The Progressive Christianity Network (PCN) has became the latest faith-based group in the UK to endorse calls for legal recognition of same-sex marriage. There are now a range of Christian groups on both sides of the debate.
Controversy over same-sex marriage has been particularly intense since Prime Minister David Cameron committed his government to offer civil marriage ceremonies to same-sex couples in England and Wales by 2015. The Scottish government is expected to move more quickly.
Rev John Churcher, a Methodist minister who chairs the PCN spoke out in response to comments from Roman Catholic bishops, who have urged Christians to campaign against the government's proposal.
Churcher pointed out that there are very few biblical texts that appear to condemn homosexuality, and that the interpretation of those that do is controversial.
He argued that those Christians who condemn same-sex relationships pick verses from the Bible, often misrepresenting their context and original meaning, to support personal prejudice. He said they then claim they have biblical authority to back up their view.
He described this way of using the Bible as “an abomination”.
“Being gay is not an illness to be cured but a natural biological orientation,” insisted Churcher.
The Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has accused Cameron of acting “like a dictator” for seeking to “redefine” marriage. Sentamu is the favourite to succeed Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Christian groups to have expressed support for same-sex marriage include the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. They are joined by the Metropolitan Community Church, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, the thinktank Ekklesia and the Catholic group Quest.
John Churcher added, “The sexual sin is infidelity not homosexuality. Marriage should be a loving relationship between two consenting adults, so why continue to deprive many within and beyond our churches from the God-given blessings of marriage?”
However, the leaders of majority churches, including Anglicans, Catholics and Free Churches in Britain, take a different majority view and remain fixed against significant accommodation on these issues.