Pluralist Adrian Worsfold of New Holland, Lincolnshire in the UK has raised important questions for Changing Attitude on his blog http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/01/ca-hardly-on-gafcon.html
We agree with Andrew that it’s a shame CA needs to exist, but the need is there and exist it does. It exists at this moment in history because the church, for the first time and in an international context, is being forced to deal with human sexuality in general and LGBT sexuality in particular. The church is focussed on LGBT sexuality because it is unable to attend to the more serious issues confronting the majority heterosexual population. Those questions are well rehearsed: why isn’t the church attending to cohabitation, marriage failure, divorce, promiscuity, abusive relationships? Of course, in places it is, but the international argument about homosexuality is a tactic to avoid dealing with the bigger issues that affect the majority.
We are a body that speaks as officially and centrally as we can because we ARE right in the centre of the church. Supporters of CA are bishops, archdeacons, deans, General Synod members, Readers, diocesan and deanery synod and PC members. They attend meetings at the highest levels of the church. We may be the people conservatives are trying to push to the margins but that is not where we are, nor are we going to allow ourselves to be pushed there.
We describe ourselves as committed, faithful, mainstream, orthodox Anglicans because that is what we are. We have always been present, visibly or invisibly, in the parish mission and ministry of our church. We are not leaving the church. It is the secessionists who are meeting to plot, who are planning to leave and set up a new church. They would certainly like to take control of the present church or do their own thing in a new church, but despite repeated threats and cries of wolf, they haven’t done so yet.
We argue for the maintenance of Anglican unity because we believe unity to be an injunction from the Lord. We believe disunity is sinful and a sign of failure for Christians.
The Anglican Communion as at present constituted puts pressure on gay-hostile primates, bishops and provinces. The presence of Changing Attitude and Integrity means that homophobic provinces cannot ultimately escape from having to think theologically and ethically about the presence of LGBT people in creation and in the church. Those seeking to create a pure church, free from partnered LGBT people, are doomed to failure. Not only will we be present in such a church, we know that some of the leaders of this secessionist movement are themselves partnered and gay.
We don’t expect a message from an inclusive group such as Changing Attitude to effect transformation in homophobic provinces. We do expect LGBT people with heterosexual support in those provinces, and with the encouragement and support of other groups in the Communion, to subvert the homophobia of those provinces from within.
We don’t believe in theological revision. We believe in theological wisdom and integrity. There is plenty of mainline theology which supports the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. A great deal of theological work being done which counters the theology of power and authoritarian attitudes. Changing Attitude recommends, for example, the recently-published ‘Imitating Jesus: An Inclusive Approach to New Testament Ethics’ by Richard A Burridge, Dean of King’s College London.
We believe it is right to work for the full inclusion of LGBT people in a single Anglican Communion which includes LGBT people in ministry and blesses relationships. The theology is there. We agree, of course, with pluralist, that changes should indeed be made in order that full inclusion becomes a reality.
Anglican provinces that are homophobic are often coterminous with countries that persecute and imprison. If change is being effected in the churches of those countries, church members, who are also members of society will also be affected, and slowly, change in social attitudes will also occur. We are not so naïve as to believe Anglican provinces will be the agents of radical change, but change will occur from the grassroots, with lay people who learn to think and feel differently about LGBT people – who they will discover to be members of their own families; because, as we have said before, we ARE everywhere.
A change in the global south tactics in relation to Lambeth has already occurred. The GS primates are in conflict between themselves and are no longer confident that they can persuade their clergy to boycott Lambeth, despite extreme pressure being put on them by bishops. Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Michael Poon and the bishop of Jerusalem are the visible face of many in the Global South who are angry with the organisers of GAFCON. The tactics of the secessionists will fail them. Those who were not consulted and disagree with the conference will force change on GAFCON, it’s focus and its outcome.
GAFCON may be trying to position itself not to be a rival to Lambeth nor to be the launch of an alternative communion led by Archbishop Peter Akinola, based in Nigeria. It could still become both of these things. We agree with pluralist that there are those in the global south who are impatient to be rid of the Anglican Communion and want to launch their own, independent church. They are insecure fundamentalists. They are not confident in their numbers, nor about who will follow them. Why else do they keep repeating the claim to represent the majority in the communion?
Changing Attitude wants the Lambeth Conference to take place because it represents the best hope for a change of attitude for the majority of the communion and because it provides an opportunity to effect change. We will be working for radical change with our friends in Integrity and Inclusive Church. We may not achieve change, but we’ll be working hard for it. We believe change is possible and practical because we are people rooted in God and prayer. If we were as the conservatives try to portray us, as barely Christian, then our faith might be misplaced. But we are people as faithful in prayer and as rooted in God as the conservatives. If change occurs it will happen because there is something godly in what we believe and who we are.
We are not hungry for power and control as are the GAFCON and global south leaders. Peter Akinola, Chris Sugden, Martyn Minns, David Anderson, Robert Duncan, Michael Nazir-Ali and others are clearly hungry for power. We are hungry for truth, love and justice. GAFCON is not going to be an event inclusive of lay people, priests and women. It will be tightly controlled and engineered by the senior male leaders.
Changing Attitude was critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Advent Letter. But Dr Rowan Williams is still the Archbishop of Canterbury, not Peter Akinola or Martyn Minns. A tactic that brings the majority of bishops to Canterbury in July is advantageous for us. It gives us access to bishops and to the world’s media. It gives us a further opportunity to tell our stories, educate bishops and change attitudes. After Lambeth, we will review strategy.
We do not accept Lambeth 1.10 or the Windsor Report as the mind of the communion, nor do we accept Issues in Human Sexuality as the teaching of the Church of England. We understand that some Anglicans believe 1.10 to be the mind of the church. We know we are members of a church which reads the Bible in many different ways. It is the secessionists who wish to deny this truth.
We do not want a Covenant which centralises power and gives authority to exclude churches or provinces. Having read the Church of England’s response to the draft Anglican Covenant, published today, we believe a Covenant beneficial to our inclusion in the Communion can still be produced. If an authoritarian Covenant is produced and agreed then we will review tactics again, but we are not there yet.
Changing Attitude is always prepared to change its attitude and review tactics when and as the need arises. GAFCON hasn’t yet happened, and a new church hasn’t yet been launched. If a new church is launched, we predict that in every Province (as with parishes and dioceses in the USA) there well be bishops, priests and people who will faithfully remain part of the Anglican Communion. We will work with them.
Michael Nazir-Ali and Wallace Benn do not represent large numbers in the Church of England. It is difficult to predict where they will end up if they continue to support GAFCON and the global south in the way they are at the moment. Whatever happens, they will be in no position to lay down terms for orthodoxy in the Anglican Communion.
The secessionists are up against a reality which they and those who are opposed to their tactics find it hard to see. Of course they do – LGBT people are largely invisible. In the majority of provinces we are at present totally invisible. But we are there, everywhere, lay and ordained, bishops, married, single, celibate, partnered. We are impossible to see, impossible to identify, and therefore impossible to ensure that we are excluded. If a new church is formed, it will take the LGBT issue with it. I sleep content in that knowledge. Their enterprise is based on an impossible fantasy. They don’t know who LGBT people are, so they can’t get rid of us. Worse for them, many in their ranks will be closeted LGBT people, and scandals will ensue as transgressions come to light.
Changing Attitude doesn’t live in a fantasy world. We live in a world of prayer and worship, of praise to God for the glory and diversity of creation. We live in hope and faith, realistic that there are forces ranged against us which are abusive and unloving and potentially destructive. We have no alternative but to live in these times of threat and change, rooted in love and prayer. These are seemingly weak weapons, but weapons which can transform the church and the world into a more faithful expression of the Kingdom of God.
Reverend Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude