I learnt yesterday which two groups in this country are the most homophobic. Government research shows they are the British National Party and the faith communities. Conservative Moslems, Jews and Christians together with the BNP hold the most prejudiced views towards LGBT people in the country.
This should shock the Church of England into a speedy reappraisal of its attitudes towards LGBT people and its use of the Bible to maintain a policy of prejudice, discrimination and inequality.
Before the recent European Parliament elections, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York warned people about voting for the BNP. In today’s Church of England Newspaper, Andrew Carey, son of the former Archbishop, writes about the BNP challenge in his Lambeth Notes. The church, says Andrew, is over-reacting to the BNP and its racist policies.
“The fact is that a whole host of concerns around uncontrolled immigration, multiculturalism, Islamism and positive discrimination which might lead people in disillusionment and frustration to vote for the British National Party should not be confused with out-and-out racism. And these concerns are rife in the pews of the Church of England.”
I have to tell Andrew that these concerns are not rife in the congregation of St John and St Mary Devizes, where we welcomed the newly-elected Mayor of Devizes last Sunday morning.
Furthermore, says Andrew, Islamist crimes against clergy and places of worship in Britain are hushed up. This allegation connects with my previous post. I have never heard of Islamist crimes against clergy and places of worship being reported, let alone hushed up (and perhaps that proves Andrew’s point). I’d like to see the evidence for his claim, evidence of crimes, evidence of them being deliberately hushed up. I searched on Google. There are reports from Nigeria, Cairo, India, Kenya, Palestine, Ethiopia, but not the UK. Is this another urban myth repeated by or invented by Andrew?
Andrew goes on to focus on immigration. He argues that there is no debate on immigration in church circles and implies that the majority in church are against lenient immigration policies and want stricter controls (or “balanced immigration” as he puts it in 1984-speak).
In advocating anti-racist policies and peaceful multi-faith communities he says the church is in danger of treating with contempt the views of many of its active parishioners. The leaders of the CofE are in danger of alienating their supporters by petulant thinking which opposes as racist, immigration controls, multiculturalism and integration.
If Andrew’s claim about Islamist crimes against clergy are not true, then his allegations fuel Christian prejudice against Moslems. Andrew seems to be arguing that bishops and other CofE leaders need to attune their preaching and teaching to the views of “many” parishioners, whether or not their views are Christian or prejudiced, which seems to be immaterial to Andrew. I won’t be alone in finding this shocking.
The church’s attitude towards LGBT people is seen as being illogical and un-Christian by the majority of people in this country. According to Government research, even the majority of Christians think the churches have got it wrong. Andrew’s argument about bishops following the views of “many” parishioners is logical from his perspective as a conservative who believes the Bible teaches that homosexual activity is a sin.
The church has to decide whether it is more Christian to oppose injustice and discrimination against LGBT people, immigrants, Jews, Moslems, black people or women, or whether the Bible can legitimately be used to maintain discrimination against particular groups of people. The majority of Church of England members are aligned with the majority of people in this country in opposing both the BNP and prejudice against LGBT people. The church needs to disconnect from the racist and homophobic policies of the BNP and fully reconnect with a Christian commitment to justice and truth.