At 07.20 this morning, having said the morning office from Jim Cotter’s ‘Into the Silence’, I gazed through my east-facing window before closing my eyes to meditate. The dawn light was gentle and delicate and I imagined the infinite, tender love of God, flowing through creation and through my own body, God’s love and energy, goodness and wisdom. I sat in my awareness for half an hour and then prayed, for gug in Uganda, Archbishops +Rowan and +John, the work of Changing Attitude, the supporters, diocesan groups, trustees and patrons, for the people I was in conversation with yesterday and those I will meet today. I prayed for my conflicting emotions about the church, her leaders, and the needs of LGBT Christians across the Communion.
I recognize the dilemma faced by `the powers that be’ in Lambeth and Bishopthorpe. Brenda Harrison commented to me this morning: “It’s the same dilemma often faced by the Foreign Office when there is public clamour for action which takes no account of what the FO might be doing behind the scenes.” But she added: “I’m not too sympathetic. The FO just get on with it, it’s time the Ecclesiastical Powers did the same without being so sensitive.”
I experience similar dilemmas. I feel for people who are conflicted in their roles, especially between what the interior self knows and feels and the role demanded from the public self. In my time of contemplation and prayer every morning, I open myself to God’s place in my heart and my place in the heart of God’s creation, and in there and from there, live through the day with its ambivalent demands. I know I am not alone.
Changing Attitude has a responsibility to keep the plight of our Ugandan brothers and sisters in the public eye – if that discomfits the Powers, so be it. Keeping Uganda in the frame and keeping the pressure on those who will determine the future of the Bill is critical for LGBT people in Uganda.
It is also critical for us here in the UK and for our place in the church. As the hierarchy maintains silence in response to Anglican sensitivities so as not to upset African primates and bishops, they send an unfortunate message to UK society. UK Anglicans appear to be tolerating the proposed Bill. I know that isn’t true, and Bishop Mike Hill’s response is proof that it isn’t true. I am assured that representations are being made to people in Uganda who can offer the best advice and wisdom to try and ensure that the Church of Uganda restrains herself from wholehearted support for the Bill at worst, and at best, might even offer a critical response based on Anglican policy and teaching.
UK Anglicans are trying to find a way to live with integrity in our church, honouring our loving relationships by contracting Civil Partnerships when and where possible. This is a huge dilemma for those who are ordained or licensed. We should honour our love, follow the Christian call to fidelity, and register. But for those subject to a bishop’s license the alternatives are to register and keep it secret or tell the bishop and risk your future in the church. Many priests facing this dilemma contact Changing Attitude.
None of us, however, are confronted with the dilemma facing gug and others in Uganda: “I lived deeply in the closet for a long time. Now, the door is barely open, but I may be forced back. Back to denying myself.”
But as he says: “This is no longer about me or Uganda. This is about humanity. This is about being human. I don’t like the fact that it is my country drawn up in defiance on its sovereign right to kill and imprison me for my sexuality- but it is a hugely wider battle, of a people, a minority against a majority that chooses to believe weird, lurid rumours of xenophobia and the ‘wicked other’ to persecute some of its own people. And many gay people, all over the world are joining hands in solidarity.”