With Whom Do We Unite?

Probably the most interesting thing which has happened during my break is the decision of the Scottish Gay Police Association to demand that Scottish police forces refuse to accept Bibles donated by the Gideons. The grounds for this is that the Bible “condemns homosexuality.” It is interesting that a tiny group of anti-Christian bigots should have a clearer idea of what is in the Bible than much of the progressive Church.

That the GPA is opposed to the free distribution of Bibles is no surprise. This is a group with’ form’ as they say in police circles. In 2006 the GPA were reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority for an advert which was described as untrue, indecent and unsubstantiated. The advert featured a pool of blood and the words “In the name of the father.” It blamed attacks on homosexuals on religion, focusing particularly on Christianity.

That a group of sworn police officers should not only hold such prejudiced views and are not charged with stirring up religious hatred but are actually encouraged by police authorities throughout the country is disturbing. Not as disturbing as the support they receive from the trade union movement.

Unison is Britain’s biggest trade union with a claimed membership of roughly 1.5 million. Through its Labour Link it actively funds the Labour Party and directly supports more than 70 Labour MP’s. It also supports the Gay Police Association in its opposition to the distribution of free Bibles to police officers by the Gideons.

Of Unison’s 1.5 million members how many are Christians? Amongst those who are Christians how many will speak out in support of the Gideons distribution of free Bibles? Amongst Unison’s many branches is one for “Faith Workers,” a little bit like the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union branch for “Sex Workers.” How do Unison’s Christian ‘faith workers’ feel about their trade union taking a stand against the free distribution of Bibles.

How Muslims or Sikhs or any of the multifarious religious organisations in Britain relate to union membership for their clergy, employees or volunteers is a matter for conjecture. A minister or a priest is not an employee of the Church and does not receive a wage from the Church. A minster receives a stipend, or living allowance, which allows him to pursue his calling from God. At least that is how it should be.

In Britain the trades union movement owes much to the influence of Christianity, especially in its origins. For a Christian however, no matter how much trade unions can be valued for the work they have done and are doing, there is something disturbing about ministers being members of a trade union.

However, it is hardly surprising that some ministers do join a trade union. Over the last few decades as the membership of the organic Church has shrunk we have seen the corresponding growth of the institutional Church with more and more office staff being employed in all denominations. This has gone hand in hand with the spreading culture of business management within the institutional Church.

When the institution increasingly sees itself as a corporation to be run according to the latest teaching from business schools we can hardly be surprised when those lower down the corporate structure see the need to defend themselves and their living conditions against the management.

It would be more palatable if the Christian union members or the members of the Faith Workers Branch of Unison took a more active part in standing up for the Bible than they do in standing up for their wages.


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