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A Letter about Gay Marriage

John Stevens recently wrote a letter to all MPs, urging them to vote against the proposed legislation to allow gay marriage. You can find out what he wrote by reading on…

A Letter about Gay Marriage primary image

Today the House of Commons will be debating and voting on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for the first time. The introduction of gay marriage would clearly be a violation of God’s good and holy purpose for marriage, which was established at creation to be a covenant relationship of exclusive faithfulness between a man and a woman, reflecting the relationship between Christ and his Church. The Bible declares that sexual intimacy is only appropriate in the context of such marriage.

The introduction of gay marriage is also likely to undermine the civil liberties and religious freedoms of those who continue to believe that a same-sex relationship cannot be marriage, as has been made clear in the extensive representations to the Government by major religious bodies, including the Church of England and the Catholic Church.

If our elected representatives vote to approve the introduction of gay marriage it will be another indication of just how far our country and society have turned from God and our Christian heritage, and a reminder of the urgent task we face to re-evangelise our nation. We need to pray that the Lord might have mercy upon us, that the hearts and minds of those who support gay marriage might be changed, and that we will have grace to accept the sovereign purposes of God whatever the result. Let us also pray that we will have boldness and renewed passion to preach the glorious good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world. We must view those who favour gay marriage with deep compassion because they are in urgent need of the grace of the gospel before they face the eternal judgement of God.

The FIEC Trust Board is unanimous in its opposition to the introduction of gay marriage, and is fully supportive of the work of the Coalition for Marriage. The overwhelming majority of FIEC churches are also opposed to the redefinition of marriage, both because they believe it would be wrong for our nation to flagrantly go against God’s holy law, but also because they fear for their own future freedoms to preach the gospel. Last Monday I wrote as National Director on behalf of FIEC to urge MPs to vote against any redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. This is the letter they received:

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

I am writing in my capacity as the National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, on behalf of our 510 churches across the country, to urge you to vote against the Government Bill introducing same-sex marriage in England and Wales. The overwhelming majority of members of our churches – together with the other 5.5million evangelical Christians, 5.3million Catholics, 1.98 million Muslims and 0.58 million Hindus*, not to mention other Christians, orthodox Jews and even some atheists and agnostics – believe that it would be wrong and dangerous to introduce this momentous change. It will benefit only a tiny minority of the population, and undermine rather than advance equality and tolerance in our country.

We believe that the redefinition of marriage should be rejected for at least the following compelling reasons:

1) There is no democratic mandate for this change
The introduction of same-sex marriage was not included in the manifesto of any party at the last general election, and the consultation process failed to show that the English and Welsh population are substantially in favour. In any event, the consultation process failed to include the proposed introduction of religious same-sex marriage.

2) It will not achieve equality
If the legislation is passed, same-sex couples will have a choice between a legal framework which is exclusive to gay couples (civil partnerships) and redefined marriage. Heterosexual couples will have no legal framework which is exclusively for them. How does this achieve equality? The proposal that only the Church of England and Church in Wales should be provided with specific statutory protection against conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies is also fundamentally unequal. Why is this protection not extended to mosques, orthodox synagogues, Catholic churches and evangelical churches which want to ensure that they are never required to conduct gay weddings?

3) It is unnecessary
The introduction of civil partnerships already enables gay couples to express their commitment to each other and confers exactly the same legal entitlements as traditional marriage. When civil partnerships were introduced the government granted assurances that they would not lead to same-sex marriage.

4) It will redefine marriage for all
The proposed legislation does not merely extend the right of marriage to same-sex couples, but redefines the essence of marriage, which has been enshrined in English law for centuries. The fundamental concepts of non-consummation and adultery will be amended or abolished so as to address the nature of gay relationships. The legislation will thus redefine marriage for every heterosexual couple.

5) It will undermine the liberties and freedoms of religious believers
Most significantly the proposed legislation will undermine the religious and civil liberties of the very large proportion of the population who believe, in conscience, that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The Government has made clear that it cannot guarantee that the proposed “quadruple lock” will protect churches in future from having to conduct gay weddings, because it may be overridden by the European Court. The Government has also made clear that it cannot guarantee the protection of the numerous public and private sector employees who cannot for religious reasons accept, support or affirm that same-sex relationships are truly “marriage,” especially teachers who may be required to teach the validity of same-sex marriage as part of the curriculum. It ought to be a fundamental human right, and a liberty essential to religious freedom, to be free to believe that homosexual practice is morally wrong and that same-sex marriage is not truly marriage, and to be entitled not to recognise, affirm and accept same-sex relationships as “marriage.”

For all these reasons I urge you to vote against this proposed legislation, even though you may not share the religious beliefs of those who consider the introduction of same sex marriage to be contrary to the will of God as we do. The current law draws a fair and appropriate balance between the legitimate aspiration of gay couples to enjoy legal recognition for their relationships by means of civil partnerships, but without imperilling the religious liberties of millions of citizens. The introduction of same-sex marriage will destroy this careful balance with unknown long-term consequences for the freedom of religious believers.

The Government’s own figures indicate that only 6000 couples a year are expected to take advantage of same-sex marriage. Why should the long established rights and freedoms of millions of British citizens be undermined to address a perceived unfairness to a tiny minority, who already enjoy full civil rights through the regime that has been specially introduced for them?

Those MPs who vote to support this proposed legislation will find that many religious voters will choose to withdraw their support from them at the next election. I will certainly be encouraging our church members not to vote for MPs who have chosen to trample upon their religious freedoms and liberties.

Yours sincerely,
John Stevens
FIEC National Director

*figures from www.operationworld.org

 
I have also written to my own local MPs, Sir Edward Garnier and Peter Bone, to thank them for their opposition to the introduction of gay marriage, and to David Burrowes to thank him for the brave lead he has taken in campaigning against it. I will report back in due course on the responses I receive from MPs.

In the meantime, please do remember this in your prayers.

Postcript (07/02/13)

Following the debate on Tuesday, the House of Commons voted to approve the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 votes to 175 (FIEC was specifically mentioned in the debate by Andrew Selous MP). Whilst this is a setback for those who opposed the redefinition of marriage it is not yet the end of the story, because the Bill will have to go to committee and the House of Lords. Subsequent to the vote, I have written a post on my blog to help Christians respond biblically to this defeat. You can read the post here.

John Stevens photo
John Stevens - FIEC National Director

John is FIEC's National Director. He's married to Ursula and they have four children. He loves books. John blogs regularly – and at length – over at www.john-stevens.com


Follow John Stevens on Twitter – @_JohnStevens