Westminster 2010: Declaration of Christian Conscience

by Richard on April 21, 2010

Have you signed the Westminster 2010 Declaration yet?

Protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience are foundational for creating and maintaining strong families, caring communities and a just society. Our Christian faith compels us to speak and act in defence of all these.

A quick skim through the signatories suggests that many of my friends have signed up, but I won’t be joining them. I ought to write an explanatory post, but I don’t have time. I just have to say that I’m not convinced that this declaration properly a reflects the “orthodox Christian conscience” (whatever that is) and I’m slightly irritated by its implicit suggestion that Christians in Britain are under some sort of threat.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 04.21.10 at 3:06 pm

I’m glad to hear you won’t be signing it, Richard. I won’t be either. I’d rather put my hand in the fire. It’s the Manhattan Declaration Lite, a raid by the religious right in the British version of America’s culture wars. It is presumptuous, pompous, and paranoid, as a document would be that is signed by Bishops Carey and Nazir-Ali. Of course it says many things that I can sign up to, but some of these things are suspiciously coded, and the things it doesn’t say are significant. Here are some examples.

[T]he blueprint for our lives together, and, less blatantly, the claims, miracles … and return in judgment of Jesus - what is this but an implicit opening affirmation of scriptural inerrancy, a hermeneutics of the answers-are-in-the-back-of-the-Book? “Blueprint”, i.e. “the Maker’s instructions” - this is the language of the facile, if not the fundamentalist.

The Holy Spirit who lives within us, guides us and gives us strength - true, but too ecclesially narrow. What about the Spirit the Giver of Life, the disturbing Spirit, the Spirit who blows where the Spirit wills throughout creation?

The section on “Human Life” is excellent - except for two crucial things. (1) Observe the adverb in the phrase those who are appropriately seeking asylum. With all the three main political parties, the implicit stance here on immigration is theologically thuggish. And (2) observe the glaring, disingenuous, and horrendous absence of any word (internationally) on war, or (nationally) on prisons (capital punishment, of course, is a dead issue in the UK - for the time being) - no doubt because the drafters are unphased by the war in Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, and the proliferation of people doing porridge as the answer to crime.

The section on “Marriage”? There is a huge pink elephant in the room. Why didn’t the drafters just come out and say, “We’re a bunch of homophobes”? Rhetorical question.

Finally, the section on “Conscience”. Yes, Richard, here the drafters are crying “Persecution!”, which is not only melodramatic, pathetic, whinging in the context of the UK, it is an insult to Christians who face an authentic status confessionis and real suffering in other lands because of their witness to truth in the face of oppressive power.

But enough. I need some lunch and I’m getting sick to my stomach.


Richard 04.21.10 at 3:40 pm

>> It is presumptuous, pompous, and paranoid

There’s a 3 point sermon right there!

The other day I listened to a radio programme about the sufferings of the Iraqi church since the end of the war. Canon Andrew White, ‘the vicar of Baghdad’, described how members of his congregation had been routinely kidnapped and murdered. Shortly afterward, I happened to hear George Carey talking about the persecution of British Christians. He ought to know better.


Pam 04.21.10 at 11:51 pm

“Protecting life, protecting marriage, etc, etc”. The secular society is rightly getting fed up with all the hypocrisy. Churches which discriminate, and that’s what it is, against half (or more than half!) the population and marginalise people because of their sexuality are profoundly unloving. The people who are really suffering are those people. I’m sick to my stomach too Kim.


Jonathan Marlowe 05.05.10 at 7:00 pm

I wouldn’t sign the statement for many of the same reasons already cited. But I’m curious, Kim. Do you think that people like Richard Hays, N. T. Wright, and Marva Dawn are homophobes simply because they support the church’s traditional teaching concerning same-gender sexual activity?


Kim 05.05.10 at 10:44 pm

The three theologians you mention - no, Jonathan, I don’t think so - unless they were to speak, as the document does, about protecting marriage. That’s the tip-off, because encoded in the language of “protection” is the message that lesbian and gay relationships, and particularly civil partnerships, constitute a threat to the institution of marriage, which is not only arrant nonsense but mischievous fear-mongering; i.e. it is quite literally homophobic.

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