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The Westminster Declaration: Just Say No! Dissenting Voices #hangem April 20, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs.
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Updated 22/04/2010

A note following on from my post a few days ago, Westminster 2010: Protecting freedom of conscience – but whose conscience?

Encouraging to see more dissenting voices emerging, specifically:

The beauty of it is we’re all coming at it from different directions: me, because I believe in marriage equality for gay and straight couples; Annie because she recognises the reality of our post-Christendom context and believes that attempting to legislate for Christian rights is wrong; and Jongudmund because he sees an outrageous hypocrisy in the stance taken against embryo-destructive research that fails to take the same stand against IVF — go read his post in full if you can’t get your head around my précis.

Good old dissenter and activist Steve Chalke got there before us, though, and his organisation Faithworks has issued a press release that lays out very clearly what is so utterly wrongheaded about this declaration:

Faithworks represents 22,000 Christians from a variety of theological and political backgrounds, our theology is inclusive and not imposing, and our purpose is to encourage people to express their faith through serving others without discrimination.  In contrast, the Westminster 2010 Declaration sets Christians up on a moral high ground and implicitly creates divisiveness. It does this at just the time when the church’s morality has been called into question across the world.

And top marks to Lee Moore who got there ahead of Chalke: Why I Won’t Sign Westminster 2010 & Why You Should Read it Carefully Before You Sign

As I said before: Westminster 2010: would Jesus sign it? I don’t think so.

Now, beautiful people (by which I mean you, beloved reader), enough of what not to do. What positive action can we take to sort out this dysfunctional government of ours? Hang ’em. That’s what I say: hang the lot of ’em. If you’d like to see parliamentary reform, vote strategically for a hung parliament.

Together, we can do it. Together, we can beat the system: join the campaign at hang-em.com, on facebook and on twitter.

Update, 22/04/2010: Thanks to @Jon_Bartley at Ekklesia who got there even earlier, it turns out: Conservative church leaders launch anti-war declaration for general election (April 4th). His concluding paragraphs sum up the problems with WmD (thanks t’other Jon) rather well:

What it does show is the extent to which those putting the Westminster Declaration together are dualistic in their thinking, selective in their focus, and ignore some of the most central aspects of their faith that have something to say to the world around them – despite their claim to be ‘representing’ Christianity.

In their zeal to combat the ‘marginalisation’ of Christianity, they are actually doing a great deal to marginalise the faith themselves.

What what shows, you ask? Go read Jon’s full analysis.

Westminster 2010: Protecting freedom of conscience – but whose conscience? April 14, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Current Affairs, Theological Reflection.
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My thanks to Eddie Olliffe for his post yesterday drawing attention to Westminster 2010, supposedly a ‘Declaration of Christian Conscience’ drawn up with what appear to be the entirely laudable aims of “protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience”. Bravo indeed, good things, worthy of protection, and issuing a loud call to

all parliamentary candidates to pledge that they will ‘respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’.

But what exactly is “Christian conscience”? As I commented on Eddie’s post, I have no problem whatsoever with the ideas of protecting human life and protecting freedom of conscience … but I’m wary of the idea of “protecting marriage” and more than a little puzzled about how that fits in with protecting freedom of conscience.

Protecting marriage — from what and from whom? My experience is that most Christians who want to “protect marriage” want to protect it as an institution that excludes the gay community, which then presents gay people with a double whammy: they’re excluded from marriage but then condemned for entering sexual relationships outside of marriage.

Since leaving my comment on Eddie’s post I’ve explored the Westminster 2010 site a little more and it turns out — as I suspected — that this attitude is precisely what the Declaration seeks to protect:


We pledge to support marriage – the lifelong covenantal union of one man and one woman as husband and wife. We believe it is divinely ordained, the only context for sexual intercourse, and the most important unit for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. We call on government to honour, promote and protect marriage and we refuse to submit to any edict forcing us to equate any other form of sexual partnership with marriage…

My response to that is no, no, no! It is a stance adopted by many Christians, but it is by no means the definitive Christian position that the declaration pretends it to be. I have quite a few gay friends — most of them Christians — and I’d love to see them free to marry, to see their relationships recognised by the wider Christian community. I am not alone in this, not by a long way: witness, for example, Accepting Evangelicals and the The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

So I cannot — will not — in good conscience put my name to this declaration because it does not protect the freedom of conscience of those such as myself who have come to recognise gay and straight relationships as equally valid.

My call to all parliamentary candidates, then, is to tread very carefully around this declaration. Affirm your support for protecting human life (but do read the full text of what exactly is being called for); affirm your support for protecting freedom of conscience; but be wary, very wary, of supporting a call to protect marriage that sets itself so resolutely against today’s standards of equality.

Westminster 2010: would Jesus sign it? I don’t think so.

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