This week, the UK press has been buzzing with the case of Mr and Mrs Bulls, Bed and Breakfast proprietors who in 2008 refused to allow a gay couple (in a civil partnership) to stay...The couple brought a case on the grounds of discrimination, with the Bulls providing a focus for the groups who believe that Christianity is being marginalised in 21st century Britain, and feelings running high on either side.
The judge in the first hearing found in favour of the couple, Steven and Martyn..but this doesn't mean that the issues are going away quietly. On Sunday I'm doing a live phone interview for local radio, as a former B & B owner with a rather different view.
I ran a B&B in the North Cotswolds for several years while our children were growing up...The main guest accommodation was in a small barn conversion, adjacent to the house – with guests coming over to the farmhouse for breakfast. This meant that the children were free to be loud and messy, while guests could enjoy the peace of the countryside...It also meant that I did not, for the most part, have to make difficult decisions about whether I felt comfortable with particular guests mixing with my children.
An anonymous commenter below alerted me to the possibility of misunderstanding here.
I should clarify here that I had and have no problem AT ALL with my children enjoying the company of gay guests...simply that if I had shared the view of the Bulls, I would still not have been in the same situation, in that my guests were not actually sleeping in my house. Once or twice people stayed with us who were, for example, particularly heavy drinkers: I did not have to worry that small children might encounter a guest unable to make it upstairs to bed, or rushing to the loo after one too many, because the guests slept in the barn.
I appreciate that this puts me in a rather different position from Mr & Mrs Bull – but I have to say that in their situation I would nonetheless have welcomed Martyn & Steven as guests
In part this is because I do not share the Bull's view that gay relationships are contrary to God's will...for me then, as now, a faithful, stable and committed relationship, whether straight or gay, is an expression of love to celebrate...and something that makes God smile.
But even if I held another view, it seems to me that their approach is not workable. Unless you demand a marriage certificate from every couple of prospective guests, it's surely not possible to marital status as a yard-stick to assess suitability.
There are many ways in which, as human beings, we sadden God.
Cruelty, selfishness, greed...
None of those is immediately obvious to the naked eye – so it's not practical to make moral judgements about whom to welcome on those grounds.
Why then, should we be selective about the issues that we treat as deal-breakers. It would be quite easy, on a quick reading of the press, to believe that Christianity is only concerned with issues of sexuality and gender - but that is so far from true
Those who are anxious that Christianity is under threat in this country are keen to present this case as one in which faith and Law are set against one another...My personal view is that welcoming all comers into my home was one way of reflecting the unconditional hospitality of the God, who doesn't demand that we have our lives in perfect order before we come to him. To be less than inclusive seems to me both unjust and unkind.
As I was thinking about this, a friend posted a photograph of the words that she has over her desk: Micah 6:8
What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.Or, more simply still, "Love", said Jesus,"is the fulfilling of the Law".