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The Eye of the Storm – The Transgender Backlash and the Timing of the Lord

The Lords timing is perfect!

In the providence of God it appears as though he has arranged for myself and Annabel to

From Zero to 36!

head on sabbatical at just the right time.  As the son of The Beast from the East arrives in the UK we will be heading East to Australia.  Its not just the physical storm we will be leaving.  I am deeply conscious of the needs of the church, my own sin and weakness and the decay in the culture.  In that last respect I leave at a time when my name is being trashed in several papers because of the stance I have taken on behalf of the Free Church on the issue of the day, transgender and gender self-identification.   Firstly I wrote the Free Church response for the Scottish Government Consultation – and then I had this editorial in The Record.

The backlash has been fierce.   The Times contacted me and asked for a 150 word comment which they would publish in an article in which I was attacked

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The statement I had given them was as follows:

“I agree with the EIS that schools should be inclusive and welcoming for all pupils including those who suffer from gender dysphoria. However accepting pupils is not the same as accepting ideologies and I do not agree that schools should teach Queer theory that argues, without any scientific basis, that gender is just a social construct. It is harmful to children to teach them that they are not boys or girls but were just ‘assigned a gender at birth; that biological sex has nothing to do with being male or female; or that they can change as they wish. Rev Mark Strange’s statement whilst full of the usual meaningless truisms, is judgemental and wrong. We are all the children of the God who created us male and female – and I will do my best to protect children from those who seek to destroy that. I’m sure that most parents in Scotland will agree with me in opposing this current dangerous illiberal fad. “

Despite their promise, and despite that fact that that one statement took me a couple of hours to carefully think, write about and pray over – they didn’t use a word of it – instead going for a dramatic headline, and the usual words of condemnation from politicians and clergy.  Most chillingly was the condemnation of the Scottish government who deemed me ‘unacceptable”.  (I understand that The Times will publish a letter from me on Saturday).

It was sad, but not unexpected that Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, should disagree with me – but the fact that he issued  a press statement really took me by surprise.  Still at least we now know that he and The Times read The Record!

Then of course a press agency knowing that they had a story contacted me and I spent a great deal of time explaining my position – including explaining what I was not saying and trying to make the position clear.  For those who don’t know how this works the press agency write a story and put it on ‘the wire’ to be picked up by various newspapers as they wish.  The newspapers themselves don’t investigate the story – or usually interview the participants – they just lift whatever parts of the story from the wire and use as they wish.  I wanted to change the narrative from ‘evil churchman is condemned by nice people’ to a discussion of the subject itself.  I was asked by the press agency if I had the support of the church, or was I speaking on my own.  I assured them that my position was the position of the Free Church.  They then went to the Free Church and asked if they supported what I said.   The Church issued the following statement of support which was carried in full on the wire:

“As editor of The Record, Mr Robertson is given a large measure of literary freedom to express himself and provoke the kind of debate that transgenderism deserves.   Along with other world religions the Free Church believes that humanity exists in two genders: male and female, which are assigned in the womb.  In equating the teaching of transgenderism with ‘state sponsored child abuse’, Mr Robertson is simply restating views which several others have publicly voiced as part of the nationwide debate”

Whilst I appreciate the support the trouble is that this is somewhat of a neutral statement which did not answer the direct question.   According to the Free Church I was simply ‘expressing myself’ and ‘restating views’ that others had.

The statement of the Free Church belief itself was quite confused.  What do other ‘world religions’ have to do with what the Free Church believes? I guess we were trying to suggest that our view was not alone – but it doesn’t work, not least because Hinduism and Buddhism are world religions which do not fit this narrative. Why not just say that ‘the Bible says’?

Gender is ‘assigned in the womb’?  By whom and when? This is using the language of Queer Theory which speaks of gender being non-biological and ‘assigned’ at birth.    Secondly we were not talking about the teaching of transgenderism (itself a strange concept – when did transgenderism become a philosophy?) but the notion of Queer Theory and the view that gender is a social construct which enables us to choose and change our gender as we please.  It is actually important in this discussion to distinguish between transgender people and the philosophy of Queer Theory on which much of the current understanding is based.   I actually accept that there is such a thing as Gender Identity Disorder and that there are people who are transgender and need help and support.  My article was entitled ‘What would Jesus do about transgender?”  and the answer was ‘help the people, but challenge the philosophy on which it is based’ – it is the philosophy which I regard as demonic, not the people.  Transgender people are welcome in St Peters – as they should be in every church.

Anyway the Churches press release was a political statement which left the press with the view that I was on my own. As a statement of support, it was at best, vague, confused and lukewarm.  Incidentally I don’t doubt that the Church does support and agree with the views expressed.  Of course it may be that I have got this completely wrong and they did say so but I’m just too naive/oversensitive to have picked up the nuanced and well worded support!  If so I confess that a) I’m not very good at code and b) I’m not sure the church should be speaking in code.

As an example of how this story then gets picked up take the Daily Express yesterday:

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This was a grossly inaccurate and unhelpful piece –  including quotes I didn’t make and a selective quote from the ‘spokesman’ for the Free Church (as an aside I hate this practice of having anonymous spokespeople – why not just be open and state who we are?  Mind you this was press release by committee so I suppose it is fair enough)….I have asked the editor for a right of reply.

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my concern about an article by Richard Elias in todays paper about me which contains gross inaccuracies.

You put the following in quotes”

“anatomical ideology”

“my problem is with people who take the view that cross gender identification is common to all”

I did not say either of those statements and regard them as ridiculous. So why do you have them in quotes? Furthermore and more seriously I did not say that “the unhappiness of some trans people may be their own fault”.

I should also point out that the Free Church issued a statement which supported me and yet you chose a selective quotation from the end which does not give that impression.

I would be grateful if you could correct these mistakes ASAP. As they are lies and detrimental to me (if you have ever had to face the wrath of trans activists you will know the seriousness of this). I have no desire to go to the press complaints council but will be compelled to do so if the corrections are not made.

I would also be grateful if you would allow me to write an article in response to your inaccurate and misleading piece.

Yours etc

I could continue in similar vein (and there is much more in the press – including a wonderfully condemnatory piece from Pink News)  but my chariot awaits.  I am so glad to be heading out of the storm.

We always learn the best lessons in adversity – especially when we make mistakes.  For me there are two mistakes I have made which I will need to reflect on.  I think I was foolish in two areas.

  1. If I was writing for the secular press I would not use the word ‘demonic’ because they do not understand it and can only interpret it in a negative and perjorative way.  (I would use the words ‘child abuse’ because that is very clear and that is what this is).   My mistake was thinking that in writing for The Record I was writing for the Church.  I had hoped that in the future The Record would be read by the secular media and wider community.  I just did not expect it to happen so soon.   The trick for me will be learning how to be more careful in language that could be misunderstood whilst not being bland. That ain’t easy.
  2. I had far too much faith in the Free Church as an institution.  I love the Free Church and the people within it – but sometimes as an institution (of which I am part) it does my head (and heart) in!    I just assumed that when I stuck my head above the parapet, especially on such a sensitive issue, I would have the full backing of the Church.  I think I do in private, and within the Church.  But the public backing which was what was most needed at this time, was, to say the least, somewhat lacking.   My view is that the Church needs, in todays post-Christian culture especially, to be a bold and prophetic institution, speaking truth to power (not just talking about speaking truth to power, and remembering the past when we did).    I accept that my view may be wrong – maybe now is the time for The Benedict Option.  Keep our heads down and keep quiet.  Unfortunately its too late for me to take that option.  At least in institutional and public terms I don’t think I have ever felt so alone..

The Lords Comfort

The Church is of course the people, not the institution, and so yesterday it was good to have an elderly lady phone me up (not knowing anything of what was going on) to tell me that she had been praying for me and that the Lord had laid upon her heart these words which she felt she had to phone and tell me.

I have loved you with an everlasting love,
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness
I will build you up again. 

“But all who devour you will be devoured
All your enemies will go into exile
Those who plunder you will be plundered
All who make spoil of you I will despoil
But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord
because you were called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares

The Lord’s timing is perfect!


  1. Hello David,
    I pray that the words of the psalms and the promises of Jesus to those who suffer insult and rejection in his name may bring you strength and comfort in these dark days. Enjoy the Aussie sunshine too.
    A faithful reader of your blog,
    Peter Calvert.

  2. Dear David. You must be exhausted, as Elijah was when facing overwhelming opposition. I am amazed at your endurance and faithfulness to scripture whilst experiencing open hostility and being the subject of many lies. May the Lord strengthen and equip you. You have many other people like me who will be praying for you. Keron Fletcher, consultant psychiatrist

  3. If nothing else on the flight to Oz, read Rene Girard’s thesis on how human tendency mimetic competition leads to social scape-goating (rather like the pass the parcel game where one person is kicked out when the music stops).

    Translated to a theological context, Girard suggests that ‘we’ similarly ‘scape-goated’ Jesus to ease our own social tensions. It was not so much God who considered scape-goating jurisprudentially effective as is often thought (God took no pleasure in sacrifices) , but that we, mankind, crucified God because it seemed psychologically effective for us. God did not require this but mercifully permitted it.

    Gerard’s thesis sits well with Isaiah 53.10 which you will know has been mistranslated into English. The Septuagint reads the exact opposite – ‘It was the Lord’s will to purify/save Him from His suffering/crushing’. You will also know that the commonly-used Masoretic text is suspected of containing scribal alterations to portray the destruction of the Temple as the Lord’s will to crush him (Israel)

    I was scape-goated by a group of people in a non-theological context and I could get no handle on the sheer, blanket turning-away, until I understood how sinful man turns so readily to scape-goating.

  4. I follow your articles with interest, David, alongside what’s happening in the UK, the USA, Canada especially and other western countries and I can say you are not alone. There is certainly a movement shouting “enough is enough”.
    Keep strong in the Lord and have a good holiday!

  5. David – you are not alone, we and many believers (and non-believers) fully support you and, more importantly our Lord will always be your shield and strength. Enjoy your holiday in Australia with your family and come back refreshed with renewed vigour and fully armour-plated!

  6. David you are not alone I fully support you. You speak truth with great boldness and always with love. Keep on keeping on and have a great holiday. Well done and every blessing to you.

  7. What on earth is going on in the offices on the Mound? If a minister is of such good standing that he is given the task of editing the denominations Magazine, then we had better back him to the hilt or sack him. Either he has our full confidence or he does not. Either he speaks as an authority within our denomination or he does not. Which is it? The nuanced public pronouncement from the institution leave me seeing the institution wriggling like mad to distance itself from its magazine editor.

    The Rev Robertson many gracious informed apologetic attempts at tacking this pernicious political ideology that has no foundation in reality, are the only biblical coherent answers we are hearing on this topic in the media. Rev Robertson is a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”
    Indeed, the support of the Free Church institution was sorely & sadly lacking, but what can you expect from an organisation that can’t even keep its own web site up to date on such relatively trivial matters as where & when congregations are gathering for worship. I am sad to say the position of the INSTITUTION is not the position of many many of those it is speaking on behalf of. There are clearly problems within the building on the Mound when such a well thought out, gracious & eloquently written position as the Rev Roberson’s, cannot be fully publicly supported.

    By failing to unequivocally support the Rev Robertson, the institution has become part of the problem the Rev Robertson seeks to address & not part of the solution.
    Yes, lets avoid confrontation at all cost, let’s not speak the truth in love because it causes confrontation. After all, remember what happened to Jesus, we wouldn’t want that to happen to any of us! Would we?

    As an embarrassed member of the Free Church, I apologise to you Rev Robertson for the shortcomings of the institution & plead with you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ & for Gods Glory to keep your shoulder to the plough, God has raise you up for such a time as this. You are not alone. Keep going, keep on being a good & faithful servant.
    Ray Kelly.

    1. I was alarmed that the news papers, which are forever fighting for their freedom to speak, are quoting unnamed spokespersons in the Scottish Government, who are now telling us what is & what is not acceptable speech! If voices of reason, like Rev David Robertson are silenced by such manipulative political & media coercion, then friends our society is truly Orwellian & we are all in serious peril.

  8. Sorry to hear that you’ve suffered such misrepresentation, David. Ironic, since I think you write with such clarity (and courage). Sad that the Free Church didn’t offer greater clarity in their statement too.

    Trust you do not become too downhearted – enjoy you providential removal!

    And do please continue to fulfil Colossians 4:6 – there aren’t many getting the balance right between grace and salt in the way you are enabled to.
    May grace be yours. Peter.

  9. Thank you David, for your forthright defence of God’s Word. If only the rest of the church would take the same firm, loving, and non-judgemental stand in the face of the assault from the liberal minority.

  10. “They then went to the Free Church and asked if they supported what I said.”
    Who, or what, exactly are ‘the Free Church’ in that context?
    Has the Free Church ever expressed an official view on this issue? If not, then would it be possible for ‘the Free Church’ to give its backing? Would the view expressed by whoever replied not simply be their own opinion?
    As for the reactions of the people quoted, that, I am afraid, is just par for the course these days.
    As for the Free Church response to the Scottish Government consultation on transgenderism, I fully support almost everything that it contains.
    One thing I noticed was this:
    “We are aware of University staff who are being asked to sign up to a policy which requires them all to accept the philosophy known as Queer Theory. One scientist, when he pointed out that this was unscientific, was told just to be quiet and sign.”
    The audacity of a University to require such a thing is outrageous. It is just one more area where our so-called liberal institutions refuse to have any debate.

  11. David I want to express my support for the article(so) you have published on this subject. I am only one follower of Jesus and hold no positions of influence or power nonetheless I wish to publicly support your biblical view and Christ like response to, often, abusive & inaccurate responses to your articles. I agree that now is the time for Christ followers to stand on the Word of God without flinching but also without condemning people who are blinded by sin – not because they are transgender – but because they are sinners.
    To (mis) quote

  12. David. We give thanks to God for you. Continue to speak truth in your calm and rational way, even in the teeth of vitriol and abuse. You are an example to the rest of us. The Lord bless you and keep you. Simon

  13. David. Reminds me of the responses Jesus himself endured from His own chosen people. He spoke truth to them and their hearts were so hard most wouldn’t even Ponder the details. I preach to my own kids that they need to be very careful/strategic with the words they say and to my middle child “how you convey it” :). Appreciating your willingness to speak out. It feels lonely. You have a more personal idea of how Jesus felt.

  14. David,
    Free Church (FC) statement:
    I think your assessmement is over sensitive. Do you know whether the statement was the full response as you state, or merely a redacted section. I presume the FC agreed the response to the Scottish Gvnmt , which wasn’t merely a personal editorial response from you as editor of the Record.
    Has the FC studied, have knowledge of Queer theory and all it’s ramifications?
    The FC statement, as reported, does emphasise the binary nature of gender (not many will link it with Queer theory) and referring to other religions shows that it is not just a view of the FC ( reported in the Times as a presbyterian sect) and is indeed “natural law” and spreads the weight of the attack.

    Daily Express: Whether correctly reported or not, or invented (I accept what you say about it)- you are quoted from the Daily Express, “My problem is…” This is too easy to say particularly, in in the heat of exchanges and being asked to justify your position, but as you are aware the whole topic needs to be de-personalised. Perhaps you should record all conversation with the media, and warn them you are doing so. As you are more than aware you’ve entered the world of politics and journalism, each with a sometimes Machiavellian purpose of their own to serve, with a methodology little above twitter and recycling. It is certainly not objective, nor interested in balance. “My problem is… ” seems like a take on Cathy Newman’s 2 so what you are saying is… in the Jordan Peterson interview.

    Demonic. With hindsight this was a misstep. Without grounding it in a personal evil, opposed to Christ, to God, there will be much hissing opposition, from those opposed to God come what may:
    “Whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out…”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
    “A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
    “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
    Always remembering that in Screwtapes, God is the Enemy, and the quotes are from conversations a senior devil is having with a junior devil on how to deceive.
    “We must picture hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives with the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

    And finally:
    “The master demon Screwtape identifies elitist humanity’s tendency toward “an ingrained habit of belittling anything that concerns the great mass of their fellow men.”
    ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters: Also Includes “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”

    Quoting the bible: can the argument be won without quoting the bible while all the while using apologetics and secular science along the lines of themes in scripture. “Throwing pearls to pigs,” as described by Jesus, comes to mind. Our identity as Christians is in Christ, a marvellous truth of our union with him, but it is not a sweetness swallowed by many in the church, let alone outside it. An example would be Tim Keller and while not quite an equivalent, Jordan Peterson. Again in hindsight, the use of science, doctors, (such as put forward by goodfeldt, in a comment to one of your posts.

    I have in front of me “Communion with God” by John Owen, a Banner of Truth paperback, May you soak in, rest, find peace in communion with each person of the Godhead. May you experience, know the peace of God that is beyond understanding. May enjoyment of Him become a reality. As John Piper says, glorify God, BY enjoying Him forever.

    From a practical and devotional place, I’m finding Keller’s “The Way of Wisdom”, deeply wise in bringing God’s Wisdom to us. But who am I to make suggestions

    1. Geoff – that was the full statement. They were asked if they supported what I said and that was their response..because its ‘neutral’ it can be interpreted any way you like.

      1. David,
        As you are aware, in any organisation, a big concern is how they are viewed, their image. Some have PR sections, spin doctors and frequently the way they respond to criticism, is to speak in blandishments and generalisation with an agreed short, non commital, soundbite message.
        The FC is likely to have been stung by being referred to as a sect. And maintaining face and respectability, is a key aspect in Christian organisations inhabited, these days, by secular style management from high flying secular positions and many in those positions, while used to internal management wranglings, are not familiar with, for example, detailed knowledge of gender issues, let alone the infiltration and viral methodology of activists.
        Quite why the FC issued the statement it did, is a bit beyond me, (other than a lack of experience in dealing with journalists) without coming to the conclusion you have.
        A simple response would have been to constantly, repeatedly, refer to the FC response to the consultation in answer to any journalist’s questioning, at the same time ignoring the questions, as do politicians.
        Has the FC caved- in on this issue, no longer subscribe to its response paper? Embarrassed, now, over how it may be seen, no longer respectable, but now held in contempt, in shame, and now reviled, vehemently ridiculed, not wishing to be linked to her Saviour, the LORD of Glory, in his shame and ridicule and dishonour?

  15. Simply with you David and praying for you. Remember: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief

  16. David, most of the prophets of old felt and usually were alone. Jesus himself walked a lonely road when his friends deserted him. You’re in good company! Please keep up the good work. God is on your side. And so are many, many Christians who are proud of the stand you are taking.

  17. I used to wonder what the point was in long sabbaticals for ministers, but in your case I can.

    I also wonder if there is a Free Church equivalent of speaking “ex cathedra” on matters of teaching and other times not? You know, issue a statement on gender identity and add it into the inside back cover of the Westminster Confession. Or is anything issued these days as a denomination just opinion?

  18. Dear David. Thank you once again for this blog. Can I just say from the view point of a lowly Christian without power or influence that if it wasn’t for your writings and your willingness to engage publicly with this and other issues then I would think that the Church was silent today. Please keep doing what you are doing. I pray that God raises other Christian leaders to stand with you.
    God bless you.

    1. I was trying to think of a way to express my gratitude to David for publicly speaking out on the crucial issues of the day. You have concisely summed it up for me grrod.

  19. Keep battling , David. And don’t get too defensive. Faced with the new Giant Paganism we need someone who chooses good stones and fires a good slingshot.

  20. Don’t know how well known this is in Scotland – new petition to UK government. Spread the word as you see fit.

    Consult with women on proposals to enshrine ‘gender identity’ in law

    The government proposes to amend the law to allow people to self-identify as men or women, and to stop allowing organisations in sensitive situations to exclude people of the opposite birth sex. We call for women to be consulted on how to protect women and girls’ rights, safety, privacy and dignity.

    We call for:
    – Respectful and evidence-based discussion about the impact of proposed changes and for women’s voices to be heard.

    – The government to consult with women’s organisations on how self-declaration would impact on women-only services and spaces, data-gathering, and monitoring of sex-based discrimination.

    – The principle of single-sex spaces to be upheld – and where necessary extended.

    – The Sex and Gender Ethics Society
    – A Woman’s Place UK
    – Fair Play for Women
    – #ManFriday

      1. Thanks Alison. It should appeal to people with all sorts of perspectives. Things have just become more interesting in Scotland with the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act passing into law today. Which states that a woman can also be a man who “becomes female”.

        The deputy convener of the overseeing committee has apparently tweeted, “This Act proceeds forthcoming gender recognition legislation. Parliamentary drafters and lawyers chose this language in anticipation of definitions as they are being drafted for the future Bill which should make everything clear in statute.”

        The Act which was passed on Jan 30. The future Bill for which consultation closed on March 1. See what they did there then.

  21. For good reason, it is written
    Thou shall not kill,
    thou shall not murder,
    Thou shall not steal,
    Thou shall not bare false witness.
    The media, by intentionally misrepresenting what another says, bares false witness. It’s not about words. It’s intention. And if they have no intention of communicating what you have said and mean, then they bare false witness.
    It is nothing less.
    The duty is not upon the speaker to show exactly what they meant, the duty is upon the hearer who repeats to communicate accurately what was said and meant by the speaker.
    David, have them out on this simple point. They are either prepared to communicate accurately, or if they want to misrepresent to gain attention, they bare false witness. That’s the biblical defenition. It’s dishonest.

    Until they are faced with this truth, they will continue to run circles around anything you say, to suit what they want. It’s as plain as that. It’s false witness. Call them out!

    1. It’s amazing how many journalists see this as normal reporting. The sole aim to sell papers by any means is boasted. How are we so morally bankrupt as a nation not to see that this is lying?
      No one ever calls the media liars. Apart from Mr Trump.
      Our politicians pander to them, smooth words like honey, but they are bitter……….as the Proverbs say.

  22. “… in institutional and public terms I don’t think I have ever felt so alone.”

    Understandable and, in the terms used, not without an element of truth. However, as the above comments clearly show, you are not alone in other ways. There are still those, in Scotland; in the rest of the UK; and in the world at large; “who have not bowed the knee to Baal”, and you have their support.

    However, of even greater importance, you have the support of Father God; of His Son, the Lord Jesus; and of the indwelling God the Holy Spirit.

    John 16:32 (b); Matt.28:20 (b); John 15:26(a).

    Blessings, and shalom.

  23. Stand in the gap, my good brother. One small item. This is not a fad. It is a flood. Heterosexual sin breached the dam. Homosexual buggery enlarged the breach. And now we are at the terminus of Romans 1 judgment of God giving us over to our sin.

    God gave them over … and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

  24. Is there a risk of GLBTQ, and other identity issues, becoming a complete distraction to all of our churches? If Jesus had a parachute, and came down to an average UK city (shall we say Dundee?), in the style of James Bond 007, where would the Lord chose to visit? As a former GP for a good time pre-retirement, I am familiar with a broad range of social problems. But I wonder if God’s heart for children might make a visit to protest outside an abortion facility a likely option for a two hour flying visit. Or perhaps Jesus is already present with groups like CBRUK and CBRNI, who prophetically protest outside abortion clinics? The secular press did not report how an abortion facility appeared to close in Ballymena in Northern Ireland, within days of a protest by CBRNI. My instinct is that Christians who chose to share a single CBRNI/CBRUK colour image (of a normal pregnancy at ten weeks from conception), might fix more than is achieved by endless prevarication around the gender and sexuality identity topic. I came to faith almost twenty years ago when Free Church members in the NHS workplace witnessed to me on the pro-life topic. It seems unwise to risk vilifying or alienating minority groups, when over 40% of human deaths globally each year are through abortion, in which heterosexual sex is implicated. We need balance here, if the church is to have a prophetic voice.

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