John Browne, former chief executive of BP, has written in today’s Guardian about his resignation in 2007. He had broken up with a boyfriend and made an untrue statement in an attempt to prevent his sexuality from becoming public. He says David Laws’ recent resignation from the Government suggests that public figures continue to feel they have no choice but to cover up their sexuality.
When he was “outed” John Browne was overwhelmed by the support and friendship of many people. It turned out to be a blessing. His life is much happier now, he feels much more relaxed about being open with people and wishes it could have been this way from the start, but the spectre of earlier intolerance cast a long shadow over his life.
The biggest problem with concealing your sexuality is walling yourself off from the people closest to you, he says. Being open about your sexuality is about being honest with the people who know you the best and love you the most. Keeping it secret denies friends and family the chance to know who you really are. I would add that in the church context, this is also true for congregations and their priests and bishops. Hiding a core part of your identity is unhealthy and conceals the truth from the other.
Coming out is much easier in the UK now but John Browne writes that the business world remains more intolerant of homosexuality than other walks of life. As we know all too well, the Anglican Communion is an institution more like the UK business world in this respect.
The Archbishop of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh addressed a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday. He referred to the need to protect Christian interests by speaking out against the invading army of homosexuality, lesbianism and bisexual lifestyle. He said same sex marriage, paedophilia and all sexual pervasions should be roundly condemned by all who accept the authority of Scripture over human life. He repeated the lie that the church in the West has vowed to use money to spread the homosexual lifestyle in African societies and churches and the myth that the sin of homosexuality destroyed the communities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Millions of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion live within societies where attitudes are intolerant and aggressively hostile at best and at worst, advocate hatred, abuse and imprisonment.
Our campaign in the Communion has to work for the eradication of church teaching and attitudes about LGBT people that are dehumanizing and dangerous for the health of the whole church as well as for individual LGBT people, our families and congregations.
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh is representative of all Anglican Primates, bishops, theologians, leaders and teachers who continue to live with unexamined prejudice. It is a scandal that many UK and North American leaders fuel the prejudice of Africans and fuel their prejudice with financial support. Support comes mainly from conservative evangelical groups.
‘Evangelical’ is a word which covers a huge range of Christian belief and practice, from those who advocate extreme intolerance towards LGBT at one extreme to pro-gay attitudes at the opposite end of the spectrum. To the left of the pro-gay groups are people with genuinely held theological reasons for supporting Anglican policy as exemplified in Lambeth 1.10 and Issues in Human Sexuality.
I have no doubt that John Browne would say the church must remove all intolerant, prejudiced teaching about homosexuality and create an environment in which gay people have the freedom and confidence to live openly and honestly, true to the self God has created.
Some would immediately dispute that as Christian teaching because the Bible says otherwise. They are simply wrong.