Several Church of England bishops appear ready to condemn hundreds of their own ministers to jail for upholding biblical sexual ethics, a church leader has warned.
Revd Dr Matthew Roberts, a co-author of the well-publicised letter asking Westminster to rethink plans for a far-reaching ‘conversion therapy’ ban, expressed astonishment at remarks made by Anglican bishops opposing them.
The letter, signed by over 2,500 ministers and pastoral workers, numbered over 700 members of the Church of England among its signatories.
Writing in Christian Today, Revd Roberts said denominations were “remarkably unified” in the belief that “God made us male and female with the intention that one man should marry one woman, and outside of that lifelong bond sex is to be abstained from”.
However, under the Government’s proposed legislation, many church leaders feared it would become “illegal in some cases to teach people, or to help people, to follow the standard, mainstream Christian teaching on marriage”.
In the letter, therefore, the authors had explained to the Government “that what was proposed could mean priests, pastors, and even Christian parents being sent to prison for up to five years.
“We also made clear that in such a scenario we would have to, with great sadness, carry on doing our Christian duty whatever the personal cost to us.”
Following its publication, the Bishop of Dorchester, the Bishop of Sheffield and the Bishop of Whitby, openly criticised the letter and gave their support to a ban that would catch the ordinary work of churches.
Revd Roberts said “if the government legislates as it has proposed, and as these three bishops have urged” many clergy who “hold to historic Christian ethics” will be “made criminals and face up to five years in jail”.
He continued: “Which demands the question, why do bishops in the Church of England seem as if they want to see some of their own clergy put behind bars?”
In February, activists publicly shared the names and church details of signatories on social media and warned people not to attend their churches claiming they could be “unsafe”.
The founder of Lancaster’s ‘Out in the Bay’, Robert Mee – aiming his comments at local church leaders known to have signed the letter – said, “have we forgotten about the holocaust and how LGBTQI people were persecuted and killed – history is repeating itself”.