Changing Attitude England response to the Kigali communiqué and The Road to Lambeth

The Kigali communiqué published at the conclusion of the Global South meeting and The Road to Windsor document have received widespread coverage and reaction. While many parts of the church are engaged in discussion about the impact of the communiqué on the future of the Anglican Communion, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Anglicans have been feeling deep anxiety and fear.

One gay Anglican commented this week about Archbishop Finlay, retired bishop of Toronto, who presided at the blessing of a lesbian couple and as a result had his licence to officiate at marriages suspended:

“As I’m sure many gay people do, I find this “debate” enormously painful. Painted, as it is, in such stark, uncompromising terms, and apparently so one-sided, it is easy to lapse into self-doubt, to question one’s decisions of the past. Archbishop Finlay has given hope and encouragement to me, and countless others, who might despair, and, God forbid, begin to loathe themselves again.”

This is the effect Global South attitudes have on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Anglicans. They create fear, anxiety, self-loathing.

The arguments are about us are focussed on two exemplars in North America – the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Rt Revd V Gene Robinson and the diocese of New Westminster where approval has been given to a limited number of parishes to conduct the blessing of gay relationships.

Behind the high level meetings, communiqués, reports and discussions are ordinary, faithful Anglicans who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in their God-given sexual identity. This truth is denied by many in the Communion, but it is our truth under God, whether we live in England, the USA, Canada, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Japan, Australia or Singapore. New Westminster and New Hampshire are the visible targets of attack. They carry the projected hatred, hostility and homophobia on behalf of millions of faithful lesbian and gay Anglicans worshipping in churches every Sunday and contributing their God-given gifts and talents to the Church.

We are at risk. We do not agree with the current teaching of the Church but we remain faithful to the Church whilst waiting to be listened to and working for change in appropriate ways. We are patient Anglicans when those around us are creating a tempest of confusion and prejudice.

Re-examine prejudice

In the past, Christians have used New Testament texts to justify prejudice against the Jewish people, leading to campaigns of terror against them culminating in the holocaust. Re-examination of the prejudices which underpinned this blasphemy led to a re-examination of the Biblical texts and a denunciation of the ideas they had once been held to support.

Christians are now using Biblical texts to deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people their full dignity as people created by God who share equal dignity with heterosexuals. Prejudice led gay men to be incarcerated alongside the Jewish people in the Nazi extermination camps. Prejudice is now being used to justify an inferior status for LGBT people in the Anglican Church. The prejudice must be re-examined and lead to a similar reappraisal of the oft-quoted Biblical texts and the teaching of the exclusivity of heterosexual relationships which is used to demean faithful LGBT Christians.

The Road to Lambeth

The meeting of the Global South group in Kigali approved the document The Road to Lambeth. The document espouses Lambeth 1.10 as authoritative for Anglican policy towards LGBT people. It reminds us that Lambeth 1.10 states ‘homosexual practice is “contrary to Scripture” and “cannot be advised.”’

It ignores Lambeth 1.10 section 3 which commits the bishops ‘to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and … assure[s] them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ’ and section 4 which ‘calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals’.

‘the bishops indicated that homosexual practice violates the first principle of the Communion’s Quadrilateral and indeed the fundamental basis of Anglican Christianity (as expressed in Articles VI and XX). They were saying: “Here is an issue on which we cannot compromise without losing our identity as a Christian body.” Such was the understanding of the Global South bishops, and hence they were taken aback when Resolution 1.10 was immediately ignored and denounced by bishops of the Episcopal Church.’

The Episcopal Church was by no means alone in reacting against Lambeth 1.10. The passing of Resolution 1.10 was immediately followed by A Pastoral Statement to Lesbian and Gay Anglicans issued on August 5 and signed by 185 bishops from 14 Provinces including 9 Primates. One of the bishops was the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, Bishop of Monmouth.

It is as true (and equally unhelpful) to maintain that the majority of Provinces immediately ignored Lambeth 1.10 because they refused, and still refuse, to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and assure them that they are loved by God. Global South Anglicans have repeatedly spun the falsehood of the Episcopal Church’s denunciation of 1.10 until it has become accepted as the truth.

‘the Windsor Report was considered a vehicle by which the offending churches might realize the enormity of their actions and turn back’.

The Windsor Report may have been considered such a vehicle by the Global South but that wasn’t part of the mandate from the Archbishop of Canterbury given to the Lambeth Commission.

Due to this breakdown of discipline, we are not sure that we can in good conscience continue to spend our time, our money and our prayers on behalf of a body that proclaims two Gospels, the Gospel of Christ and the Gospel of Sexuality.

Changing Attitude England proclaims one Gospel, the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are offended by the implication that we proclaim a Gospel of Sexuality and it is unworthy of the authors of The Road to Lambeth to impute such a lie about us. We ask the Church to be honest and truthful about sexuality – everyone’s sexuality. The Church is caught by an obsession with genital expressions of sex and is obsessive about homosexuality. We are working for a holy, integrated Christian understanding of God’s divine gift of sexual pleasure expressed in committed, loving relationships. The Church of England’s concern at the high incidence of domestic abuse within marriage highlights but one example of the Church’s failure to help Christians express their sexuality in holy and on-abusive ways.

Pressure to resolve the conflict now

The Road to Lambeth states:

‘we have concluded that we must receive assurances from the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury that this crisis will be resolved before a Lambeth Conference is convened’ []

Changing Attitude resists the pressure being mounted on the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury to resolve the crisis before the Lambeth Conference.

It has taken LGBT people in the west over 50 years to educate ourselves and the societies in which we live to understand what it feels like to be gay and to overcome self-oppression and the visceral fear and disgust which many have felt.

The commitment to listen has to be honoured. It is an integral part of Lambeth 1.10. The listening process has not yet begun in the majority of Provinces. It will be a long process.

The pressure to resolve the crisis now adds not only to the pressure being placed on the Archbishop of Canterbury but also to pressure on LGBT Anglicans, the unwelcome victims of this process.

The aggressive language of many Primates and bishops instils fear in us. We have been persecuted and humiliated for centuries. Our presence in the Nazi death camps is still too often overlooked. We were incarcerated alongside the Jews, gypsies and those with disabilities. Why did the Nazi’s incarcerate homosexuals? Because of deep rooted, unexamined prejudice against us. Because of fear of difference. The Church’s supposedly Biblically-based teaching about LGBT people allows prejudice to flourish. It must be challenged and changed.

The commitment to listen to us and the commitment to oppose all discrimination against us is the minimum we expect from the Church. As faithful Anglicans in every Province, we also expect to be shown love: the deep love of God for his created beings, love of neighbour for neighbour, and love of the self encouraged by Jesus our Lord and Saviour (Matthew 22.39).

The Road to Lambeth acknowledges that:

‘Our churches must not be unwilling to “listen” and learn to understand better the phenomenon of homosexual attraction. We do not deny that such practices occur in our culture, even that such tendencies will increase as our countries modernize and Western media influences us. We acknowledge our own failures in promoting strong marriage relationships in a traditional culture which allows for polygamy and dehumanising treatment of women and children. What we are not prepared to do is to suspend the unchangeable standard of God as a part of this conversation. Let the Western churches first affirm God’s plan for the sexes, then let us dialogue.’

Changing Attitude welcomes the willingness to listen, learn and understand expressed in the first sentence. We also welcome the acknowledgement that such practices occur in African culture. Honesty is beginning to replace previous statements that such a thing is unknown in Africa.

Labelling them ‘practices’, however, dehumanises LGBT people. We do not practice homosexuality. We are drawn by God into loving, intimate relationships, which, when we are given freedom to create such relationships, are of a depth and quality equal to the best marriages.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ‘tendencies’ will not increase as a result of Western media influence. They are innate. Global South Provinces already have tens of thousands of Anglicans who are drawn naturally to love someone of the same gender. Modernisation of a culture and open access to information and ideas as a result of global communication and the internet, which expose people to western culture, enables them to identify who they truly are. It is a potentially liberating, healing and holy process.

The paragraph refers to the dehumanising treatment of women. The authors are unable to recognise that LGBT Anglicans are also being dehumanised by church teaching and practice which is unable to acknowledge our true identity and uses the Bible to abuse us. ‘The unchangeable standard of God’ is produced as a mantra with which to dehumanise LGBT people. The unchangeable standard of God will also lead these churches to reassert the inferior place of women in the Church and reinforce the dehumanising treatment of women which they claim to oppose.

LGBT Anglicans are faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ

We LGBT Anglicans follow the Christ of scripture and are rich towards God, to use language of The Road to Lambeth. We speak from our own experience and integrity. We know we will be challenged repeatedly and told we are mistaken. We will be told to conform our lives to the plain word of God in the Bible and to the historic teaching of the Church. Our hearts know otherwise. We live lives of deep prayer and faithfulness. We experience in our own souls the blessing and love of God. ‘By their fruits shall ye know them‘. We will invite the whole Communion again and again and again to engage in the Listening Process and discern the work of God in our hearts, our souls and our lives.

Listening

The commitment to listen to LGBT people, articulated in Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 and reinforced by the Windsor report is not universally accepted by all Provinces. We might in turn accuse them of not being ‘Windsor compliant‘. The glib use of this phrase to denigrate some Provinces and elevate others to a superior status is not honouring to God or to sister Churches in the Communion.

We expect every Province to be ‘Windsor compliant’ in “listening to the experience of homosexual persons“. The commitment to listen is repeatedly denied or ignored when reference is made to Provinces being obedient to the teaching of the church as expressed by Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor report. The Road to Lambeth demands that there should be no listening before the Global South have compelled all other Provinces to conform to the conclusion they have already reached.

This is an intolerable abuse of the Windsor Report, calculated to exclude LGBT Anglicans before any listening takes place. It needs to be denounced as such by the Archbishop of Canterbury and all Primates and bishops who accept The Windsor Report as the document which maps the way forward for the Anglican Communion.

Global South identity and LGBT Anglicans

The majority of Anglicans now live in the Global South. The west has been slow to acknowledge this reality. The west is learning, slowly, the implications of this newly-discovered reality. The west continues to assume that the model of Christendom which has been familiar to us for centuries is equally appropriate for other cultures. It isn’t. Christendom is rightly being transformed into something different, something potentially more authentically Christ-like.

It is equally true that the majority of LGBT Anglicans now live in the Global South. This reality has yet to be understood or acknowledged. It cannot yet be demonstrated. Fifty years ago lesbian and gay people living in the West were largely invisible. Our presence was unable to be proved. The Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 were a turning point in the struggle for homosexual equality in the USA. The publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957 and the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 began to change the confidence and visibility of LGBT people in the UK. These events led to a change in secular rights and increasing dignity and protection for LGBT people. We are not arguing for our human rights in Church but for our dignity under God as people created, loved and cherished by God.

In the majority of global cultures people attracted to love someone of the same gender do not identify themselves as homosexual. Their self-understanding varies widely. Some will suppress their loving feelings, as did many in the west even in recent decades. Some will conform to family, society and religious mores and marry, suppressing their loving feelings for someone of the same gender. Others will marry to satisfy family and culture expectations, while engaging in an extra-marital relationship with someone of the same gender.

Those who have access to the internet and other sources of information come to understand that they are homosexual (to use the clinical word) or gay (to use the language of choice for westerners). Gay Africans, Asians and South Americans are not being indoctrinated into this identity by corrupt westerners. They choose to describe themselves as gay because it expresses accurately their own feelings and sense of self.

Changing Attitude Nigeria has already revealed that the Nigerian Church is home to large numbers of LGBT members, likely to total several hundred thousand. As other Provinces engage their members in listening to the experience of LGBT people, the same growth in the number of people identifying as gay will be replicated. This is an alarming prospect for those who believe that homosexuality is taboo and contrary to the word of God as they perceive it. We understand the fear engendered in these provinces. We understand because it is the mirror image of the fear experienced by LGBT people who are not open about their sexuality. How will I deal with people’s reaction to me if I tell them who I really am? is the fear carried by many LGBT who live ‘in the closet’. How many of these people are there – and where are they? How can we identify them? is the fear of church leaders who have been asked by Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor report to listen to LGBT experience. They will need a great deal of patient understanding, support and practical help.

We call upon the Communion to

* Honour the commitment to listen
* Encourage respect for LGBT people in every Province
* Oppose homophobia and all legislation, words or actions which denigrate our integrity and put our lives at risk
* Give time to the Windsor report and the process evolving from it
* Be willing to learn and allow God to reveal his presence in LGBT lives and relationships

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