Irish peer educates English bishop on the proper role of the state in family life


A Northern Irish Presbyterian member of Britain’s Parliament who quoted the Bible on the family and reprimanded the House of Lords for approving “sex education to children that ignores biblical standards” in the Relationships and Sex Education debate last week has exposed the Bishop of Durham as “weak” and “confused.”

In an impassioned speech, Lord McCrea from the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reminded the Lords that the responsibility of parents to raise children was given “not by man but by God.”

“Children are a gift from God. The scriptures tell us that children are the heritage of the Lord. Parenthood is given by God and parents carry a God-given responsibility and authority for raising children. Many children in this nation were taught: ‘Honour thy father and mother,’” the Free Presbyterian minister said, emphasising that Sex and Relationships education was primarily the responsibility of parents.

Brushing off the politically correct self-censorship in parliamentary discourse, Lord McCrea acknowledged his views would be seen as unpopular: “I know that drawing this noble House’s attention to this is not popular, but I did not come here to be popular. I came to be honest to my convictions and to honestly state what I have preached for 50 years and believe with all my heart.”

McCrea lamented that parents would not have the final say for primary school children on relationships education and noted the lack of a clear line of distinction between sex and relationships education. He also cautioned that teachers in state or maintained schools “who have strong biblical convictions” were in danger of being forced “to teach what they do not believe, or things that go against their religious convictions.”

Slamming his peers for trampling on the rights of Christians, Lord McCrea said: “We talk about the persecution of Christians, but if someone stands up and states Christian principles, it seems that he or she is frowned upon. Even in this House, these views seem to be less acceptable than those of others who have different opinions.”

After quoting from the Ten Commandments and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on the duty of children to obey their parents, McCrea went on to quote Proverbs 22:6 on parental responsibilities. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” stressing that it was the responsibility of parents to “train up” their children and warned that anything that undermines this was “a radical shift with far-reaching consequences.​”

In contrast, the Bishop of Durham acknowledged that the Church of England “as the biggest single education provider in the country” had been among the parties consulted and he was “enthusiastic about updating the policy.”

Commending the government for placing the new regulations in the “context of wider personal development of character, virtues and values,” Bishop Butler lamented that there had been “a great misunderstanding of the requirements of the new framework.” While expressing his gratitude for sex education remaining optional in primary school, the Bishop expressed his deep concern that the same could not be said of relationships education.

“The lines between relationships and sex education are far more blurred than is recognised, so I ask that great care is taken to monitor that this does not lead to inappropriate sex education being offered at an early age in the name of relationships education,” Butler said.

In his speech, the Bishop of Durham referred to the Bishop of Ely Stephen Conway who earlier said that “the government deserves to be congratulated for the finished product” since “the new guidance is about promoting healthy resilient relationships set in the context of character and virtue development.” Bishop Conway’s piece in theTimes Educational Supplement expressed the “hope that parents won’t withdraw their kids from the new RSE.”

Commentator Will Jones pointed out that “the Bishop of Durham was quite weak, though could have been worse. He seemed to have got confused between relationships education being optional for schools and the right of withdrawal for parents, which caught him out at one point.”

“I don’t know if he’s worked out the difference yet—but it says something if the bishop representing the Church in this key debate doesn’t appear to have grasped a key point of what’s going on,” Dr Jones added.

A Muslim source told Rebel Priest that the Bishop of Durham did not seem to be telling the whole truth when he said that the Church of England had been in “close contact with our Muslim friends, who share a number of our concerns.” On the contrary, the unwillingness of the Church of England to oppose the RSE regulations have demonstrated to Muslims “the weakness of the Church of England in confronting the LGBT sexual agenda of the day,” the source said.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has strongly supported the regulations “as a natural overflow of the ethos of faith schools” while the Bishop of Birmingham refused to support the Muslim community in its stand against the sexualisation of primary school children.

Of the 26 Church of England bishops in the House of Lord, Bishop Butler was the only prelate present for the RSE debate. Meanwhile, the Bishop of Durham has remained silent on the participation of Durham Cathedral in the Gay Pride Parade to be held later this month.