Peter Selby expressed the hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s:
“giftedness in connecting with people and issues out of a deep and prayerful theological mind might assist all of us, whichever ‘side’ we were on, to move to a larger perception of this complex reality, and that from that movement might eventually come a new paradigm of thinking which would change us all – and hopefully unite us all – in ways we cannot now see, and would certainly help us to find ways of speaking that do not cause so much hurt to those over whose bodies and lives we are arguing.”
I have addressed different elements of Bishop Peter’s thinking in the last four days, against the background of other events unfolding, some much more sinister such as the proposed crime of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ in Uganda for which the death penalty will be imposed, and the gay couple in Kenya who are being supported by Michael Kimindu as they try and find safety following the violent attack on one of them.
Meanwhile, Bishop Jack Spong published a manifesto. He says he has made the decision not to debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. His position is one we all want to reach – a church free from homophobia and prejudice, about women priests and bishops just as much as LGBT people. But that isn’t where we are and few of us share the privileged position Jack Spong enjoys.
People have asked how we stop colluding with the prejudice of the church. Individuals can answer this for themselves. It means being out, open and honest, not ducking the issue when it arises and where possible, being proactive, asking questions, putting the issue on the agenda in our own context – congregation, home or Bible Study group, PCC, Deanery Synod – wherever there is an appropriate opportunity to engage the church with people who are gay or unashamedly pro-gay.
Some people, represented on this blog by merseymike, advocate walking away from an institution that seems to be intrinsically prejudiced and anti-gay. Their emotional and spiritual health may well be better served by leaving the church. The soon-to-be-published survival guide for LGB Christians, ‘Living It Out’ by Rachel and Sarah Hagger-Holt, suggests this as one option.
Changing Attitude is committed to action on a broad front. We are committed to change in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, change at grass roots and change in the systems and structures of the church, policy, teaching and theology. We are committed to action on behalf of those who are vulnerable and oppressed in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere.
Do we continue to debate in England, to engage in the Listening Process, or do we opt out as Jack Spong has done? As a gay Anglican Christian, I don’t believe we have any alternative but to stay in relationship and engage in dialogue. That is the Christian way.
But Jack Spong and Peter Selby’s interventions also mark a change which I believe demand a change in strategy and tactics. These are already being explored and talked about in other contexts and will form part of the agenda for the meeting of Changing Attitude trustees on 30 and 31 October.
For me the change needs to respond to the new paradigm to which Peter Selby refers which connects with the writing and thinking of Marcus Borg among others.
It is time for those who are Anglicans in the best and most traditional sense, genuinely open, broad church, generous Christian people, to argue and work for the recovery of this tradition, in the process being clear that only a church which is fully inclusive of those at present excluded from full participation in all orders of ministry, lay and ordained, expect the church to change and will work together on a strategy to achieve change.
It is time to actively resist what has been tolerated for too long, the abuse of the Christian Church and her lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members by groups which advocate prejudice and intolerance.