Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Make Schools 'Safe Havens' for Gay Pupils, Says Reverend: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Make Schools 'Safe Havens' for Gay Pupils, Says Reverend: News

Article excerpt

Academy leader warns gay marriage row could damage self-worth.

The bitter debate over gay marriage has made it more pressing than ever for schools to become "safe havens" for gay pupils, the evangelical Christian founder of one of the country's largest academy chains has said.

The Reverend Steve Chalke, the influential leader of Oasis Community Learning and a Baptist minister, said that the gay marriage row could have potentially damaging effects on young people coming to terms with their sexuality. Schools could not afford to ignore homophobic bullying and needed to be "explicit" with pupils, parents and teachers that they were inclusive, he told TES.

"In an environment where so many negative things are being said about homosexuality, let's not assume that all young people can develop a sense of self-worth unaided by our support and guidance," he said. "If you say to someone, 'the God of the universe disapproves of you', that's a huge burden to carry through life."

Any teachers who say that homosexual acts are wrong need to think about the "pastoral implications", he added. "I'm seeking to say something positive, not condemn the Catholics or Anglicans. Every church needs to have an open and honest debate about sexuality, but as part of that we have to think about our pastoral responsibility to young people."

The Rev Chalke's comments follow an article that he wrote for Christianity magazine, in which he expressed his support for gay marriage. He also revealed that he had recently conducted his first blessing of a civil partnership at his church in London.

Speaking to TES, he said that open discussion of homosexuality in schools was important, and that anyone who believed it could "turn people gay" did not understand human sexuality.

The government hopes to pass legislation to legalise gay marriage before the next election - a decision that has resulted in strong criticism from opponents.

Last week, more than 1,000 Catholic priests wrote a letter to The Daily Telegraph, which said that legalisation of same-sex marriage would threaten their religious freedom and would have many consequences, "severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools".

Among the most senior signatories was the Right Reverend Malcolm McMahon, the Bishop of Nottingham and chairman of the Catholic Education Service. …

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