Category Archives: Marriage

No freedom of conscience to have a gay marriage

I was encouraged to read Peter Lynas’ letter in support of “freedom of conscience and religion” in Northern Ireland (May 10).

 

These freedoms are, as I am sure all in the Evangelical Alliance agree, a vital part of a fair society.

 

Leaving aside the issue of the cake, I want to remind everyone that there are gay Christians who support same-sex marriage, and there are gay Christians who want to get married in their own churches.

 

At the moment, the law of Northern Ireland prevents this. There is no freedom of conscience or religion on this issue.

 

I am sure I hold religious views that Peter disagrees with, and doubtless he holds religious views that I disagree with. Yet we can both agree that we should have the freedom to practise our religion, and that the law should no more restrict my religious practice than it should restrict his.

 

I hope and pray that Peter Lynas, the Evangelical Alliance, and all members of the newly-elected Assembly fully support freedom of conscience and religion, and that together we can bring same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, bringing about a more free society with greater freedom of conscience and religion than we currently have.

 

If the Evangelical Alliance would like to work with Faith and Pride on this issue I am sure we could work together. Whatever our differences, we all surely believe in freedom of conscience and religion.

 

Andrew McFarland Campbell, Founder, Faith and Pride

 

Letter originally published in the News Letter.

Advertisements

Religious Freedom in Today’s Society

I have had a letter published in the Belfast Telegraph.

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of a free society. The law must not treat any one set of beliefs more favourably than another.

Imagine the outrage if the law said that, because some churches opposed inter-denominational marriages, then no church may perform one. This would (rightly) be seen as an infringement on religious freedom.

In Northern Ireland today, some churches oppose same-sex marriage. Others do not. Yet, curiously, the law only accommodates those churches opposing it.

If a Christian same-sex couple wants to get married in their church, and the church wants to perform that marriage, they cannot. The law dictates how the members of that church are allowed to practise their religion.

In recent months, there has been a huge upwelling of support for the freedom of conscience for the owners of Ashers Bakery. The freedom of conscience of people in places of worship must be at least as important as the freedom of conscience of people in places of work.

Until the law is changed and the churches that want to perform same-sex marriage are allowed to perform same-sex marriage, freedom of conscience in worship is severely restricted in Northern Ireland.

ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL

#VoteWithUs Brighid and Paddy

On the 22 May, there is a referendum on marriage equality in the Republic of Ireland. Although Faith and Pride is not active in the Republic, we hope that the people vote for same-sex marriage. The words of this couple say it all.

It could happen that sometime in the future that your son or daughter, grandchild or great grandchild, will tell you they are gay. And when they ask you how you voted in this referendum, or whether you bothered to vote at all, what will you tell them? — Paddy

I know the ever-loving God that we believe in will say we did the right thing, and the Christian thing, in voting “yes” for marriage equality. — Brighid

Support Religious Freedom, Support Same-Sex Marriage

At the end of February 2015, this letter was sent to all the Northern Irish MLAs, all the Northern Irish MPs, the Lords Spiritual, some of the Lords Temporal with an interest in Northern Ireland, some religious leaders with an interest in Northern Ireland, and other political figures. You can download a PDF of the letter.

Dear Friend,

PeterRobinsonFreedomofConscience

I am the founder of Faith and Pride, a non-denominational gay Christian organisation in Northern Ireland. Although I now live in Gibraltar, Faith and Pride remains active in Northern Ireland, and I myself retain strong connections to East Belfast, where I was born and where I lived for more than 38 years. I am writing to you because in the frequent political debates about religion and same-sex relationships, the rights of gay Christians are often forgotten, if it is remembered that we exist at all. This is particularly true when same-sex marriage is discussed.

In Ireland during the Penal Law period, religious freedom was restricted. The religion of the ruling elite was elevated above the religions of everyone else. The people of Ireland, on both sides of the border, have paid a heavy price for that. One of the ways that religious freedom was restricted was by controlling other people’s freedom to marry. During the period of the Penal Laws, Presbyterian weddings had no legal standing. There was no legal bar to a Presbyterian church performing a wedding, but the couple would not have been married in the eyes of the law.

Fortunately, we live in a much more enlightened time. Two people married in a Presbyterian church are just as married as a couple who married in a Church of Ireland church. We recognise that people have different religious and philosophical approaches to marriage, and the law recognises all of them. Anything else would be unthinkable bigotry.

If you support religious freedom, that means that you support the right of people to live their lives according to different standards to you. That means you support laws that accommodate other denominations and religions to exactly the same extent that your denomination or religion is supported. That means if you are a staunch and conservative Catholic, then you support Presbyterian weddings, even though you would never marry in a Presbyterian church yourself. That means if you are a member of the Church of Ireland, you support legal recognition of civil weddings as surely and completely as you support legal recognition of weddings in your own parish church.

When my husband and I married in a Non-Subscribing Presbyterian church in Belfast in 2011, we were in much the same position as a couple who were married in a Presbyterian church in Belfast in 1711. Whilst the service wasn’t illegal, it had no legal standing. We had to take other steps to get the law to recognise our relationship.

There are churches that want to treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples in exactly the same way, performing marriage ceremonies that are religiously and legally significant, regardless of the genders involved. There are gay Christians who want this. It is what my husband and I wanted. The law in Northern Ireland currently prevents churches from doing this. This is a restriction to religious freedom: a restriction to freedom of conscience. This is just as severe, and just as offensive, as the situation regarding Presbyterian marriages during the Penal Law era.

Religious freedom has not lead to Catholic churches being forced to marry atheist couples, nor Anglican churches having to marry dyed-in-the-wool Presbyterians. Same-sex marriage happens in many parts of the world, and I know of no case of a church being forced to perform a same-sex marriage against its will, yet the law of Northern Ireland still prohibits the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. There is no freedom of conscience on this issue. The position of Christians and churches is decided not by faith but by the law.

Religious freedom unquestionably means support for Catholic weddings, Church of Ireland weddings, Presbyterian weddings, Methodist weddings, Christadelphian weddings, civil weddings, and it means support for same-sex weddings. The Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA, leader of the DUP, recently said, “Those who believe in freedom of conscience must stand strong and stand together.”1

That is unquestionably true, and everyone who supports freedom of conscience and freedom of religion must support same-sex marriage, so that those of us who believe in same-sex marriage can practise our religion as freely as those who do not.

Stand up for freedom of conscience. Stand up for religious freedom. Stand up for same-sex marriage.

Yours in Christ,

Andrew

Andrew McFarland Campbell MA MSci (Hons) (Cantab)

1 Leader’s Speech at DUP Party Conference, 22 November 2014, http://www.mydup.com/news/article/conference-2014-leaders-speech-rt-hon-peter-robinson-mla

Equal marriage in Gibraltar

10685496_738278972922937_6941628744041493341_nI have had a letter on equal marriage published in the Gibraltar Chronicle.

Although I have only lived in Gibraltar for a short time, I have been much struck by the diversity and tolerance shown here. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Bahá’í, people of other faiths, and people of no faith all live together in mutual respect. Gibraltar enjoys religious freedom to an extent that most of the world can only dream about.

This freedom does not come freely, and everyone who lives here must protect and promote this freedom that we all share. Supporting religious freedom means that we should support same-sex marriage. People from all parts of the religious spectrum support same-sex marriage, and there are churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples that would gladly perform same-sex weddings.

When we say that the law only recognises opposite-sex marriage, we are saying that the religious views of people like M. Bear (Letters, 21st November 2014) are more important than the religious views of people like me. This is a limitation to religious freedom that I believe is shocking to the so-called ‘silent majority’. If you support freedom of religion, you must support same-sex marriage.

Andrew McFarland Campbell
Faith and Pride

The Biblical view on being gay and a Christian

And another letter published in the Belfast Telegraph.

I take the Bible just as seriously as any other Christian from Northern Ireland. If there were really a single sound-bite verse that could prove that you cannot be gay and Christian, as Good News Messenger seems to think (Writeback, November 17), then I would listen to what it said, and close my organisation Faith and Pride.

As proof that you can’t be gay and Christian, Good News Messenger quoted the 2011 NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. On the face of it, that translation does seem to be convincing, but only on the face of it. There are two Greek words (malakos and arsenokoites) that are translated together to become “men who have sex with men”. In other translations they become things like “effeminate”, “self-indulgent”, and “sexual perverts”. It seems that translators are not in agreement about what is meant.

People in the 1st Century Graeco-Roman world often wrote about all sorts of sexual relationships between men, in both positive and negative terms. Malakos and arsenokoites are not used in those discussions. This is a very strong indication that in the 1st century those words did not mean “men who have sex with men”. The arguments for that translation are based on a mixture of modern prejudice and a misunderstanding of how etymology is related to meaning.

It is perhaps foolish to depend on one translation of one verse for guidance. It is far better to look at what Christ himself said about the topic, in a passage where there is no significant dispute about the meaning: Matthew 25:31-46.

ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL

Faith and Pride

Remember, some of us are both gay and Christian

I have had another letter on same-sex marriage published in the Belfast Telegraph.

IT seems that much of the coverage of the gay marriage cake affair has portrayed it as Christians on one side and gay people on the other. It is too easy for people to forget that some of us are both.

There are gay people who are Christians and there are Christians who support same-sex marriage. Indeed, there is a long Christian tradition of fully supporting same-sex relationships.

While this tradition has, arguably, always been in the minority, being in the minority does not mean that you are not Christian.

I am lucky enough to know the “gay activist” who ordered the cake in question. I am perplexed by that label. I think he is better described as a “community worker”. He is a man who goes out of his way to help people, particularly those at the edges of our society.

While I don’t want to judge anyone in this case, it seems to me that kindness, particularly kindness to those at the edges of our society, is a key Christian virtue; after all, Christ himself said loving your neighbour is like unto loving God (Matthew 22: 36-40).

ANDREW McFARLAND CAMPBELL

Faith and Pride

Equal Marriage Discussion in the Belfast Telegraph

I have had a letter on equal marriage published in the Belfast Telegraph. The letter was shortened a bit for publication. The original is below.

Dear Sir,

With reference to Cynthia Campbell’s letter about same-sex laws (Letters, February 12), I would simply like to say that, as a practising Christian who takes God seriously and so believes the Bible’s teaching and prophesies and guidelines, I have to adhere to what it says about homosexuality as much as to any other subject.

So, as marriage is ordained by God in the first place and as being not for procreation but for companionship (Genesis 2:18), then you might consider that anything suggested by man as being a marriage does actually make it one as long as it meets this criterion. Christians who believe that marriage is about procreation should take note that procreation is not mentioned until after the Fall.

As the founder of Faith and Pride, a non-denominational gay Christian organisation, I would like to invite all gay Christians and their friends to any of our meetings. Details are on our website, https://faithandpride.org/.

Andrew McFarland Campbell

All One in Christ

My grandmother came from Glasgow. She moved, with her husband and children, to Belfast in the late 1930s. During World War Two, she was in Glasgow to visit her family. There was a barrage balloon, and during her visit my grandmother decided she wanted to see it. She went to the site of the balloon and couldnʼt find it anywhere. Eventually she asked a passer by where it was. He looked at her, somewhat confused, and said: “Youʼre staring right at it.”

The barrage balloon was enormous, and my grandmother was expecting something much smaller. It was so big she couldnʼt see it, until it was pointed out to her.

If you are looking for evidence that the Bible supports gay people, evidence that you can follow Christ and have a same-sex partner, then you can have a similar experience. You look for something small, maybe a brief aside in one of the shorter letters, or a reference to a gay couple somewhere in the Old Testament. In reality, there is a great big affirming barrage balloon floating in the middle of the New Testament. It is so big, so huge, so affirming that you can easily miss it. That affirmation comes from Paulʼs letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 28.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female.

Looking at the first paring, what does “Neither Jew nor Gentile” mean? At first sight you might think that Paul was arguing that Christians should be racially and culturally homogenous, yet elsewhere, in 1st Corinthians chapter 7, Paul says “Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised.” He goes on to say “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping Godʼs commands is what counts. Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you.” If  Paul was really arguing for cultural and racial homogeneity in Galatians, he wouldnʼt have said that in 1st Corinthians.

In the early church, including the church at Galatia, there was a division along the Jewish/Gentile lines. That was wrong, and Paul said that it should not be: neither Jew nor Gentile, you are all one in Christ. Yes, people were of different cultural and racial backgrounds, but those differences should not be divisions.

Lets consider a practical example. Suppose two couples approached a church to get married. In the first couple, both people are from the same cultural and racial background. No church would object to their relationship on those grounds. The second couple is mixed race. Would it be right for the church to object to their relationship? No, because as soon as you do that you go against what Galatians says. You say that in Christ there is Jew and there is Gentile, and we are not all one in Christ.

What about the second pairing: neither slave nor free? Once again, you might think that Paul is arguing for homogeneity here, but he isnʼt. Early Christians did come from different social backgrounds, but those social backgrounds were not to be a source of division and judgement within the church. In the words of James chapter 2, verses 1 to 4:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special atention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Hereʼs a good seat for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Consider this practical example. Once again, two couples approach a church. In the first couple, both people are from the same social background. No church would object to their relationship on those grounds. The second couple is different. One party comes from a comfortably-off background, grew up in a house with six bathrooms, and so on. The other party has lived all their life in a council house. Could any church object to their relationship? No, because as soon as you do that you go against what Galatians says. You say that in Christ there is slave and there is free, and we are not all one in Christ.

And so we come to the final pairing: neither male nor female. Suppose an opposite sex couple approaches the church to get married. Would anyone object on those grounds? Of course not. It happens all the time. But could the church – could a Christian – object to a same-sex couple? If you object to a same-sex couple, surely you are saying that there is male and there is female, and we are not all one in Christ?

To judge a relationship on racial or cultural grounds is racism, and that is forbidden by Galatians. To judge a relationship on the grounds of class or social background is snobbery, and that is forbidden by Galatians.

And to judge a relationship because it is a same-sex relationship is also forbidden by Galatians.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Those words are the great barrage balloon of affirmation, the great barrage balloon of defence. The race, class and gender of someoneʼs partner do not determine how a Christian should feel about their relationship.

This is the text of the meditation given at 15 minutes with Christ on Thursday 2 August 2012.

Equal Marriage, Equal Rights, Equality

Recently Julian Clary spoke out in favour of marriage equality, likening it to the struggle for women’s suffrage one hundred years ago. In doing so he has made the vital link that these are both matters of civil and human rights and freedoms, not of religious opinions. The same link was made last week in America when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People voted overwhelmingly to support marriage equality,1 describing it as

one of the key civil rights struggles of our time.2

The NAACP states

When people ask why the NAACP stands firmly for marriage equality, we say that we have always stood against laws which demean, dehumanize, or discriminate against any person in this great country. That is our legacy. For over 103 years we have stood against such laws, and while the nature of the struggle may change, our bedrock commitment to equality of all people under the law never will.”3

In re-framing marriage equality in this way the debate has been moved into its proper context – not one of vilification of the religious views of anyone, LGBT or otherwise, but rather into the sphere of civil and human rights and freedoms.

It is significant to see the same sorts of arguments surface against marriage equality as were commonly used by those who, one hundred years ago, opposed the rights of women to vote.

It is ‘against nature’, it ‘breaks God’s laws and social order’, it is ‘dangerous and will lead to disaster’ – all of these objections were validated by Biblical ‘proof texts’ to show that they were ‘right’ and that women should never be given the vote. Thankfully they did not succeed. Neither will those who oppose marriage equality based on prejudice and ignorance, supported by Biblical ‘proof texts’. Victor Hugo is credited with saying ‘you can resist an invading army but you cannot resist an idea whose time has come’. The time has come for marriage equality.


1 Text of the Resolution passed on 19 May 2012. ” The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the “political, educational, social and economic equality” of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.” http://www.naacp.org/press/entry/naacp-passes-resolution-in-support-of-marriage-equalit

2 Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP
May 21, 2012 http://www.naacp.org/press/entry/remarks-from-naacp-press-conference-on-resolution-supporting-marriage-equal

3 Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors
May 21, 2012. http://www.naacp.org/press/entry/remarks-from-naacp-press-conference-on-resolution-supporting-marriage-equal

%d bloggers like this: