A leading Evangelical has branded planned demonstrations by Christians against the Government's proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) due to be discussed in the House of Lords tomorrow, as "virulent" and "aggressive".
Welcoming SORs, the Leader of the Evangelical Faithworks Movement, Rev Malcolm Duncan, said that Christian opposition was based on misunderstanding and double standards and in 'grave danger' of making the church sound homophobic.
In a statement issued today (Monday) he said; "For all those Christians and churches who are planning to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), to be discussed in the House of Lords tomorrow, we want to voice concerns about this kind of virulent and aggressive approach."
"We welcome the SORS as an attempt to ensure that goods and services are delivered inclusively and in non-discriminatory ways. It is right that any organisation receiving public funding should deliver services to genuine public benefit" Duncan said.
"The delivery of goods and services can relate to situations such as hiring out of rooms, something many churches have voiced their concerns over. A commitment to diversity through doing this does not mean losing your faith identity: it actually presents an opportunity to develop a dialogue and put the Gospel into action through demonstrating love and service."
Government ministers have publicly answered questions of concern over the scope of the proposed legislation. The Government also made it clear in the consultation period that it would listen to the voices of religious groups. The Northern Ireland regulations already contain exceptions for religious organisations.
"It is also important to remember that the measures contained in the SORs will not replace existing legislation on discrimination. Thus the protection from discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief that Christians currently enjoy will continue" Duncan said.
But Duncan suggested that churches were open to a charge of hypocrisy and homophobia.
"Many Christians are very clear in their stance on the SORs as they relate to homosexuals. However, they have not articulated themselves so clearly when it comes to heterosexual relationships outside of marriage.
"Many opponents of the SORs have stated concerns that a Christian hotel owner would be forced to let out rooms to gay couples, but would they be as vociferous about letting out a room to an unmarried heterosexual couple? Why this inconsistency? It brings the Church into grave danger of sounding homophobic."
Duncan suggested that the legislation was an opportunity to "demonstrate grace, inclusiveness and love".
"Christians are called to follow Jesus‚Äô example, and he says remarkably little about sexuality in scripture. Rather, he treats all people he comes across with love and acceptance, and does not refuse his service to anyone, even if he does not agree with their lifestyle" he said.
"Would it really be ‚ÄòChristian‚Äô to refuse bereavement counselling to a gay man, or to exclude a gay person and their child from a parent-and-toddler group? We believe that Christian community organisations, and those of other faiths, can maintain their distinctive faith identities while still serving the needs of their whole communities. We do not interpret the new Sexual Orientation Regulations as a threat to that.
"The proposed SORs are an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ. However, vociferous opposition, a lack of constructive dialogue, and threats of civil disobedience mean that the Church is in danger of sounding homophobic and is doing little to give itself a credible voice."