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Christians 'too scared' to voice support for same-sex relationships

27 March 2015

DEMOTIX

Not scared: the campaigner Peter Tatchell and supporters from his foundation Out and Proud Diamond Group, protest outside the Dolce & Gabbana store in Old Bond Street, London, last week, after one of the designers, Domenico Dolce, said that he thought that children should be borne naturally through heterosexual parents 

Not scared: the campaigner Peter Tatchell and supporters from his foundation Out and Proud Diamond Group, protest outside the Dolce & Gabb...

MANY Christians are supportive of same-sex relationships, but are too scared to say so, an online survey of attitudes among churchgoers to homosexuality, carried out by the charity Oasis UK, suggests.

More than 1300 people took part in the survey, which asked them if they felt able to share their views on same-sex relationships with others in their churches. More than two-thirds - 37 per cent - said that they were reluctant to share their views about affirming gay relationships, because they feared the reaction.

Oasis UK, set up by the Revd Steve Chalke, said that, if the survey's results were replicated across all regular churchgoers, UK churches could be playing host to as many as 2,664,000 "silent supporters" of same-sex relationships.

A further 40 per cent of those who responded said that they were accepting of monogamous same-sex relationships, and they did not care who knew it. Just over ten per cent said that they were against same-sex relationships, but they kept it to themselves.

Half of those questioned said that they did not believe such relationships were wrong, or should be a bar to attending church or leading a church. Only one per cent said that they believed that those in a same-sex relationship should be barred from church. A further eight per cent said that same-sex couples should be allowed in church, but should be "regularly challenged" on their situation.

The survey also asked churchgoers how their attitude to same-sex relationships had changed over the past decade. Sixty-five per cent of people said that their attitudes had become more accepting and inclusive in the past ten years.

Churchgoers are slightly more inclusive than their leaders: ten per cent of them were more likely to support same-sex marriage. When a church leader has settled on a pro-gay stance, however, he or she is just as hesitant to admit it as the liberal members of their congregation. Some respondents said they thought that admitting that they accepted and supported people in same-sex relationships could "risk funding to the church", or even "cost the leader their job".

Mr Chalke, speaking for Oasis UK, which is hosting an event for "open conversations" on inclusion in April, said: "Whatever the stereotype, it's clear that attitudes in the church toward loving, committed and faithful same-sex relationships are changing. It's crucial that we keep talking about it."

Mr Chalke, a prominent Evangelical, announced two years ago that he had changed his mind on the issue of gay relationships, and was now fully supportive of monogamous same-sex relationships. He now carries out same-sex blessing ceremonies in his church (News, 18 January 2013).

Churchgoers from a number of different denominations responded to the survey. By denomination, the most accepting and inclusive were Quakers, the Salvation Army, and those from the Methodist, United Reformed, and Anglican Churches.

At the other end of the scale, Christians belonging to Pentecostal, "New Church", or independent Evangelical expressions were found to be the most resistant to people in same-sex relationships' being fully integrated into church congregations.

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