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NI leaders ought to condemn anti-LGBT mass murder in Orlando

Reacting to the mass murder of LGBT people in Orlando, Florida, Andrew McFarland Campbell, Founder of Faith and Pride called on the political and religious leaders of Northern Ireland to lead the condemnation of the atrocity. Speaking earlier, Andrew said:

“Perhaps more than most, the people of Northern Ireland know how it feels when mass shootings happen.

“I call upon all politicians and religious leaders in Northern Ireland to lead the people of Northern Ireland in the condemnation the anti-LGBT mass murder in Orlando, Florida.

“I call upon all Christians who oppose equality for LGBT people, including same-sex marriage, to prayerfully consider whether or not your opposition to our freedom helped dehumanize us, and to prayerfully consider whether that dehumanization contributed to the environment that allowed the mass murder in Orlando, Florida to take place.

“And I call upon all Christians to think about the mass murder in Orlando and pray most fervently the words that Jesus taught us: thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

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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.

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

Equal Marriage Seminar by Accepting Sexuality

Accepting Sexuality

Accepting Sexuality, an informal group of Methodists, is holding a seminar on equal marriage, on Wednesday 22 May at 7.30 pm in the Skainos building, 239 Newtownards Road, Belfast. (Sandwich tea beforehand from 6.30 pm.)

Legislation is going through the Houses of Parliament, and while it doesn’t cover Northern Ireland, it has prompted a debate on how we understand marriage. The seminar aims to discuss and understand the issues involved, to help people to think these through and  to reach their own conclusions.

James Grannell (editor of University College Dublin’s independent student newspaper) will provide an analysis of the debate;  Revd Diane Clutterbuck is bringing a biblical and historical perspective;  and Stephen Reain-Adair will speak from his own experience.  There’ll be a chance for discussion, too.

If you are going to attend, please contact Revd David Cooper on tdavidcooper@btopenworld.com.

More details.

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.

A True Christian Position on Same-Sex Marriage

In the UK, and in many countries across the world,  there are many different forms of marriage. These are all accepted as marriage, even though they aren’t “Christian”. On its own, that is enough to suggest that conservative Christians should not oppose the emergence of same-sex marriage. True, same-sex marriage isn’t part of traditional Christian beliefs, but neither are Hindu marriages, Jewish marriages, or civil marriages. The religious freedom that allows conservative Christians to celebrate their form of marriage means that conservative Christians should allow other people to follow their religious or philosophical views to celebrate marriage in their own ways – including Christians and other people of faith who want to celebrate same-sex marriage.

There is another reason for Christians accepting same-sex marriage, even Christians who believe that all same-sex relationships are wrong. A recent study showed that where same-sex marriage is allowed, the health of gay men improves. That means that by opposing same-sex marriage, you are effectively encouraging poorer health in gay men, which is hardly a Christian position to take.

Supporting same-sex marriage is not the same as approving of same-sex relationships, any more than supporting civil marriage is the same as supporting atheism. Opposing same-sex marriage is denying other people the religious and philosophical freedom that we all enjoy. Opposing same-sex marriage is wishing poorer health on a subset of the population. A Christian should support same-sex marriage, even if he or she believes that same-sex relationships are wrong.

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