Christianity and homosexuality

In the third of our series on faith and homosexuality, we take a look at how Christians continue to

It is never a simple thing to write about faith and homosexuality from a Christian perspective because there is no one Christian perspective. The acceptance or otherwise of homosexuality as a valid expression of human sexuality differs according to the view of the different denominations and even within those denominations, groups and individuals may hold opposing beliefs. Even when people share a belief on homosexuality, how individuals should be treated and what the response of the Church should be to those claiming a homosexual orientation may not be shared.

Many denominations now accept that homosexuality is not simply a lifestyle choice and therefore advocate acceptance and pastoral care towards gay men and lesbians. However, this is usually only as long as they don’t ‘practice’ their homosexuality. In other words, it’s okay to be a homosexual but not to express your love physically or sexually with the person you love. This is quite ironic when most Christian denominations believe that celibacy is a higher state that not many are called to and yet they expect all gay men and lesbians to live their lives in this way.

At the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement we believe that all sexuality is a gift from God and therefore the expression of our sexuality in loving, mutual same gender relationships is just as honourable and blessed by God as are loving, mutual heterosexual relationships.

The Biblical debate rests on 6 verses, 3 in the Old Testament and 3 in the New Testament, but many scholars have shown clearly that these texts are not referring to the type of relationship we label as homosexual today. In fact, some of the verses aren’t even referring to sexual relationships at all but concern the Jewish laws of hospitality.

The fact is that the debate on homosexuality will never be resolved by reference to Scripture alone as both sides of the argument can use Scripture to support their particular viewpoint in the same way as it can and has been done on many other issues over the years, such as, the treatment and acceptance of women, children, and ethnic minorities.

We are told that to be a Christian all we need to do is accept Jesus as God’s son and proclaim him with our lips. Naturally, when a person does this then they try to follow Christ’s teachings. As Christ never said anything about homosexuality we have to look at how he treated people and how he expected us to treat each other. Christ welcomed people from the margins, people who had been excluded and rejected by mainstream society. However, when he called these people he didn’t then say they had to start behaving like the Pharisees and Sadducees. All he asked for was that we treat each other with love as he loved us. Confirmation of his acceptance of loving relationships regardless of the gender of those involved is the story of the healing of the Centurions servant. Christ had no hesitation in healing the male servant even though the Centurion referred to him as his beloved. The servant certainly must have been greatly loved for a Roman soldier to beg a Jewish teacher for help, especially as servants were generally valued no more than any other possession.

I have had a personal relationship with Christ ever since I can remember. When I realised my sexual orientation, the love I felt both for and from God didn’t change. God is concerned about the quality of my relationships, not the gender of who they’re with. Unfortunately, a lot of lesbians and gay men encounter so much homophobia and discrimination within their Church that they start believing that God can’t love them as they are.

It’s no good telling someone that you ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’ when the sin you’re referring to is integral to who they are. It’s like telling someone that you understand that they can’t help being born with blue eyes so it’s okay as long they don’t look out of them!

What is even more distressing is that the religious view on homosexuality often informs the implementation of laws. Consequently there are still far too many countries where homosexuality is not just considered a sin but is also illegal and punishable with life imprisonment and even the death penalty. This treatment is often justified by religious beliefs. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement continues to campaign against such laws and against any form of homophobia within faith.

Rev Sharon Ferguson is the Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement that will be holding their second conference on Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia, and Human Rights on Saturday 16th May, to raise awareness around these issues. For more information and booking form go to Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

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Forget planning for no deal. The government isn't really planning for Brexit at all

The British government is simply not in a position to handle life after the EU.

No deal is better than a bad deal? That phrase has essentially vanished from Theresa May’s lips since the loss of her parliamentary majority in June, but it lives on in the minds of her boosters in the commentariat and the most committed parts of the Brexit press. In fact, they have a new meme: criticising the civil service and ministers who backed a Remain vote for “not preparing” for a no deal Brexit.

Leaving without a deal would mean, among other things, dropping out of the Open Skies agreement which allows British aeroplanes to fly to the United States and European Union. It would lead very quickly to food shortages and also mean that radioactive isotopes, used among other things for cancer treatment, wouldn’t be able to cross into the UK anymore. “Planning for no deal” actually means “making a deal”.  (Where the Brexit elite may have a point is that the consequences of no deal are sufficiently disruptive on both sides that the British government shouldn’t  worry too much about the two-year time frame set out in Article 50, as both sides have too big an incentive to always agree to extra time. I don’t think this is likely for political reasons but there is a good economic case for it.)

For the most part, you can’t really plan for no deal. There are however some things the government could prepare for. They could, for instance, start hiring additional staff for customs checks and investing in a bigger IT system to be able to handle the increased volume of work that would need to take place at the British border. It would need to begin issuing compulsory purchases to build new customs posts at ports, particularly along the 300-mile stretch of the Irish border – where Northern Ireland, outside the European Union, would immediately have a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, which would remain inside the bloc. But as Newsnight’s Christopher Cook details, the government is doing none of these things.

Now, in a way, you might say that this is a good decision on the government’s part. Frankly, these measures would only be about as useful as doing your seatbelt up before driving off the Grand Canyon. Buying up land and properties along the Irish border has the potential to cause political headaches that neither the British nor Irish governments need. However, as Cook notes, much of the government’s negotiating strategy seems to be based around convincing the EU27 that the United Kingdom might actually walk away without a deal, so not making even these inadequate plans makes a mockery of their own strategy. 

But the frothing about preparing for “no deal” ignores a far bigger problem: the government isn’t really preparing for any deal, and certainly not the one envisaged in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she set out the terms of Britain’s Brexit negotiations, or in her letter to the EU27 triggering Article 50. Just to reiterate: the government’s proposal is that the United Kingdom will leave both the single market and the customs union. Its regulations will no longer be set or enforced by the European Court of Justice or related bodies.

That means that, when Britain leaves the EU, it will need, at a minimum: to beef up the number of staff, the quality of its computer systems and the amount of physical space given over to customs checks and other assorted border work. It will need to hire its own food and standards inspectors to travel the globe checking the quality of products exported to the United Kingdom. It will need to increase the size of its own regulatory bodies.

The Foreign Office is doing some good and important work on preparing Britain’s re-entry into the World Trade Organisation as a nation with its own set of tariffs. But across the government, the level of preparation is simply not where it should be.

And all that’s assuming that May gets exactly what she wants. It’s not that the government isn’t preparing for no deal, or isn’t preparing for a bad deal. It can’t even be said to be preparing for what it believes is a great deal. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.