A conservative case against ‘conversion therapy’

I was on holiday when the Church of England General Synod met, and so I followed events with even less interest than I, as a Scottish Baptist, usually do. On my occasional scans of my social media feeds, however, I saw a certain amount of interest in a motion proposing that the Synod condemn ‘conversion therapy’, the practice of seeking to change the orientation of lesbian or gay people to make them straight. I was far enough away to have nothing interesting to say about the motion or the debate, but noticing it made me think once again what a deeply strange practice ‘conversion therapy’ in fact is. For the sake of the following argument, let us agree—briefly—to assume the best possible conditions: that there is no doubt that a traditional Christian account of...

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Religious liberty and the European Union

In a Facebook conversation a few weeks back Eddie Arthur asked me if I could see any religious liberty angle on the EU debate. At the time I said no, since religious liberty seemed fairly firmly enshrined both sides of the English Channel  and I didn’t see that changing however we voted. That claim stands, of course, but there is another religious liberty angle that I have only this week thought of, and it is (for me) a very strong argument to be pro-EU. Let me tell you about three friends, all missionaries. Call them Anna, Bridget, and Claire, because in one case I cannot put her real name on the web. Twenty five years ago, Anna was working across Eastern Europe, including Albania and ‘Another Eastern European Country’. The collapse of the Soviet...

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Our story begins in exile: ‘Baptist social theology’ and the EU referendum

One of the books I have recently been reading with interest and profit is Anglican Social Theology (ed. Malcolm Brown) (London: Church House Publishing, 2014). Apart from the intrinsic interest in tracing significant contributions to political theology that happened to come from within the Church of England, I was struck by the contributors’ awareness that the project, or projects, they were tracing were distinctively ‘Anglican’. As Brown puts it in an early prospectus: We have chosen to speak of an Anglican social theology with a deliberate intention of echoing the concept of Catholic social teaching because we recognise that the latter is much better known as a theological school or tradition that informs practice. Our contention … is that a distinctively...

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On Nationalisms, Christian, Scottish, and British

Can ‘nationalism’ ever be Christian? Brian Stanley has recently answered that question negatively in a blog for the Edinburgh Centre for World Christianity. He defines nationalism as ‘the elevation of one’s own nation over all others’, which I suspect many who call themselves nationalists would not recognise as an account of their position. He rightly highlights, however, that the two presently-plausible outcomes of the present Westminster election both involve a nationalist party holding some measure of the balance of power: If the polls are even close to correct, and if they do not shift significantly in the next thirteen days, then it seems that a Labour minority government, relying on the support of a large SNP block, and perhaps also...

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Faith in faith and valuing values? Reflecting on David Cameron’s Easter message

The Prime Minister has issued an ‘Easter message’, which makes for interesting reading. It has rather less (that is, no) reference to cross, resurrection, or indeed the name of Jesus than I suppose is normal in Easter messages; The claim that ‘Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children’ might raise more than a few eyebrows; Easter always used to be all about ‘the death of death in the death of Christ’ (to borrow what is possibly John Owen’s only truly memorable line). My friend Danny Webster has blogged on this, and I pretty much agree with everything he says. I cannot imagine any positive reception for this piece; Mr Cameron has (once...

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