At the official launch event for the Greater Love Declaration, co-author Dr Julie Maxwell gave a talk entitled ‘imaginary harm vs. real harm’.
“Increasingly, Christian teaching on marriage, sex and identity is seen as harmful. And yet the real harm is being done by the sexualisation of children that is becoming more and more apparent in our society.”
An introduction to the Greater Love Declaration, by Revd Raymond Brown of East London Tabernacle Baptist, delivered at the Declaration’s official launch.
According to the good news of the Bible, even though Jesus Christ from the very beginning of all things was with God and indeed was and is God. Even though He is the Creator through whom all things were made, making Him the source of not only our physical life but also the source of all spiritual life and reality. Even though our Creator God in Jesus took on human flesh, blood, and bones; and remarkably dwelt among us 2000 years ago.
Even though our natural tendency is and has been to reject His light, preferring instead the darkness of our own foolish unbelief; he came into this world, not to be served (which would have been perfectly within His right) but rather, to serve us by giving us the right to become children of God. And that despite our wilful rebellion, rejection and indifference towards Him.
The life of Jesus Christ was marked first and foremost by self-denial and self-sacrifice.
The life of Jesus Christ was marked first and foremost by self-denial and self-sacrifice. Indeed, Jesus willingly denied Himself, took up His cross and died sacrificially to save each and every person here today. And the glorious, good news of the Bible, compares Jesus Christ to a loving husband who denies self, while giving of Himself sacrificially for the sake of His bride the church.
I remember a then colleague of mine some years ago, preaching a sermon on the latter part of Ephesians chapter 5. His basic premise was that marriage rightly understood is at the very heart of the universe. This is because Jesus dying for the sins of the world; while lovingly creating a people for Himself, is at the heart of God’s plan for this universe. It is into this context that we are to understand these wonderful words spoken by Jesus Christ in John’s gospel:
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
The LORD Jesus Christ laid down His life for those who were His enemies, so that He might make them His friends. So at the heart of the Christian message stands the idea that earthly marriage is a permanent and ongoing witness to the eternal self-denying self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ for people like you and me.
So not only has Jesus uniquely sacrificed Himself for us. In doing so He has also left us an example of how to live our lives. Therefore great blessings flows to all people everywhere of great faith or none when marriage is widely honoured. Or when the Christian attitude to marriage and sex is, as in all other things, not one that craves at all cost self-satisfaction or self-fulfilment for the sake of self, but rather pursues self-denial and self-sacrifice for the good of others. And as we bear true witness to our natural God given sex with all that this entails.
So not only has Jesus uniquely sacrificed Himself for us. In doing so He has also left us an example of how to live our lives.
Significantly this will mean abstaining from all sexual activity outside of marriage or being sexually exclusive or faithful within marriage. It will start by recognising marriage as the life-long or permanent covenant bond between one man and one woman. At the heart of which must be an attitude of self-denial and self-sacrifice. This is the reason for the clear and unambiguous commands of Holy Scripture around marriage, sex, and gender. And for the consistent, unchanging submission to this teaching by the Church across the world and down all the ages.
This is why we are calling ministers and pastoral workers in Christ’s church, to commit themselves among others things to the following: There are no circumstances – not the threat of legal sanction, nor of financial penalty, nor of social stigma – which will cause us to abandon our LORD’s call to love in this way, in sexual matters as in all others. And therefore there are no circumstances which will cause us to abandon the Christian doctrine of marriage, nor to cease teaching it, to all people of every age. If the cost to ourselves of faithfulness to our LORD, and love for those around us, is high, we nevertheless commit ourselves to these things. For in this way too, we recognise that we are called to lay down our lives for the good of others; for there is, as our LORD Jesus Christ said, no greater love than this.
Revd Raymond Brown, East London Tabernacle Baptist
The Greater Love Declaration officially launched last Tuesday in central London, with several of the Declaration’s authors speaking at the event. Revd Dr Ian Paul couldn’t make it in person, but here is the video he recorded to explain why we need the Declaration.
‘We as leaders and pastors need it’ to offer a positive view on marriage, sexuality and relationships.
‘For our congregations’ because culture has changed so rapidly.
‘For the wider world’ that people may come to know the greater love that Jesus offers us all.
Today we are publishing the ‘Greater Love Declaration’, which declares the goodness of Christian teaching on marriage, sex and identity.
It is a statement by Ministers and Pastoral Workers from across the different Christian Denominations as a statement of classic, orthodox Christian teaching on marriage, sex and identity.
In it we affirm the essential and unchangeable place of this teaching in Christian theology, its foundation in Christ’s own example of self-giving love, and our duty and commitment as ministers of the gospel to uphold, teach and proclaim it.
But why is it needed now?
In a sense, it shouldn’t be! But the past year has seen two parallel developments:
First, the last year has seen snowballing reports of the terrible effects of LGBT ideology on children: from the closing of the Tavistock Clinic after reports of lives (and bodies) of children ruined by its ‘affirming only’ approach, and the current revelations regarding the appalling safeguarding failures of the pro-transgender charity Mermaids, to the litany of aggressive and appalling sexualisation of children done in the name of ‘Relationships and sex education’, outlined by Miriam Cates MP in a speech in parliament on 30 June 2022.
And yet, second, there seems to be a growing assumption that Christian teaching on marriage is somehow evil, and LGBT ideology is such a force for good that it must be protected at all costs from those who disagree with it. This was implicit in the UK government consultation last year, and explicitly in the appalling report published last week by the Scottish Government, which urged the most extreme form of a ‘conversion practices’ ban, explicitly identifying the teaching of marriage as a target it wishes to criminalise, and recommending that churches lose charitable status, ministers are defrocked, and parents have children removed from their care where marriage is taught.
Therefore we find ourselves as a church in a position where the gospel of Christ, and its implications for sexual behaviour, are more obviously needed than ever; and yet at the same time a bizarre conviction has grown that it is Christian teaching, and Christian conversion, which needs to be criminalised, and any dissent from LGBT ideology is to be punished. There is a strong push throughout the UK for such legislation, and it is a significant threat to Christians and the Church.
What does the declaration hope to achieve?
We hope that the declaration will achieve some important aims:
It will encourage ministers, clergy and pastors to stand united on a matter of such enormous importance, in the face of increasingly aggressive attacks. It will be much easier for us to stand together, faithful to our Lord, if we know we are doing it alongside a large number of others.
It will be a resource for Christians across the country, showing how chastity and marriage are incredibly good things for all, and how it is neglecting or undermining them which truly damages lives. Our experience is that ordinary Christians know this to be true, but find it hard to articulate how and why. We hope that the declaration, and the background on Christian doctrine and ethics, will help them do that. It may also be a help for Christians under pressure in their workplaces to be able to point to a clear and positive statement of Christian ethics, widely supported across Christian churches.
It will be a place where non-Christians, including governments, officials and employers, can go to understand Christian teaching in these areas in contrast to the rampant misunderstandings which seem so often to prevail. We also hope that a clear stand across multiple different Christian groups and denominations will show how integral to Christian faith this is, and how Christian teachings are motivated by self-giving love.
Our hope and prayer is that wide support from across all Christian denominations will make this a prominent and effective means of proclaiming the goodness of Christ, his gospel and his commands, throughout our churches and through them to the nations to whom God has made us witnesses.