Dear Peter Tatchell

Outing bishops must keep you busy - but please take a moment to hear the views of an `orthodox' Christian, a member of the evangelical Free Methodist Church suggests

You certainly seem to be having a busy year. Scarcely a week goes by without some new media hype about gay bishops with or without leathers, word-juggling cardinals, or dark hints at huge numbers of clerical closet- dwellers frightened to emerge. But may anyone be permitted to put in a plea for the "orthodox" Christians so often portrayed as either bigots or hypocrites?

The understanding of bishops such as Michael Baughen, and denominations like my own Free Methodist Church, is that the teaching of Jesus (itself referring back to Genesis) indicates clearly that heterosexual marriage is the only right place for sexual acts. This is not the result of "homophobia", nor is it based on any spurious assumptions about homosexuals being promiscuous or paedophiliac. It is based on careful study of Christ's teaching in a biblical context.

We believe, then, that homosexual sex acts, fornication, idolatry and atheism are all "wrong". But a belief that such things are wrong does not imply a view that they should be illegal. The function of law in a free multicultural society is to stop people infringing the rights of others - not to enforce orthodoxy or morality.

But your quarrel with us concerns church rites, not civil rights. We, like most churches, hold meetings open to anyone. We believe, though, that it would be inconsistent for, say, a Hindu, an atheist, a fornicator or practising homosexual - however sincere or uplifted by experience - to hold church membership or office without radical change. We are not here speaking of inclinations or temptations but of belief and lifestyle. Many leaders in our churches may well be "naturally inclined" or tempted towards fornication, adultery or homosexual sex. But temptation is not sin, for Jesus himself was tempted. What temptations a leader or church member suffers may be "private", for him or her alone to work out with God. Sexual lifestyle is not - and St Paul makes it very clear that certain standards are required.

I would support you and other gay rights activists in encouraging Christians to think about the law in a multicultural society. I would support any who encourage Christians to recognise that homosexual acts are not placed by the New Testament in some "special category" of wrong act, worse than, for example, greed, jealousy or fornication. But I do believe that you and your friends confuse some of the basic issues - especially by exploiting the confusions in the English language for propaganda purposes.

Take the word "homosexual". As any dictionary testifies, the word means men or women who are sexually attracted to their own sex. But a temptation towards an extramarital sex act - whether homosexual or heterosexual - is not in itself sin and is no bar to membership or ministry in the church. Thus "homosexuals" can rightly become ministers or bishops, and it is hard to see what useful purpose is served in "outing" them. It is simply a trick of language to suggest that there is any hypocrisy in fully accepting homosexuals (in this sense), but censuring extramarital sex acts whether homo- or heterosexual in nature.

You may, of course, disagree with us. But what we do object to is being labelled "homophobic" or "hypocritical", or being made out to be inconsistent by propaganda that exploits the ambiguities of the English language.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea