More than 2000 Christians have signed a new joint statement affirming a traditional view on marriage, sexuality, and identity.
The Greater Love Declaration, officially launched on Tuesday, asks Christians to live by and unashamedly proclaim the view that marriage is between and a man and woman. It also asks signatories to commit to the idea of chastity, among other things.
The series of statements was written by the same group of ministers who last year responded to the UK Government's consultation on a ban on conversion therapy.
It states: “The Christian faith teaches, as it always has and will continue to do, that God designed marriage as an essential part of his pattern for human life in this world. Marriage is a witness to the eternal love of Christ for his Church; it is therefore the public lifelong covenant union of one man and one woman.
“Great blessings flow to all people when marriage is widely honoured. Since the Christian attitude to sex is, as in all other things, not self-satisfaction for the sake of self but self-denial for the sake of others, Christians, bearing true witness to their natural sex as God created them, are to pursue chaste singleness outside of marriage and exclusive faithfulness within it.
“This is the reason for the clear and unambiguous commands of Holy Scripture to this effect, and for the consistent, unchanging submission to this teaching by the Church in all ages.”
Rev Dr Matthew Roberts, Minister at Trinity Church, York and one of the authors of the declaration told Premier that while what’s in the declaration is nothing new to the Christian faith, it’s important for Christians to clearly define what they believe in as efforts to redefine sexuality arise.
“It is controversial in our day and age, and so as well as just stating what it is that we believe it, a big part of the aim is to show that it is good, and to state and to explain why it is really good for us to live in this way,” he said.
“It's a commitment from Christian ministers that we are not going to change what we believe and teach on this, we will teach it because it is core to the Christian gospel. We want to love people and this is the way that we love people in the whole area of marriage, sex and identity.”
The declaration also explained why traditional Christian teaching on sexuality is good for children.
Dr Julie Maxwell, a paediatrician and another one of the authors of the statement, told Premier the declaration is needed now more than ever.
“One of the biggest things that I see in schools is this idea that children can kind of experiment sexually, that they can do whatever they feel comfortable with, that it's only about mutual consent. Whereas, sex should be something that is kept for marriage. It's that because it's something which you're very vulnerable and you need to be in that loving, protective relationship, and it's not for children.
“Experimenting sexually is something which harms children and causes harm, which can then go on for the rest their life, whether that might be physical harm, emotional harm.
“Schools and people in authority are just not protecting children, because they're just telling them whenever you feel ready, whatever you feel comfortable with, rather than telling children what's good and what's safe and what's not harmful.”
She encouraged youth workers to use the declaration as a guide to teach young people about what sex is in a Christian context.
It’s hoped the declaration will be used in churches and by campaign groups fighting for Christian values in various sectors.
While the statement does not mention that there are Christians who have interpreted the Bible differently in regards to same sex marriage and believe the Bible gives permission for that, it does ask signatories to pledge to “not discriminate or treat people differently on the basis of perceived sexual or gender identities, for all are men and women made in the image of God. We will show love to all as Christ has loved them and us”.
Jayne Ozanne, of The Ozanne Foundation, which advocates for LGBT+ people in the Church responded to the declaration, saying: "My heart weeps for the people this statement will harm & damage. The Greatest Love is that of Christ for each and every one of us, just as we are knowing we are all created in His likeness. We must learn to accept people just as they are & stop throwing around legalistic and cruel interpretations of a Holy Book that is meant to bring life."
Here's Premier's interview with Rev Roberts: