Over the Easter weekend 2008, gay leaders of Changing Attitude Nigeria were seriously assaulted. They, and the Director of Changing Attitude England, were also threatened with death because “they are polluting Nigeria with abomination and immorality”. The attacks were reported to the police in Nigeria, Togo and the UK.
In an open letter to conservative Anglican church leaders twenty Anglican bishops and leaders have expressed concern about the use of incautious language and urge conservative church leaders to consider the effects of the language that they use.
The Revd Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England, said:
“The Anglican Communion has been in turmoil for 10 years since the 1998 Lambeth Conference passed a very negative resolution about homosexuality. The conflict in the church has intensified since then, with many bishops and other leaders making highly judgemental and often abusive comments and pronouncements about LGBT Anglicans.
“Such inflammatory statements lead some members of Anglican Communion churches to believe that threats and violence against those who are LGBT (or those who support a more open stance towards LGBT people) are not only justified but are authentic expressions of Christianity.”
Changing Attitude is a charitable organisation that works for the inclusion and affirmation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the Anglican Communion
Open Letter to the Leadership Team of GAFCON
Dear friends in Christ,
You may know that there were several instances of actual physical violence and threats of violence and death enacted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leaders of Changing Attitude in Nigeria over the Easter Weekend 2008. The leader of a Changing Attitude group was violently beaten. Subsequently, death threats have been issued against the Directors of Changing Attitude in Nigeria and England.
The discourse taking place in the Anglican Communion about the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches must be conducted in the context of Christian love and mutual respect. If it is not, then people will continue to perpetrate abuse and violence against LGBT people.
Some Anglican Christians act in this way because they believe that the language of criticism articulated against LGBT people in general and the Episcopal Church in particular gives them permission to perpetrate violence and abuse against Christians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We know that is not your intention, but it is the reality as many experience it.
Changing Attitude understands that the Anglican Communion is engaged in an extended period of debate about the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches. We are committed to engage in this debate and in the Listening Process which is integral to it and authorised by the Councils of the church.
Conservative Anglicans will want to argue against the position which Changing Attitude represents. They will continue to question the pattern of life and identity adopted by some lesbian and gay Christians. We recognise the integrity of those who hold this position at the same time as we disagree with it. We are not resistant to engaging in the debate with those who hold radically different views.
We recognise that it is extremely difficult to conduct this debate in language that does not polarise opinions or inflame tensions. Tension will grow more intense in this period immediately prior to the Lambeth Conference and the GAFCON event.
The language we use has direct consequences on the lives of LGBT Christians. Language affects us emotionally, spiritually and physically. We ask that all of us within the Anglican Communion be mindful of the words we use and the opinions we express when talking about LGBT people. We ask that all of us actively discourage any form of threatening behaviour so that we may all engage in respectful listening and conform the pattern of our lives to the pattern of love embodied by our Lord Jesus Christ.
None of us wishes to encourage or condone violence and none of us wishes to be responsible, indirectly, for murder or violence perpetrated on another person, whatever their sexual identity.
Yours in Christ,
Revd Canon Professor Marilyn MacCord Adams
Rt Revd Michael Bourke
Rt Revd Ian Brackley, Bishop of Dorking
Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ramsbury
Very Revd Vivienne Faull
Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth
Rt Revd Richard Holloway
Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme
Revd Sr Una Kroll
Rt Revd Richard Lewis
Rt Revd Jack Nicholls, Bishop of Sheffield
Rt Revd John Oliver
Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon & Leeds
Rt Revd Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire
Rt Revd John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln
Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby
Rt Revd Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth
Revd Dr Anne Townsend
The Revd Canon Angela Weaver
Letter sent to:
Rt Rev Nicodemus Okille, Archbishop Henry Orombi, Rt Rev Wallace Benn, Rt Rev Martyn Minns, Canon Dr Chris Sugden, Archbishop Greg Venables, Archbishop Peter Akinola, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop Peter Jensen, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Archbishop Justice Akrofi, Archbishop Donald Mtetemela, Rt Revd Michael Nazir Ali