Simon Barrow of Ekklesia has a silver tongue when it comes to making excuses for the disgraceful behaviour of some of his co-religionists.
Now he comes out in defence of the Evangelical Alliance and its leader Joel Edwards, who has been appointed as a commissioner to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Give him time, says Simon, let’s see how he behaves. He might change.
Well, I was one of those who objected to Joel Edwards’ appointment and I did so after observing years of efforts by him and his organisation to retard gay rights.
Full protection against discrimination at work for gay people? Joel Edwards opposed it.
Protection from discrimination in the provision of goods and services? Joel Edwards opposed it.
Civil Partnerships? Joel didn’t like them and wanted them banned.
What is this man doing on a body that is supposed to be protecting the rights of gay people? There has been no retraction of these views.
Look at some of the things Joel Edwards has said in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph:
“Forgiveness, respect, hope and trust are all rooted in Christian faith and they are an antidote to a culture that is being railroaded into an individualistic, rights-orientated mentality.”
Of course, the EHRC is all about individual human rights – its very purpose is to protect the human rights of each person, not surrender them to those groups that wish to compromise them.
In an Evangelical Alliance press release announcing his appointment he is quoted as saying:
“As a Christian leader, I believe one of my primary responsibilities will be to ensure that the values of the faith communities, our concern for important issues such as respect and tolerance, play and effective role in the commission.”
He also said: “Our rights are very important, but they must not become bigger than our Christ.”
The Evangelical Alliance website has a report on it entitled Faith, Hope and Homosexuality.
In part this reads: “We oppose moves within certain churches to accept and/or endorse sexually active homosexual partnerships as legitimate form of Christian relationship.
“We do not accept that to reject homoerotic sexual practice on biblical grounds is itself homophobic.”
And it encourages evangelical congregations to welcome gay people only on the understanding that they are seeking to “renounce same-sex sexual relationships.”
Joel Edwards’ definition of tolerance, rights and homophobia are very different to those of the body on which he serves.
He seems to think religious freedom means the freedom to take rights away from other people.
He must not be permitted to remain on this commission in a role that will allow him to compromise its aims.
And as for Simon Barrow’s claims that evangelicals are not all anti-gay. So what?
Does that excuse the millions that are? And in spite of what he says, it isn’t just the black community that is the problem – the Church of England is being torn apart by American evangelicals who are out and out bigots, determined not only to retard gay rights, but who actively want homosexuality criminalised.
Don’t listen to the siren voices of these religious apologists.
Those who do will be selling our hard-won rights and freedoms down the river.
And as for Mr Joel Edwards – if I can use a religious turn of phrase: the day he repents and offers a full apology to the gay community for what he has tried to do to them is the day I will say that he has a place on the EHRC.
Terry Sanderson is President of the National Secular Society.
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