Labour MP Ben Bradshaw: Exeter church ‘banned same-sex couple from worship’
A same-sex couple were refused permission to worship in a church in Exeter, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has told the House of Commons.
The gay couple, who do not want to be identified, were turned away from a “local conservative evangelical church” on the basis of their sexuality.
Mr Bradshaw, one of the first openly gay MPs, brought up the incident before the House of Commons last Thursday.
During a debate on pastoral care, he asked Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks for the Church of England in the House of Commons, “what guidance the Church of England planned to issue to parishes and church schools on pastoral care for same sex couples and their children”.
After Sir Tony Baldry replied that The House of Bishops is due to deliberate on sexuality this December, Mr Bradshaw told the House:
“I am grateful for that reply, because I recently came across a case of a Christian couple in a same-sex relationship and with children in the local Church primary school to whom it was made clear by the local conservative evangelical church that they would not be welcome to worship in it.”
He added: “Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such intolerance and bigotry have no place whatever in the Church of England?”
Sir Baldry responded to Mr Bradshaw: “Of course I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that.” He said: “Each child is valued as a child of God and deserving of the very best that schools can offer.
“I would not expect any Church school to discriminate against any child, whatever their personal or family circumstances.”
The Dean of Exeter Cathedral Reverend Jonathan Draper, has stated that he “did not understand why any church would want to deny someone the sacrament on the basis of their sexuality”.
He said: “At the cathedral we are completely happy to have people of whatever sexual orientation, colour or nationality.
“And that means not just to come and worship but to play a part in what we do because we think it’s an important sign of what we do as a Church.”
Tom Cook, of the Exeter Independent Evangelical Church, which said it did not refuse the couple, told the BBC: “We believe what the Bible says and it says that lots of different things are wrong, including homosexual relationships.
He added: “We have never faced that problem and I could not say for certain whether we would refuse someone to worship in the church.”
An Evangelical Alliance spokesman said members believed in a “set of standards” which included “that sex should take placed between a married couple of different sexes”.
He said: “How churches respond will vary massively. It is one thing to have a theological position but how churches act with people in their community can be very different.
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“I find it quite hard to see how a church can justify saying a gay couple is not welcome to worship. But if people wanted to be a member of the church we would ask people to respect those standards.”
Following Mr Bradshaw’s statements before the house of commons, the Labour MP Helen Goodman also reminded the house: “one of the weaknesses of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is that the rights given to children of same-sex couples are not planned to be the same as those for children of traditional couples.”
Sir Baldry responded: “If this is an issue that needs to be resolved, it will have to be resolved in the other place, where the Bill currently lies.”
After it completes the Report stage, the bill will go through its Third Reading on Monday.
In the wake of last December’s vote by the House of Bishops to allow priests in same-sex unions to be considered for the post of bishop, candidates to become Anglican bishops will reportedly be asked about their sex lives to determine whether or not they are celibate.
Mr Bradshaw was criticised last year for telling an American Newspaper that David Cameron was supporting same-sex marriage for political purposes and that it is not a priority for gay people. He said: “This is more of David Cameron trying to drag the Conservatives kicking and screaming into the modern world.”
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