The root of the poison in our Church and Communion

The root of the problem affecting the Church of England in its conflicted views about homosexuality is the entrenched homophobia and prejudice held by a minority against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our Church and Communion. The prejudice is poisoning our Church and infecting it at every level. It poisoned the Crown Nomination Committee’s process in Southwark, as Colin Slee’s memorandum reveals and it has poisoned my life here in Devizes.

The poison will not go away until conservatives deal with their unexamined prejudice against homosexuals like me. Prejudice is the trap which prevents some bishops and many priests from being open about their sexuality. It creates deep anxiety and guilt in some. It also traps the 40 or so bishops who are to a greater or lesser degree supportive of LGBT people in the Church. All of them affirm their lesbian and gay lay people and priests and some knowingly approve the vocations of and appoint and license lesbian and gay people in civil partnerships or living in a committed relationship with a life partner.

The Church of England has allowed itself to become an enclave of prejudice against LGBT people in a society which now lives at ease with lesbian and gay people in their midst, affirms our relationships in a legal ceremony and continues to deal with prejudice in sport and schools.

The Church of England’s prejudice is reinforced by aggressively anti-gay rhetoric and behaviour elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. Primates and bishops in Africa and other Provinces claim to speak on behalf of the majority in the Communion. They cannot claim to represent the majority because none of them has ever consulted their national church. Which of them has ever openly debated homosexuality in a safe environment or researched homosexuality as has the Church of England and the Episcopal Church among other Provinces and published the results? Which of them has commended The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality edited by Canon Phil Groves, the official Anglican Communion resource?

The Church of England lives with dishonesty about LGBT people, dishonesty about the significant proportion of LGBT clergy, a growing number of whom are in civil partnerships or living with a life partner. The dishonesty leaves lay people feeling vulnerable, less than welcome or accepted by the church. This affects not only we who are LGB&T but our friends and families, colleagues and members of our congregation. It is an insidious, poisonous drip.

On this morning’s Radio 4 interview, Canon Chris Sugden dripped the poison in a typically Anglican Mainstream way. Towards the end he linked homosexuality with promiscuity and adultery, as if these are characteristics typical of and peculiar to gay people rather than heterosexuals. This is a constant tactic of Anglican Mainstream. Lisa Nolland, Chris’s colleague, adds to his list bestiality, polyamoury and paedophilia. Both accuse LGBT people and by implication Changing Attitude, as campaigning for promiscuity, adultery, bestiality, polyamoury and paedophilia to be accepted as normal in the Church. WE ARE NOT. But no matter how many times I say this, Chris and Lisa continue to drip their poisonous innuendoes. This is one of the places from which the poison infecting our Church emanates.

It is time for Dr Philip Giddings, Chair of the General Synod’s House of Laity and member of the Archbishops’ Council, Convenor of Anglican Mainstream’s UK Steering Committee and trustee, to call Chris Sugden and Lisa Nolland to order. Does Philip have the courage to do so? He is a compassionate and intelligent man as I know from conversations with him, the last on a train between Slough and Reading, but he was one of those in Oxford Diocese who campaigned vociferously against Jeffrey John’s appointment to Reading.

This week I have seen with more clarity then before that the root of our Communion’s problem is not the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (who live with deep Christian faith and integrity in our Church). The root of the problem is the prejudice against us, even when it is dressed up, as Chris Sugden did this morning, to look as if it is a reasonable distinction between orientation and behaviour. Chris wants to split me in two. In the process he is destroying the integrity and integration of LGBT people and of our Church. My orientation and my behaviour are integrated, my orientation lies in my heart and soul, where love and desire also lie, the desire for communion with God and for intimacy with my soul mate whom I love.


  1. John D says

    You know I don’t belive there are such things as gay priests or bishops, or LGBT people for the matter. However, there may be priests, bishops and people who just happen to be gay, or what ever. We are all Gods children.

    You know, I’m not one to preach to anyone. I do my best to be a good Christian but fall down all the time. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has his doubts and question his beliefs from time to time. When it comes to beliefs, the Anglican Communion is a broad church with catholics, liberals and evangelicals. With so much theology about I like to apply what I call the “love test”, to help me sort the wheat from the chaff. The “love test is simply this:

    “Does an idea, statement, group, belief etc. reflect the true love of god.”

    Does prejudice towards Gay or LGBT people reflect the true love of God, I think not.

  2. Hilary Johnson says

    Thank you for this, Colin. As it happens, I’m heterosexual and am quite unaware of having chosen my orientation. I can’t see how anyone can separate orientation from behaviour. I don’t think I could do it. I am angered by this situation in which we heterosexuals seem to be casting stones, when we ourselves are not without sin. Pre-marital intercourse hardly raises an eyebrow these days; divorce and remarriage statistics are high. May I remind us all that it is not homosexual intercourse that leads to unwanted pregnancy, unwanted babies and an increase in requests for abortion? We heterosexuals as a group hardly set the best of examples. May I suggest that we cast out first the beam out of our own eyes, and then we shall clearly to pull out the mote that is in our brothers’?

    The future Head of the Church of England and his wife are known adulterers and remarried divorcees. The Church as a body, although unable to sanction that remarriage in church, was nevertheless able to welcome the couple back into the fold in a very public blessing ceremony, conducted by none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury. This high profile event gave a clear message to the world that the Anglican Communion was acting in love and compassion. These two people were heard and understood. Why then can LGBT people not be listened to with the same love and compassion? After all, it is a commandment that we should love our neighbours as ourselves. How can we delude ourselves that we love our neighbours if we refuse to listen to them?

    We pray for Church Unity, yet it seems to me a rather hollow prayer until we learn to reach out to each other and seek to know each other in the the things that are eternal. That means listening to and seeking to understand each other in a spirit of Divine Love.

  3. JAMES says

    AS I said on the other thread we are to love our neighbor. We do not have to agree with them or approve of their lifestyle choice.

    Otherwise we are guilty of saying Evil is Good and Good is Evil.

    The root problem is that we are trying to modify the Bible (God’s word) to say what we want it to say rather than what it does.

  4. Chris B. says

    John and Hilary,

    Well stated.. But I would rather these days those who simply hide behind their ‘clericals’ – declare themselves for who they are.. O.K. I have not been one to make a statement.. But let’s face it.. the CofE needs all its friends at the present! Those who felt they had insurmountable problems with the ordination of women albeit in the ‘tri-fold’ ministry.. have had the courage of their convictions & gone! (No condemnation implied).. The old queen mum – enjoyed the unquestionable allegiance of many a gay courtier – enjoying their unquestionable allegiance… But is it not about time people – simply let it be known.. their sexual preference! Let’s face it I guess 1 in 3 (at least) of clergy are gay? the Cof E is a dead duck without them..
    I honestly feel the CofE & its future depends on this.. for so many laity (who it has not castrated – clergy only!) feel they have no place.. Honestly, as catholic as my theology is… I feel & know I have more place with the methodists! The Church Must be inclusive / relevent / and a mother – who tends and loves her own – whatever persuasion (sexually) they happen to have found themselves in God’s creation.

  5. says

    ‘The Church as a body, although unable to sanction that remarriage in church, was nevertheless able to welcome the couple back into the fold in a very public blessing ceremony, conducted by none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury.’

    Do you, for one minute, think this would have happened if Princess Diana, the mother of a future monarch was still alive? I promise you there would not have been a blessing of the consort relationship by the Archbishop had she survived.

    Would that have been hypocritical of the clergy and British public? Maybe. After all, Diana was no ‘saint’. Yet, were she still alive, neither scripture, tradition, nor reason would exonerate the proponents of the church blessing on Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla.

    The moral: wait until those who oppose your stance are dead, publicly buried and largely forgotten. Then you can act with impunity!

Join the discussion