The authors of the Greater Love Declaration have written to Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling on the Westminster Government to drop plans to ban ‘conversion therapy’.
The Declaration affirms Christian teaching on marriage, sex and identity and is signed by well over a thousand church leaders from across denominations throughout the UK.
The letters are a response to last week’s announcement that the Government would go ahead with a ban on conversion therapy for gay and transgender people.
The writing group explained the legislation is “likely to criminalise innocent parents, teachers, and church leaders” and they “urge that this confused proposal be dropped”.
The letter to the Equalities Minister can be found below.
Co-author Revd Dr Matthew Roberts commented:
“We have every sympathy for those who have suffered genuine abuse. Christians firmly reject any attempt to coerce or abuse, as it defies Christian teaching at the most basic level. We are grateful that this is already illegal.
“Instead, many of those demanding this legislation are pushing a narrative that traditional orthodox Christian beliefs are harmful. They have made clear they are unwilling to accept a new law which does not criminalise ordinary believers and Christian leaders.
“More than three thousand Christians in the UK have signed the Greater Love Declaration. Of these, well over a thousand are in recognised ministry positions. They have committed to continuing to teach Christian sexual ethics, even if it becomes illegal to do so.
“The Declaration sets out the foundational Christian teaching that we are to lay down our own desires in self-sacrifice for others. That is the ‘greater love’ to which Christ calls us. This is the basis of all Christian ethics, and foundational to the Christian view of marriage. It is a profoundly good teaching that benefits all, yet many are now calling for such orthodox views to be criminalised.”
“The Government has said that it wants to protect religious freedom. That is a very welcome aim. But we remain unconvinced that the Government can avoid unintended consequences in the passage of this Bill.
Notes for Editors:
- The authors of the Greater Love Declaration previously wrote the ‘Ministers consultation response’ on banning conversion therapy. It was signed by 2546 ministers and pastoral workers, and sent to the Secretary of State on December 21st, 2021.
The current number of signatories is listed alongside the Declaration (3470 as of 3pm 26/01/23).
Letter to Kemi Badenoch MP, Minister for Women and Equalities of the UK
26 January 2023
Dear Mrs Badenoch,
We write to express our serious concerns about the Government’s newly-restated aim to legislate against so-called ‘conversion therapy’.
We are Christian ministers, and authors of the ‘Greater Love Declaration’. This statement of historic, orthodox Christian teaching on marriage, sex and identity was published in October 2022 and has attracted the support of well over a thousand Church leaders across Christian denominations. It aims to present the content and rationale behind the widely-held orthodox Christian position on these matters. We commend it to your attention in order to understand our views and concerns. It can be found at greaterlove.org.uk.
It has become increasingly clear that further legislation on so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is not only unnecessary – since abusive ‘therapies’ have long been illegal – but it is also likely to criminalise innocent parents, teachers, and church leaders. Indeed, this seems to be the goal of at least some of those most eager for a new law.
Christianity prioritises denying oneself, including in matters of sexual desire, for the good of others: for the benefit of society in general and for the protection of children in particular. We firmly believe that Christian teaching on marriage, the family and human identity is of vast benefit to all people. Despite the unfair portrayal of our position by some activists, it offers profound compassion and love to all.
Yet it is this standard Christian teaching which is at grave risk of being outlawed by the proposed legislation. When Liz Truss, as former Minister for Women and Equalities published the consultation document on this matter in 2021, we along with over two and a half thousand ministers wrote to her to point out that the proposals it contained would do exactly that. If the Government gives in to activists’ demands, it appears almost certain that innocent Christians will be criminalised.
The signatories of the Greater Love Declaration have committed themselves to continue to teach Christian sexual ethics, even if this should become illegal.
We trust you are well aware of the harm being caused to children by the inappropriate promotion of questionable ideologies. Children are left confused about what it means to be male or female, what constitutes appropriate sexual behaviour, and the basic question of who they are. We fear that the proposed legislation could far worsen the situation by stifling the voices of loving parents and pastoral carers. In fact, it appears to be tackling exactly the wrong issue: instead of addressing the promotion of these ideologies, it threatens with criminal sanctions those who are doing their best to help children respond wisely.
We are grateful for your assurance to fellow MPs that ‘the freedom to express the teachings of any religion, as well as every day religious practice, will not be affected by the ban’. But we remain unconvinced that the Government will be able to avoid exactly this in the passage of this legislation.
We urge that this confused proposal be dropped. However, we are grateful for the commitment you have made to pre-legislative scrutiny, and look forward to participating in this process. We would also like to request a meeting with you to discuss our concerns further and to help in ensuring that orthodox Christians do not fall foul of any proposed law.
The authors of the Greater Love Declaration:
Revd Graham Nicholls (Affinity)
Revd Clare Hendry (Church of England)
Revd Dr Matthew Roberts (International Presbyterian Church)
Revd Dr Ian Paul (Church of England)
Dr Julie Maxwell (Church of England)
Revd Dr. Thomas Brand (Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches)
Revd Ray Brown (Baptist)
Revd Dave Gobbett (Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches)
The letter to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak MP, is not included here for brevity. It included no additional content, but can be made available on request: [email protected]