Anglican Bishop Threatens To Close Youth Clubs In Protest At Gay Rights
A senior Church of England bishop have warned that Anglican youth clubs, welfare projects and charities may close because of new gay rights laws. The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, said that the Church of England’s charities would be “affected” by the rules, which will force them to give equal treatment to homosexuals.
He declared: “It will be the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers.”
Dr Nazir-Ali spoke in the wake of the protest by Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham Vincent Nichols against Government interference in the moral beliefs of Christians.
His intervention meant ministers are faced with a united front of hostility from churches over the Sexual Orientation Regulations, due to become law next April.
The new laws are meant to prevent discrimination against gays. But the Church of England has said they mean priests could be sued for refusing to bless same-sex unions and Catholics say they will close their adoption agencies rather than give children to gay couples.
Leaders of the increasingly influential black churches added their voices to the protest, saying that pastors and churchgoers will go to jail rather than accept rules that will mean they must open their meeting halls to gay lobby groups.
Pakistani-born Dr Nazir-Ali said: “I welcome warmly what the Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham has said about the Sexual Orientation Regulations.
“In the proposed regulations there is no clear exemption for religious belief even though it is widely known that several of the faiths in this country will have serious difficulty.”
He added: “Religion affects every area of life and cannot be reduced to just worship.
“These regulations will certainly affect a great deal of charitable work done by the churches and others. It is the poor and disadvantaged who will be the losers.”
The warning means Dr Nazir-Ali believes the new gay rights laws are a threat to the Church of England’s continued influence in inner cities and deprived areas of the country.
Despite its internal arguments and financial troubles, the CofE has been widely praised in recent years for its efforts to maintain its presence and its charity efforts in the toughest parts of cities.
Archbishop Nichols warned earlier this week that Catholic schools, adoption agencies, welfare programmes, halls and shelters would all be threatened by the pressure to accept “moral standards at present being touted by the Government”.
Black church leaders, who have paid for newspaper advertisements warning that the new rules will force schools to promote gay civil partnerships as the equal of marriage, said the laws would bring civil disobedience.
Pastor Ade Amooba of Christian Voice in Brixton, South London, said: “Homosexuals are set at liberty to enjoy their way of life. Why does the Government want to take away ours?
“Christianity is our identity. We will not surrender it. People will not obey these rules, no matter that they are taken to court.”
He added: “We will shut down the youth clubs and welfare projects rather than obey these laws. That will have very damaging effects. We will be losing something valuable.”
George Hargreaves of the Hephzibah Christian Centre in Hackney said: “I have already bought my orange jumpsuit, for no doubt prison awaits us as we fight against the tyranny of the Sexual Orientation Regulations.
“If opposing this law is to be counted as an act of civil disobedience, than in obedience to God we must act in loving and peaceful civil disobedience.”
Final details of the new laws have yet to be made public because of delays following a Cabinet row. Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, a staunch Catholic who is in charge of pushing the regulations through, only gave way and ordered the rules to go ahead last week.
Their are threats of rebellion in Northern Ireland, which is being used as a test bed for the gay rights laws. The rules will go into force there at the beginning of January.
DUP leader Dr Ian Paisley has handed a letter of protest to Tony Blair amid signs that politically powerful church leaders in the province are preparing to try to stop the new laws.