Continued controversy at Trinity’s Christian Concern

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Building_a_part_of_Trinity_College_OxfordA former Archbishop of Canterbury has slammed Trinity College for suggesting that Christian Concern, a group whose conference it hosted over the Easter vac, are “intolerant”.

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury and a speaker at the conference, has written a letter to Trinity College’s President, Sir Ivor Roberts, criticising the college’s suggestion that Christian Concern is an “intolerant” group.

Over the Easter vac Trinity played host to the Wilberforce Academy, a conference run by Christian Concern – an organisation that is against gay marriage- for students and young professionals.  The conference aimed to prepare delegates for Christian centered leadership in public life and provide them with a robust, biblical framework to live their lives by.

Trinity students were upset and angry at the College’s oversight.  A student at the college, Crawford Jamieson commented: “Many people in Trinity felt, myself included, that hosting Christian Concern was a slap in the face to LGBTQ members of College”.

In a statement given earlier this term, Sir Ivor expressed regret that members of the college were upset that Christian Concern was “unwittingly” hosted.  Assurances have been made that profits from the conference will be donated to an appropriate charity, and that a review of the procedures for the hire of college by external agencies would take place.

Sir Ivor further emphasized that the College was unaware of the organization’s reputation, assuring that “the name rang no bells”.  This was despite a similar controversy at Exeter College in 2012.

The comments, which provoked criticisms from Lord Carey were suggestions that the group was ‘intolerant’.  In his remarks, Sir Ivor emphasized that Trinity wished to maintain a reputation as an open and tolerant college, and so highly regretted having hosted the group.

In his letter to the College, Lord Carey contested that Christian Concern were not being respected for their views. “Diversity means ‘difference’. In a democracy people are not going to agree on everything. Respect, tolerance and understanding are required so that minorities do not face discrimination.”

The former Archbishop of Canterbury echoed comments made earlier this term by Andrea Minichiello Williams, a barrister and Founder of Christian Concern.  Both emphasized that the organization was not radical, and that its concerns were shared by the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and other bodies.  Lord Carey described it as “mainstream”, whilst Williams has previously commented that the  organisation “are the view held historically by the Christian Church for the past 2,000 years and should therefore come as no shock to anyone.”

When approached after the release of Lord Carey’s letter, Trinity JCR President, Andrew Butler, said: “I support the college’s apology.  Trinity is a very tolerant college.  The last thing the college would want to do is to upset a portion of college members by hosting a groups which has had views about topics such as homosexuality that are intolerant to the minds of much of the college community.”

Lord Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, during a time where debates over homosexuality, in particular, became more prominent within the Church.  He is believed to have promoted a period of evangelism during his decade as Archbishop.

In 1998 he presided over the Lambeth Conference and actively supported its resolution which rejected homosexuality as incompatible with scripture.  He further voted against an expressed condemnation of homophobia.

Christian Concern has been criticized in the past as a homophobic and anti-Islamic group.  Both Islam and same-sex marriages appear on its website under the title ‘Our Concerns’.  Following attacks in Woolwich earlier this week, and bills in the House of Commons to legalize same-sex marriages, Christian Concern has been involved in a series of related campaigns.  In the past week it has held prayer gatherings outside Parliament to express opposition to the Marriage Bill.

A document published by the group, ‘The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage ‘ argues that legitimizing same-sex marriage would be against public well-being.  It quotes a study saying that a homosexual lifestyle reduces life expectancy of those involved by up to 20 years.

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