December 10, 2009

Irish Evangelicals support same-sex partnerships


by Sara Levy

A leading group of Evangelicals in Ireland has called for Christians in the country to support the Civil Partnership Bill, which includes legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

“We suggest that evangelical Christians should support the basic thrust of the Bill,” said the Evangelical Alliance Ireland (EAI).

“We may disagree on the detail of the legislation, but as followers of a just
and compassionate God we can recognise the justice and fairness of providing some legal protection for the reality of both same-sex and opposite-sex cohabiting relationships.”

This stance from Evangelical Alliance Ireland is likely to cause surprise in Britain, where many leading Evangelical groups campaigned against civil partnerships being legalised in 2005.

The Irish Civil Partnerships Bill would give same-sex couples the same tax,
pension, inheritance and hospital visit rights as married mixed-sex couples.

The Bill has been criticised by gay rights groups for excluding the word
“marriage” and for not giving gay couples the opportunity to adopt children.

“The Civil Partnership bill will simply function to further marginalise gay and
lesbian people, telling them their relationships are lesser than those of
heterosexuals,” said Mark McCarron of gay marriage campaign group Noise.

It has also drawn opposition from conservative Christian groups, who argue that the Bill threatens to redefine marriage.

The EAI rejects this claim. In its statement it said that the Bill “does not directly challenge the traditional understanding of marriage in Ireland.”

Despite supporting same-sex civil partnerships, the EAI’s statement does not condone same-sex relationships. “God’s purpose for his gift of sex is that it would be the ultimate physical expression of love between a man and a woman in the context of the covenant of marriage,” the statement reads.

To explain this apparent contradiction, the statement adds: “Jesus requires of his followers that they love and do good to those who oppose them or hold to different ethical standards than they do.”

Simon Barrow, co-director of the British religion and society think-tank
Ekklesia said the EAI’s stance is “hugely significant” as it represents a
sea-change in the approach of Evangelicals to issues of sexuality.

“Similarly, the large evangelical service agency Faithworks in the UK backed the Sexual Orientation Regulations, and many Christians of strong biblical and evangelical convictions have spoken out recently over their changing attitudes in this area,” Barrow said.

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