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How should the Church React to Inverness and Stornoway Gay Pride marches?

This is a version of a piece I wrote earlier today re the proposed Inverness and Stornoway Pride marches. unfortunately both were hacked – this is a rewritten, restored version which I hope is as near to the original as I can remember. I normally have a back up but for some reason didn’t with this one!  Apologies to those who posted comments on the deleted article…free free to do the same with this one – I have stepped up security!) 

Inverness is to join in the cultural zeitgeist and have its own Pride parade….and even Stornoway is to join in – although I suspect the latter will be a wee gathering rather than a parade!

Donald J Morrison, the evangelist with the Free Church (Continuing), has started a petition asking for the Inverness Pride to be banned.  Here he is being interviewed by Moray Firth Radio explaining what this petition is about.

The subsequent publicity in the local and national press has not really been good.  It sets up a binary choice  – you are either for freedom, love, tolerance or you are intolerant, ignorant and hate filled.

How should the Church respond?  

On the one hand we have the approach of Donald Morrison (petitions and seeking to get it banned) or that of the Church of Scotland minister Rev Scott Burton in supporting Perth Pride .  I suspect most Christians will want to adopt a third approach – keep quiet and hope it goes away!    Can I suggest yet another one…

I will not be signing this petition – I think it is unwise, unhelpful, unbiblical and indeed only assists the agenda of those who seek to attack and demonise Christianity.  Donald Morrison means well (and incidentally comes across as a bold and compassionate if somewhat unwise brother),  but well-meaning isn’t enough….we are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

The petition is unbiblical because of its methodology.   Can you imagine for a minute the Apostle Paul and his companions marching down the streets of Corinth, Athens and Rome with banners declaring ‘down with that sort of thing!”.  The early Christians were strongly opposed to the sexual immorality of the Greco/Roman/Pagan world – and they did not hesitate to proclaim Christ’s standards and to insist that Christians lived a counter cultural lifestyle.  But they did not use political protest to try to get their way.    I accept that in a country which at least has a nominal Christian tradition it may well be right for such actions to be taken, but Donald is completely out of touch with what is happening in our culture today.  We are now post-Christian and post-Christendom.  Appealing to the Christian values of Highland Council, the Scottish Government or the UK Parliament today is about as useful as appealing to the Christian values of Caesar would have been in Paul’s day!

It is unwise because it just gives ammunition to those who would seek to undermine and mock Christianity.     Why petition about this one thing and not about the exploitation of workers who are not paid a fair wage?  Or the danger of internet pornography on our children?  Or the effects of adultery and divorce on families?  Or the greed of those corporate capitalists who exploit and abuse not only the poor but the environment? Or the abuse of women?  Or the lies and deceit of so many in our political system?  It seems to me that we are just joining in with the agenda of the world.   Of course, as anyone who reads this blog will know, I believe that we have to challenge the dominant sexual philosophy and immorality of our cultural elites – but that does not mean that we have to do so in their terms and in a way which just adds fuel to their narrative.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 10.49.21Donald is right to point out that often on the larger Pride events there are gross displays of public immorality.   I find much of what goes on at the bigger Pride events repulsive and disgusting.  But it is unwise to imply that this is something that happens at every such event or that every gay person is responsible for –  I doubt very much whether this will be the case in Inverness or Stornoway.

There is also a fundamental inconsistency in the case put forward by Mr Morrison.  On the one hand he says that he speaks on behalf of ‘bible believing born again Christians’, on the other he ’emphasises that this is not a Christian petition’.  Why?  This implies that he is just allying with any homophobic group.  If it is not a Christian petition, why profess Christian reasons?  The trouble is that such an approach gives a distorted view of the Gospel – as being primarily moralistic or indeed anti-homosexual.

The inevitable has happened.  Mr Morrison’s petition has invited and received ridicule and scorn and whilst some Christians undoubtedly support and agree with both the message and the methodology, others are just embarrassed and hope the whole thing will go away.   That is true of my denomination, the Free Church of Scotland.

Mr Morrison is frequently described as a Free Church evangelist and so we carry the can for what he says and does.  This has resulted in the past week in a storm of abuse on social media and in the comments sections of the print media.   Several politicians commented including one MSP who said that is was one of the worst examples of hate speech he had come across (I sometimes wonder if these politicians live in some kind of surreal parallel universe!?).  When I challenged him on it (pointing out that Mr Morrison was not Free Church), he withdrew the accusation and apologised.

But the damage has already been done in other areas and sadly the Free Church PR machine (such as it is) prefers the ‘lets bury our head in the sand’ and hope it goes away approach.   To me it is fairly obvious that when someone is being portrayed as a Free Church evangelist we should simply point out that they are not and ask for the mistake to be rectified.  Why did we not do so immediately?  Because those who are our PR advisors apparently think that that even such a simple step is somehow unwise. Why? we appear to be scared  that we will then be asked ‘what then is your view of PrideNess or Stornoway Pride?’.

It seems to me that this indicates a weakness, not only within the Free Church but the wider evangelical church. Because we don’t want to be associated with either the message or more likely the crude methodology of some, nor the anti Christian ‘Pride’ message – we just keep quiet.    There is undoubtedly a time to keep quiet – but not when your name is being splashed all over social, broadcast and printed media.    So what if we are asked ‘what is the Free Church’s position on the Pride events?’   Why can’t we answer?   Why would we not want to answer?

Here is my answer (I realise that I don’t speak for the Free Church so this would be my own).

“As a Christian church we really don’t regard pride as a virtue – there is a lot to be said for humility.   We don’t agree with the somewhat confused and simplistic message of these Pride marches.  However we recognise that people have a right to march for their cause and to express their views.    We don’t support the march, but neither will we be organising a counter march.     We hope however that, at a time of council cuts and shortages,  public money will not be spent on funding and helping promote one view.   If the Council were to fund this march then surely they would be duty bound in the name of love, equality, diversity and tolerance to fund a Christian Humility march?!    We also reject the simplistic narrative that those who are opposed to these marches are necessarily homophobic.  There are some gay activists who have come to deplore the commercialisation and corporate sponsorship of many of these events.   

We would hope in a pluralistic society that we would be given the freedom and opportunity to express our view that the traditional Christian view of sex, sexuality and family is the best for our culture and to be allowed to question the sexual philosophy of our cultural elites, which, in our view, is wreaking havoc in our communities. We remind people that the rainbow is a Christian symbol speaking of a covenant keeping God who lovingly warns us of the consequences of turning away from his ways and who delights to show mercy. We would also like to point to the need of all of us to repent and seek the face of God.   The Pride marchers talk about Love…we follow the One who is Love and would want all, whatever their sexuality, to know Him.”

Donald said in his interview that he did NOT want to use this issue as a platform.  I am completely the opposite.  I think we should use every issue as a platform to tell people about Jesus.  So here is my suggestion for what the churches in Inverness and Stornoway should do.

Pray – that God would have mercy on our communities and return us to his word.   We should petition the throne of grace – not Highland Regional Council.

41Evy4cCHYL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_Persuade –  when we get the opportunities on media (and it’s not an obvious set up) then yes let’s take them.  But I mean we need to present a more persuasive case.  In the words of Glynn Harrison’s superb book – to Tell a Better Story.   And instead of protesting on the streets why don’t our churches open their doors and provide the LGBT marchers with a cup of tea (and a Gospel or even a free copy of Gay Girl, Good God!) and offer to pray with them.  Dialogue sometimes works wonders.  Prayer works miracles. Giving a cup of tea is not giving an endorsement to their godless ideology.

Proclaim – We should always seek to proclaim the glories and beauty of Christ.   Salvation is not found in becoming heterosexual!  Our identity is to be in Christ, not our sexuality.  But people won’t believe in Christ until they hear about him.  That is our priority – not seeking to prevent the foolishness of human sinfulness being displayed on our streets.

3 reasons why the commercialisation of sexual politics is wrong



  1. ‘We remind people that the rainbow is a Christian symbol———.’
    Indeed it is.
    The multicoloured Pride banner is not a rainbow.
    It only has six colours.
    The difference between six and seven in biblical symbolism is significant.

  2. Judges 8:1-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

    Gideon Subdues the Midianites

    8 Now the men of Ephraim said to him, “Why have you done this to us by not calling us when you went to fight with the Midianites?” And they reprimanded him sharply.

    2 So he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God has delivered into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb. And what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their anger toward him subsided when he said that.

    4 When Gideon came to the Jordan, he and the three hundred men who were with him crossed over, exhausted but still in pursuit. 5 Then he said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who follow me, for they are exhausted, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian.”

    6 And the leaders of Succoth said, “Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna now in your hand, that we should give bread to your army?”

    7 So Gideon said, “For this cause, when the Lord has delivered Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers!” 8 Then he went up from there to Penuel and spoke to them in the same way. And the men of Penuel answered him as the men of Succoth had answered. 9 So he also spoke to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I come back in peace, I will tear down this tower!”

    Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 New King James Version (NKJV)

    Wisdom Superior to Folly

    13 This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: 14 There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great [a]snares around it. 15 Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.

    16 Then I said:

    “Wisdom is better than strength.
    Nevertheless the poor man’s wisdom is despised,
    And his words are not heard.
    17 Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard
    Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools.
    18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war;
    But one sinner destroys much good.”

  3. I am open to correction, but I imagine Stornoway’s event will not only be small, but made up of visitors to the island. Sometimes we pray for the wrong thing. We can but pray that the weather is utterly Scottish, and puts a dampener on it all.

    1. Hi, John,
      if how the church reacts to things doesn’t make a difference then Donald would not have been given so much airtime and there would not have been any reaction to his petition. How I react now makes a difference to you because in a small way, by responding, I get to either undermine what you believe about the Christian attitude to homosexuals or underpin it. I think what you have consistently said about how Christians think is built on sand so I don’t want to supply a foundation for that.

      Donald’s misunderstanding of where society stands — even in Stornoway — is betrayed early on by his use of the expression, ‘In the strongest possible terms.’ The need of the hour is for disapproval of almost anything to be expressed in the softest possible terms. ‘A gentle/healing tongue is a tree of life …’ [Proverbs 15:4] and when we are beset with alarms that all disapproval is ‘hate speech’, the message of disapproving love needs to get under the illiberal radar.

      It is not an easy message to get across especially to alienated teenagers; but the love of family who disapprove of some acts and opinions ought not be traded in for the easily-given but ephemeral vocal approval of celebrities and polititians.

      David is right that some of the in-your-face lewdness that happens in big city marches is unlikely to be be seen on the streets of Inverness. (Breakaway ‘events’ not under parade organisers’ control are or have been a fact of life in many urban areas. Not all Mardi Gras floats stick to the main route and ‘Orange’ flute bands have been known to march into streets specially bedecked with green to ‘welcome’ them. Things happen. Obviously, disapproval of those is not labelled as homophobia.)

      A reaction from churches is called for, nonetheless. Somebody needs to warn Pride-March organisers that a pretended show of unity can erupt into discord at the most unfortunate times. Similarly, Christians need to admonish one another that it is not normally the task of Believers to expose the hidden agendas of those we might suspect to be enemies of humanity. (NB there are exceptions like Charles Oxley who infiltrated PIE in 1983.) Kevin Spacey will not be the last person to try and use being gay to deflect the backlash from other things and there are suspicions that others have got away scot-free. We live in a world in which a candidate in the American Presidential election, asked to give evidence for his assertions about Mexican rapists, can dismiss the need for evidence, saying, ‘A lot of people feel the same way as I do.’ Christians ought not think themselves to be responsible for voicing what ‘everybody knows’ about anything, especially when what everybody knows is generally wrong. Jesus said — [Luke 12:2f.] —

      Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.


  4. As someone resident in Inverness, and active on social media, I have found that the petition by Mr Morrison has galvanised a huge swathe of support for the march to go ahead, sympathy for the LGBT community, and a wholesale condemnation of the church, regardless of denomination.

    1. “wholesale condemnation of the church, regardless of denomination.”

      Nothing new there then. Whenever the church speaks the truth the reaction from the spiritually dead is the same.

  5. A good article. As a leftist and a member of the LGBT community I have never thought restricting ideas to be a good idea as it usually produces the opposite intended effect, causing people to dig in. I would very much support a Christian humility march.

    The problem with this petition is that it is Stornoway and Inverness. I would agree that Pride in places like London and Manchester has become more about spectacle and corporate sponsorship but pride in smaller places is still about trying to build a sense of community. Being gay in stornoway can be extremely difficult and isolating despite it being the ‘national zeitgeist’ and knowing that there are others in a small community goes a long way. The problem is created by the idea that the only way to deal with you is through petitions and nothing makes me feel loved and less alone like anonymous petitions! Hoping it will rain, as one commenter mentions, just seems bitter and petty.

    Should the council fund this? Why not, the council funds loads of things that don’t have a quantifiable benefit apart from making people feel happy to be in a community. For example, Christmas decorations or community centers. I’m not sure how useful Gaelic is to the poor but spending money on it in stornoway is important. I would also support funding a Christian humility march!

    As someone who has spoken about Jesus frequently and passionately in gay bars and other LGBT places I would very much walk into a church giving out tea at the end of a pride march!

  6. Do you know if any Christian groups are planning to march at Pride in Inverness? I know of one, but not sure if any others are going.

      1. Evangelism and outreach? We may not agree on same-sex relationships, but surely we can agree on everyone’s need for forgiveness – and that comes only through Jesus.

        “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom 10:14)

        If the only “God” they have heard of hates them, judges and condemns them, how else will they hear that Jesus died for them too? Why would they show up at a Church when they expect hate and judgement? Would you? No, we need to go.

      2. You can’t go on a march for ‘evangelism and outreach’ unless that is what the march is for! To do so otherwise is dishonest. If you are on the march you are agreeing with their philosophy and anti-teaching. Its also sad that you have bought into the language and prejudices of the anti-Christian campaigners….upholding Christs teaching is not hatred and judgement….

      3. As I mentioned, I have no issue with same sex relationships. The issue for me is very much the Gospel. The language and prejudices are what the LGBT community see and experience from Churches. I’ve been to enough of these events and heard so many people’s stories of hurt and pain caused by the Church – stories I can only categorise as hate and judgement. People whose “Christian” families have ostracised them. A man who has a 10 year old nephew he’s never been allowed to meet.

      4. But the issue is not whether you have an issue with SSM or not. The issue is what Christ teaches. The Gospel is his. We don’t get to pick and choose. Just because some Christians behave in an inappropriate and unloving way, does not give us the right to change the teaching of Christ.

      5. I absolutely agree with you. I don’t think anyone is suggesting a “pick’n’mix” Gospel. (that’s the language of theological disagreement, that refuses to recognise others have come to a different conclusion!) But neither is it as simple as stating “some” Christians behave that way, and sit in ivory towers waiting for those who have been deeply hurt to come to the door. The disciples didn’t remain in the upper room, post an “All Welcome” sign on the door and wait. Jesus didn’t set up a synagogue and wait – he made a name for himself as a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Going to Pride to share God’s love is no different.

      6. You have such a judgemental fundamentalist position. The choice is not between going on a gay pride march and supporting it or ‘sitting in ivory towers’. The disciples did not remain in the upper room but neither did they go out and endorse the Jewish nationalistic or Greco/Roman pagan cultures! Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and sinners – not by affirming their sin – but by dying for it….Equating what Jesus did with going on a gay march is both illogical and blasphemous…

      7. As I mentioned, we disagree on same sex relationships. You said earlier that the issue isn’t whether we agree on same sex relationships – so that aside, how would (do?) YOU reach out to the LGBT community?

        You said (rightly) “The choice is not between going on a gay pride march and supporting it or ‘sitting in ivory towers’.”. But I don’t see Churches reaching out to the LGBT community. I do see a lot of condemnation. Name calling in Christianese (sinner, shame, etc all mean something different to those not familiar with the lingo, so based on media representation, we’re only alienating people further).

        You say that this is illogical and blasphemous, why? What I am talking about is going to where people are, to meet them, hear their stories, show we care, share the Gospel – and yes, even pray with them. And that is exactly what Jesus did.

        You’ve also blurred a line a little – I never said anything about endorsing LGBT culture? There is a lot that’s good, but there is a lot that clearly isn’t. We are “in the world”, merely being present doesn’t mean endorsing the lot. There’s a wide range of views on every social and moral issue in the LGBT community, just like any other. It’s not one homogeneous community. But if we hope to reach them with the Gospel, we need to be where they are. And yes, that includes calling people to repentance and faith in Jesus.

      8. You are not proposing simply ‘going to’ ‘pride’, but joining in with ‘pride’. That is so far removed from God’s commands it is surprising a Christian would suggest it.

      9. Horses for courses. Ecclesiastes 3: there is a time to rebuke and a time to walk alongside those who deserve rebuke, that they might be saved.

        See: The Gospel according to St Judas, chapter 3, verse 16-22:

        And when he was come to the temple, seeing the long queues at the tables of the money changers and those that sold sacrifices, and that they were sore harassed by the impatient multitudes who would do business with them, he spake unto them saying, ‘Can I and my disciples come alongside you guys and help you in your work, that ye might more rapidly assuage the impatience of the crowd, thus doing all the business that ye would do more quickly and with less stress?’

        And they replied unto him saying, ‘Oh cheers, mate. That’d be really great. for a change. Provided that thou and thy disciples can count up to a hundred and are not given unto thieving. WE don’t get many enablers round here. For surely thou knowest how many of them that are religious do hate us and condemn us and hitherto have oppressed us, scourging us with whips, besetting our shops and turning upside down our tables, spilling money and merchandise hither and thither.’

        And he replied unto them. ‘No worries, brethren, for I preach and we do all practise honesty;’ (for it was so: especially the disciple whom Jesus loved, who looked after the money in those days, of whom it was later said that he did embezzle from the kingdom ministry) ‘moreover, I and all of my disciples have been examined in Aramaic and Arithmetic, attaining grade C or above.’ (for it was so).

        And one of them said unto him, ‘Is it a problem that some of the lambs we sell for the sacrifice are really piglets, dressed up in wool?’ And he looked towards his father in heaven, whistling, aas though he heard him not.

        And so it came to pass that the Lord and the twelve did come alongside and give aid to the money-changers and them that sold livestock for the sacrifices. And when they had holpen them thus, like so many volunteer retail in a charity shop, the said tradespeople did put their faith in him, and thus did partake that day of the salvation that he would soon thereafter purchase for them, by his own sacrifice, of the 30 pieces of silver that they gave unto him in a whip round, because he had holpen them so.

        And, seeing this, the scribes and the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who had hiterto been sore aggrieved, and sought opportunity to lay hands on him and hand him over to the Romans, were amazed and thought he was OK after all and believed in him also, and proclaimed him to be the king of the Jews, and did prevail upon Pilate to bestow that title upon him; which he did.

        And from that day forth, did they all live happily ever after. Amen.

      10. “I have no issue with same sex relationships.”

        Nor do I. Who has? So what?

        I am male. I had or have had “relationships” with my dad, my brothers, my sons and my grandsons, and numerous friends, all of whom are now or once were, in my lifetime, also male. We all are or were of the same sex. We have long related to one another well. It isn’t the suggestion that we have related to one another well that is controversial.

        The controversy is rather about certain strikingly *unnatural* suggestions – which some might even say came across as demonic. Suggestions, that is, as to how we ought to let ourselves want to start relating to one another.

        This is that bee which these career pro-LGBT demonstrators have in their bonnet.

      11. If you are going to start selectively quoting Scripture to support your compromises you run into very dangerous waters. You choose the letter to the Romans, and I reply with the Letter to the Romans:

        “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
        For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

        We must not simply tell people what sounds nice, nor simply try to act in a way that seems nice – for that is to deny the truth of the calling out for sinfulness which God has given to all men and women. And it is to deny that what God has called sin is sin, and unrepented of, divides individuals from God for eternity.

      12. You said, “If you are going to start selectively quoting Scripture to support your compromises”. That starts from your assumptions about me – no different to those who refer to Christians as “narrow minded bigots” without any further investigation. It’s insulting, and wrong on both sides.

        You have no idea who I am, how much study, prayer and research I have done etc. Compromises? Far, far from it. Try “deep rooted conviction about what the Bible does, and does not teach, based on years of prayerful study and research”, and I might be interested in a conversation.

        For what it’s worth, I agree with this (except the bracketed out part which sounds like sin originated with God, I don’t agree, and am sure you don’t either):
        We must not simply tell people what sounds nice, nor simply try to act in a way that seems nice – for that is to deny the truth of the calling out for sinfulness (which God has given to all men and women). And it is to deny that what God has called sin is sin, and unrepented of, divides individuals from God for eternity.

      13. D,
        If you are serious about evangelism then you will find a better way. [1 Corinthians 10:14, 21-24]

        Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. … You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
        ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour.


      14. “If the only ‘God’ they have heard of hates them, judges and condemns them, how else will they hear that Jesus died for them too?”

        Unless the only God preached to them hates, judges and condemns them too, in what sense would Jesus have died “for” them?

  7. Absolutely John. It is the FEAR of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. They won’t get that if Christians disregard God’s Word by joining in this parade of the vanities.

  8. The bottom line is that The Church should be leading the nation in morality and taking a stand against sin and immorality. Morrison is doing that but Robertson is attacking him. Why?

    “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

    God bless Morrison.

    1. Come off it, Andrew,
      David says good things about Donald and points out that the method Donald has chosen to employ is counterproductive. That’s not an attack.
      Expressions like, ‘leading the nation in morality’ and ‘taking a stand against sin and immorality’ are interpreted very differently by different people. You only have to take note of John Nicholson’s Tartan Taliban jibe to see why protests (like Donald’s petition) are bound to be misinterpreted in the current climate.

      The bottom line really is that the Gospel is to be preached to the whole world and it is the Gospel that will change the morality of men and nations. I know that neither David nor Donald would want for one moment to adopt some sort of preparationist moralism to get people ready for the Gospel. It is after conversion that people see the rainbow in better light and without the shadows, so to speak.


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