A Rainbow Future

Both of the major political parties seem to be taking many of their cues from Stonewall in the run up to next year’s General Election.

‘Virtue’ signalling

The Rainbow agenda has changed the political landscape. To make pro-LGBTQ+ noises is seen by many in politics as a way of winning approval and gaining votes with a younger generation. This seems to be the motivation behind Rishi Sunak’s flip-flop on so-called ‘conversion therapy’. Having declared it was ‘off the table’ it then became a policy which the government was trying to push on with. But such are the calculations of politicians when it comes to courting the electorate, who knows where the Tories will end up? What is certain is that an ailing government is very vulnerable to whoever shouts the loudest—and that is the stock in trade of the Rainbow advocates.

This should alarm Christians. In a telling article (paywall) in The Times in October, Janice Turner explained that the facts are that ‘attempts to “cure” homosexuality are vanishingly rare. A government call for evidence found only cases conducted abroad or decades ago’. So, what exactly will such a ban be aimed at? With a broad definition of what conversion therapy means it must, intentionally or unintentionally, target anyone who does not see homosexuality as a good idea. That includes Bible believing Christians as well as faithful Jews and Muslims.

But there is more. The sensible ‘watchful waiting approach’ regarding transgender issues in young people coming up to puberty has been branded a form of conversion therapy by activists. Stonewall is insistent that conversion therapy should cover trans people too.

Recently, Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who chairs parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, told Pink News that she’s worried that her party’s policies will result in men not being placed in women’s wards in hospitals, even though they say they are women. Evidently nothing has been learned from the situation where double-rapist Adam Graham was recognised as Isla Bryson and placed in a women’s prison. And this despite the concerns of many feminists and ordinary women about how such things might affect them. 

The conversion therapy juggernaut is running. Evangelicals are among those in its path.  

Labour victory

It is not a foregone conclusion, but many political pundits expect that the Tory manoeuvres are in vain and that we will have a Labour Government sometime next year. In October Sir Keir Starmer was rejoicing in two major by-election victories in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire where previously the Conservatives held large majorities. Though a future Labour Government may do many things better than the Tories, the Labour Party are more naturally at home with the gay and trans agenda.

Stonewall are implacable pushers of transgender. They seem to be making strategic political moves in the light of an expected Labour victory. Recently Stonewall announced a new chair of trustees, as the previous chair, Iain Anderson has taken up a post working for the Labour Party. It has also been noted that another recent Stonewall trustee, Andrew Pakes, will stand as a Labour Candidate in the next general election. 

But the signs are that Labour may not need much pushing in the move to ban ‘conversion therapy’. A Pink News online piece in early September which followed Keir Starmer’s latest reshuffle was titled ‘Who are the LGBTQ+ allies on Labour’s new front bench?’ It cited first Angela Rayner ‘The deputy Labour leader’ who, the piece said ‘has a long record of supporting LGBTQ+ rights and speaking up for trans people, despite the wider party’s shifting stance on transgender rights’. Others mentioned included Lisa Nandy (international development), Liz Kendall (shadow work and pensions secretary) and Jonathan Ashworth (shadow postmaster general).

The Victoria Model

What many in the LGBTQ+ lobby are looking for is a ban on conversion therapy which brooks no exceptions – including Christian conversion.  A blog post on the pro-family website Let Us Pray says, ‘The Australian state of Victoria has one of the most extreme conversion therapy laws in the world. It is held up by many LGBT activists in the UK as “the gold standard”’. The official guidance in Victoria is that “not affirming someone’s gender identity” is now an ‘illegal practice.’ 

A broad conversion therapy ban would criminalise parents who lovingly raise concerns with their children over the wisdom of gender transition. Speaking about proposals in Scotland, human rights lawyer Aidan O’Neill KC has said, ‘The giving of such parental advice might result…in these parents being deprived of their parental rights and/or their children removed from their care.’ Let’s hope that things do not go that far in the UK – but they could.

What should pastors do?

Someone who keeps an eye on how government policy affects Christians told me the trouble is that most Christians still seem to be asleep, sticking their heads in the sand over this issue, hoping it will all go away.

Here are four suggestions as to what pastors could do given the present situation in which we find ourselves.

  1. Surely, pastors, our first job is to try to wake our people up. We do that by preaching: ‘If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?’ (1 Cor 14:8). Don’t let your church be confused. Lovingly but clearly declare the traditional Biblical teaching on sex and sexuality without any compromise.
  • Encourage the church to get behind crucial organisations who inform and campaign for Christian values. In particular, think about increasing support for Christian Concern and The Christian Institute. Invite their representatives to come and explain exactly what the situation is now and what churches might face in the future. 
  • Give teaching to your people on how to remain faithful as Christians when Christ’s teaching has become legally unacceptable and the target of activists with an agenda to see faithful churches criminalised. Jesus specifically prepared his disciples for being hated (e.g., Jn 15:18-27). There is a real danger of some disowning Christ (Mk 8:38).
  • If your church depends in a major way on government gift aid, it might be prudent to begin thinking about how to cope if charitable status is removed. Many in the Rainbow alliance would see faithful churches as detrimental to the community and certainly not worthy of being regarded as charities.

There is likely to be a bumpy ride ahead. Pastor, let the words of the apostle ring in your ears: ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers’ (Acts 20:28).

John Benton
Director for Pastoral Support
Pastors’ Academy

I am very thankful for the work of Ruth Woodcraft who has helped by researching much of what is going on out of the immediate headlines on these matters