The soul of Conservatism is at stake

The Prime Minister's recent declaration at a Downing Street reception that the Church of England should embrace same-sex marriage, contrary to its biblical doctrine and Reformed Catholic liturgy, is a significant departure from historic British Conservatism.

The desire to conserve the spiritual and moral influence of the Church by law established has been until the leadership of Mr Cameron intrinsic to the soul of the Conservative Party.

At the LGBT reception on July 24th, Mr Cameron was clearly arguing that the Church of England, amongst other Christian denominations, should abandon its historic teaching that marriage as God created it is between a man and a woman. Whilst acknowledging the complexity of the same-sex marriage issue for Christian Churches, he stated: "I passionately believe that all institutions need to wake up to the case for equality, and the Church shouldn’t be locking out people who are gay, or are bisexual or are transgender from being full members of that Church, because many people with deeply held Christian views are also gay."

He added: "And just as the Conservative Party, as an institution, made a mistake in locking people out so I think the Churches can be in danger of doing the same thing."

The emotive accusation of exclusion here ignores the fact that churches that seek both to reach out to their local communities with the love of Christ and uphold orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexual ethics do not 'lock out' people with homosexual orientation. They welcome and support them.

What such churches do not support is behaviour contrary to Christian teaching. That is not the same thing as rejecting people.

As a fairly typical product of the permissive society myself, I have benefited enormously from the clear moral boundaries provided by churches and Christian organisations that uphold the teaching of Holy Scripture since my conversion as an 18-year-old.

Supporting people in their journey of repentance is faithfully in line with Jesus' stated mission in the Gospels: "They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matthew 9v12b-13 - King James Version).

The Prime Minister's call to the Church to forsake its historic teaching raises the disturbing question: if the Conservative Party will not help to conserve the convictions of the Church of the nation, what will it conserve?

Conservative modernisers may claim that the Party must embrace aspects of the Blairite social agenda in order to achieve power. What good is it in permanent opposition?

But given that it did not win a working Parliamentary majority with a politically correct leader, is it certain that the Conservative Party would lose out electorally if it replaces its current leader with a person of robust Judaeo-Christian values or even with a biblically-faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

If the Party concludes that its current leader does not have a Conservative soul, then surely it has a spiritual and moral responsibility to replace him with a person who does.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire.

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