the law requires us to deny the primary issues, we have to obey God rather than the state.

13. We are in a very serious situation and many Christians, churches and church leaders are quietly snoozing through it.