Respect key in gay 'marriage' debate
T he weekend conference by the Church of Ireland to discuss human sexuality was a timely event, given the growing awareness of same-sex relationships and the national lobby in favour of gay 'marriages'. The Church of Ireland, in its post-conference statement, reiterated the basic Christian teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.
People in same-sex relationships can enter into a civic partnership, but the concept of a gay 'marriage' does not accord with Christian teaching.
However the Government is about to begin a national consultation on gay 'marriage', and there is a strong lobby in support of this move, which is backed by the Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Churches are remaining firm in their Christian teaching, and this weekend the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales stepped up its campaign against gay 'marriage'.
A letter written by two of the Church's most senior figures - Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith - was read in all Catholic churches, and it claimed that a change in the law in response to the gay lobby would profoundly affect the significance and effectiveness of the traditional marriage bond between a man and a woman.
Their comments follow those of the Scottish Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien who said last week that the idea of gay marriage is "grotesque." The tone of his comments offended many gays, but people have the right to express their views against gay 'marriage' without being labelled as homophobic.
Many people regard the assault on the traditional concept of marriage as part of the marginalisation of Christianity in the UK and this view will be reinforced by the latest speculation that the Government will bring forward legislation which may ban the display of religious symbols, including Christian crosses, from the workplace.
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These are all complex and controversial issues, but they will be best discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect for divergent views, and a willingness to learn from other people's experiences. Raucous point-scoring, religious or otherwise, will not get us anywhere.