A group of Oxford students which has published a report on how safe it believes LGBTQ+ students will be at each of the city's churches, has described "a gospel of fear" being taught at churches that hold to a traditional sexual ethic.
Three members of the Oxford LGBTQ+ Society, who were speaking to Premier anonymously, say the report is designed to inform queer students whether they will be affirmed or told to "repent and change" who they are.
The report, entitled 'Attitudes Towards Queer Christians in Oxford Churches', evaluates 30 churches in Oxford, rating each on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the perceived inclusivity of LGBTQ+ people. The group says that the ratings have been informed by "evidence showing the beliefs and teachings of the church" as well as "anonymous testimonies" of the churches' practices.
One of the group's members rejected that the report was simply an attack on churches that held to traditional biblical sexual ethics.
"We're not demonising that belief or those that hold it. We're not demonising the churches. The issue of rating churches, between one and five, is basically that some of these churches are hiding their theology, their normative theology. We're literally saying, this church isn't safe, because it's not declaring its true theology, and it's pretending you're welcome. And yet down the road, there's a very high chance that they will ask you to repent of your identity, to be celibate, or that you can't be in leadership".
One of the churches rated 1 out of 5 was Magdalen Road Church, which is affiliated to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches.
John Stevens, National Director of the FIEC said there was no reason to hide from its beliefs on sex, which, he wrote, "have been drawn from the Bible and followed by Christians for 2,000 years".
"Whilst this group of students is entitled to draw attention to what our churches believe, so as to enable them to make an informed choice about their church attendance, we believe that our churches are entirely "safe" for anyone interested in investigating the Christian faith and those who want help to live in accordance with biblical teaching, including those from the LBGT community.
"Many of the 640 churches affiliated to FIEC already have committed members who experience same-sex attraction.”
In an email to the student group, Rev Vaughan Roberts, the Rector of St Ebbes Church, which also received 1 out of 5, said he was “well aware that churches have often failed in the past and that there is certainly room for continued improvement”.
Roberts, who has spoken and written in the past about being a celibate Christian attracted to people of the same sex, wrote that he had “experienced homophobic behaviour simply because of my sexuality, including from other Christians".