Don’t criminalise Christians: Church leaders write to PM on Criminal Justice Bill amendment

Church leaders from across the denominations have written to Rishi Sunak MP, asking him to oppose attempts to introduce new laws on ‘conversion practices’.

Alongside Bishops, Moderators and others, several of the Greater Love co-authors signed the following letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

Proposed legislation on banning ‘Conversion Practices’

We, being ministers and pastoral workers in a wide variety of Christian denominations, and holding to the historic, orthodox Christian doctrine of marriage, are deeply concerned at the multiple attempts being made to introduce a new law on ‘conversion practices’. Far from targeting abusive practices – which are thankfully already illegal – many of those calling for a new law have expressed a desire to curtail the practice of normal Christians such as ourselves.

Christianity has always taught that God designed human beings male and female, and established marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, within which children can be born and nurtured. Therefore it is our duty as Christian ministers to teach, urge and assist people to tell the truth about their birth sex, to be sexually abstinent outside of the marriage of one man and one woman, and to be faithful within it. 

And yet fulfilling this duty would be criminalised by a ban on ‘conversion practices’. Christian ministers like us, carrying out ordinary Christian ministry, teaching ordinary Christian virtues, would inevitably fall foul of a law against ‘changing’, ‘negating’ or ‘suppressing’ the identities of the ‘LGBTQ+’ movement. All supposed protections for religious belief which have been proposed will have no real value if legislation is formulated in this way. 

Indeed, the proposed legislation would have the effect of criminalising anyone – even a loving parent – who seeks to dissuade children from the harm of either inappropriate sexual experimentation or cross-gender hormones and surgery. The Cass Review has helpfully highlighted the lack of evidence for any benefit arising from such drastic interventions in the lives of children. All responsible adults should seek to protect children from ideologies which would promote such lifelong damage. This legislation would do the exact opposite, punishing those concerned for children and leaving them no defence against harmful ideologies.

Finally, we object strongly to the Christian concept of ‘conversion’ being appropriated in this manner. Conversion means turning from serving oneself to serving God. It could be said that as ministers of the Christian gospel our entire work consists of ‘conversion practices’. It seems unavoidable that legislating with this language will capture ordinary Christian ministry in its scope. Indeed, for some people at least, this appears to be the intended outcome.

If such legislation is enacted, it would create a conflict for orthodox Christian ministers in all denominations between submission to government and obedience to God. Christians are the most law-abiding of citizens. Nevertheless, our duty to God is higher still, and we will not cease to fulfil it even if threatened by the law. 

We therefore ask you to oppose both the amendments and private members’ bills being brought to Parliament and plans to legislate in the devolved administrations, and withdraw your government’s commitment to bring its own legislation on this matter. 

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Matthew PW Roberts

Former Moderator of Synod, International Presbyterian Church and Co-Author of the Greater Love Declaration

Rev. Prof. Robert J. Akroyd

Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland

Graham Nichols

Director of Affinity Church Network

Rev. James Buchanan

Moderator, UK Presbytery, International Presbyterian Church

Rt. Rev. Andy Lines

Presiding Bishop of Anglican Network in Europe

Rt. Rev. Lee McMunn

Assistant Bishop, Anglican Mission in England (AMiE)

Rev. Tapani Simojoki

Pastor, Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of England

Rev. Dr. Thomas Brand

Ministry Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches and Co-Author of the Greater Love Declaration

Rev. Raymond Brown

Senior Minister, East London Tabernacle Baptist Church and Co-Author of the Greater Love Declaration