I’ve been reading the proof copy of ‘Living It Out’ by Rachel and Sarah Hager-Holt, to be published in December. They have written a book containing valuable wisdom and advice for LGB Christians, families and friends.
A teacher, writing about personal experience, reinforces the comments being made by some on this blog and Bishop Jack Spong’s statement. Many LGBT Christians are no longer prepared to contain their presence in the church, tolerate the restrictions conservatives wish to impose, nor apologise for our understanding of the seven passages and our particular theological ethos.
The teacher writes that conservatives, those opposed to the full inclusion of LGBT people, are crossing a boundary when they try to impose their teaching on the whole church. They become bullies, and if liberals in the church try and be ‘nice’ in return, all that happens is that the conservatives take further advantage. People have been saying this about the dynamic in the church for ages, but liberal Anglicans are fatally flawed with niceness. We have been too patient and generous in tolerating opinions which are in truth attacks on our faith and our identity. He says they should be loved and treated in the same way as any other bully, still loving them for who they are regardless.
The teacher also reminds me of something I have known from the age of 11, but which conservatives repeatedly challenge, something many readers of this blog know in the core of their being – that being gay is integral to who I am. Being gay, therefore, affects my spirituality, my physicality, my personality, he says. This is one of the most distressing things about the conservative narrative, coming mostly from male heterosexuals who argue that being ex-gay is the only permissible option.
As a gay Christian I find myself arguing against the dualism implicit in so much conservative thinking and teaching. Says the teacher, we are not dualists who separate the spirit (good) from the physical (bad), but recognize that God has given us everything and it is good.
The more conservative groups who feel they are in some sense guarding a fundamental ‘truth’ are creating a major problem not only for us, but for ‘ordinary Christians in the pews’ and for Christian witness and ministry in England. For most Christians, the presence of LGBT people around them in church is not an issue. There are far more important matters like global poverty, climate change, the destruction wrought by tsunamis and earthquakes, the conflicts in Dafur, Israel/Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism and the response to Islamic fundamentalism on which attention should be focused.
A new campaign focus is emerging for Changing Attitude. While engaging with those who differ from us, there can be no apology for our presence in the church. Instead we expect the church to recognize our faith and integrity, discovering in the process that we have been and always are, integral to the life of the church.
Quite how we do this isn’t so obvious. Many LGBT Anglicans are still present to the church with various degrees of ‘out-ness’ and openness, visibility and invisibility. It is our visible presence and the relationships that people make with us that changes attitudes more than anything else. How can our supporters and groups find practical ways to become more ‘out’?
Living It Out – A survival guide for lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians and their friends, families and churches is published in December by Canterbury Press, £9.99, ISBN 978 185311 999 6.