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Christians debate gay marriage

26 April 2013

SHUTTERSTOCK

Drastic: a man underwent exorcisms because he was gay, the debate heard 

Drastic: a man underwent exorcisms because he was gay, the debate heard 

THE story of a man who underwent exorcisms after confiding, at the age of 13, in the pastors of his church that he thought he might be gay, was told at the latest Westminster Faith Debate, on Thursday of last week, by the Revd Steve Chalke, the Baptist minister whose support for gay relationships provoked high-profile debate this year (News, 18 January).

Mr Chalke described how the man, a member of his congregation, was alcoholic with "little or no self-esteem" by the age of 18, "not because he was gay but because of a misunderstanding of biblical texts which led to a condemning".

Speaking on a panel convened to discuss "Do Christians really oppose gay marriage?", Mr Chalke said that the Church "is always going to be wrongfooted over the issue of gay marriage unless it sorts out a deeper and more profound issue: the issue of how it handles inclusion and particularly the inclusion of gay people".

A YouGov survey published to coincide with the debate suggested that people who identified as Anglicans or Catholics in the UK supported same-sex marriage "by a small margin". Supported among "active churchgoers" was slightly lower: 40 per cent of churchgoing Anglicans were in favour, and 47 per cent were opposed. Of the 4437 people surveyed, 1519 identified as Anglican.

The section of religious poeple most opposed were those who both "believe in God with certainty" and "make decisions primarily on the basis of explicit religious sources".

Lord Deben (the former MP John Gummer) also on the panel, said that he would support the Government's same-sex-marriage Bill: "This is a clear distinction between what I see as marriage as a Catholic and what the State sees as marriage."

Dr Tina Beattie, Professor of Theology at Roehampton University, also a Roman Catholic, said that, "far from undermining the Christian understanding of marriage", same-sex marriage could be a "very great gift and grace for our times" to call Christians back to a "deeper appreciation" of the distinction between the "rather pared-down understanding of marriage that prevails under secular law" and the "much richer, thicker description of marriage that can be derived from the Christian tradition".

John Milbank, Professor in Religion, Politics and Ethics at the University of Nottingham, spoke in opposition to same-sex marriage. Marriage had been treated "casually" by the Government, "as if it were not as important as something like tax reform". His opposition was "of a radical kind, not a conservative kind", and was, he said, shared by many gay people on the Left. The Government was "weakening the basic mediating institution of marriage. It's allowing to creep in a direct relationship between the State and the market and children. By weakening the link between sex and procreation you can go further down the road of technologising and politicising the population."

Same-sex marriage would "undo Christian doctrine" by "getting rid of the idea that sexual partnership mirrors the partnership between Christ the bridegroom and the Church as bride".

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