In a letter dated September 17, 2012, the Prime Minister replied to a letter Anglican Mainstream had sent to him on July 25, 2012 from its office in his constituency. His reply continues with the false distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage.
The original letter was as follows:
The Rt Hon David Cameron P.C. M.P.,
10 Downing Street
July 25 2012
Dear Prime Minister
We write to ask you to correct a serious misconception in the speech you made to representatives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Groups at Number 10, reported on your website on 25 July 2012.
In that speech you say that opponents of the redefinition of marriage within the church are “locking out people who are gay, or are bisexual or are transgender from being full members of that Church.” This is simply not the case. It is in fact the teaching of Christian churches that all people, including those self-identified as gay, bisexual or transgendered, are to be welcomed as members.
Your misconception suggests, first, that you are not adequately informed about the terms being used in the debates about same-sex attraction. For example, when you refer to ‘people who are gay, bisexual or transgender’, do you mean people who experience these attractions or people who engage in such experiences? For the churches, the distinction is critical: those who experience the attraction have always been fully welcomed. This is because ‘full membership’ of a Christian church comprises those who are baptised, i.e. those who have repented of their sins, and declared their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Since we are all sinners, all people are welcome. You are perhaps familiar with the most famous verse in the Bible: God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal live. (John 3:16, emphasis added). That is why the gospel is such good news for everyone.
Second, your statement suggests that you have not understood what ‘full membership’ of a Christian church actually means. When we are baptised, we make a commitment to live no longer according to our own lights but according to the love of God as expressed in the teaching of Jesus and the scriptures. This teaching allows for physical sexual expression only within marriage of a man and a woman, and calls for repentance when we transgress. This applies, of course, just as much to hetero-sexual activity outside marriage as it does to homosexual activity.
We are sure that you will agree that, whatever people’s views about a public policy issue such as your Government’s proposal for same-sex marriage, the public debate about them should be conducted as far as possible on the basis of correct information. We make no progress if we misrepresent the views of those with whom we disagree. We therefore invite you, in the interest of promoting healthy and effective public debate, to correct the misconception contained in your statement of 25 July.
Please be assured that, notwithstanding our differences with you on this question, we as Christians will continue to pray for you and your colleagues in government in the heavy responsibilities you bear at this challenging time for our nation and a needy world.
Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor)
Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Executive Secretary)
The Prime Minister’s reply is as follows:
Dear Dr Giddings,
Thank you for your letter of 25 July about my recent comments on the Government’s proposals on equal civil marriage at the reception I hosted on 24 July. I am sorry for the delay in responding.
I would begin hy assuring you that the Government in no way wishes to force any religious organization to fundamentally change their beliefs and practice. People in this country have the complete freedom to hold any religious beliefs they choose, and to practice and manifest their religion, and this Government fully supports their right to do so. We recognize the vital role that faith organizations have in our society and the part they play in national life, inspiring a great number of people to get involved in public service and providing help to those in need.
My message was simply reflective of my pride in the way in which we are now leading the way in advancing lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) equality, recognizing the contribution LGB&T people make to society and enabling LGB&T people to fully participate in all aspects of society.
As I also said in my remarks at the reception, I recognize this is a very complicated and difficult issue, but I believe that we all – and I do not single out the Churches here – need to recognize the case for equality.
The Government is committed to building a fairer society and ensuring fair treatment and equal opportunities for all, including people of all religions. We are also clear on the importance of religious freedom. That is why the Government is listening to all religious organisations that have views about our proposals.
Our proposals are based on out belief that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage. Marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. Society is stronger when people enter into a stable relationship and commit to each other. So we do not believe the State should stop people getting married unless there are very good reasons. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are not good reasons to prevent marriage. If we believe commitment, fidelity and marriage are positive things – as this Government strongly does – then we should let them flourish, not restrict them.
The Government recognizes that there are many different views on our proposals for equal civil marriage. The consultation has provided an opportunity to gather all views on this issue and we are grateful for the full and considered responses from the Churches on our proposals and the constructive way in which they have engaged in this consultation process.
I would add that the Government recognizes the special position of religious marriages in our society and the consultation proposes that no changes are made to how religious organizations define and solemnize religious marriage. No religious organization will be forced to hold same-sex religious marriage ceremonies as a result of these proposals.
We are currently considering carefully all the responses we received before the consultation closed on 14 June and we will publish our response later in the year.
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