A brief history …
For the first three decades of my life I lived in the Diocese of Southwark. I learnt that many gay priests were present in the Church and even bishops known, discreetly, to be gay (Mervyn Stockwood and later, Michael Marshall). I learnt to pass as straight, fearing the reaction were I to reveal myself as gay.
For two years from the age of 32 I lived in a gay-affirming environment at Westcott House Cambridge where the staff – Mark Santer, John Armson and Rowan Williams – created a culture of respect for lesbian and gay people.
In the parish where I served my title, the incumbent was gay and the youth worker lesbian. In the parish where I served 14 years as incumbent, a teacher in the school was gay, as was the newly-appointed head teacher.
The lesson I learnt – being gay in church and society was possible as long as you were discreet. Law reform granted a degree of protection but many gay people internalised self-hatred and as a psychotherapist, I counselled gay clients who acted out in ways that were unhealthy.
Then came Tony Higton’s General Synod motion in 1967, Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991 and Lambeth 1.10 in 1998. Lambeth 1.10 marked the beginning of an international campaign to eradicate LGB&T people from the Anglican Communion. The campaign has been marked by violence, prejudice and growing homophobia.
To the present …
I have a rich network of friends including people like Jeffrey John and Clare Herbert, Jim Cotter and Tina Beardsley, people of great integrity, wisdom and spirituality. They exemplify Christian life and witness. There are hundreds more known to me and tens of thousands beyond them in the Anglican Communion.
I know people involved with Changing Attitude who are living on the edge of engagement with the Church. They are angry with the dishonesty of Church leaders and distressed at the effect of Church attitudes on their spiritual and personal lives. They contemplate leaving the Church and some abandon the ministry to which they had been called.
I also know bishops (as previous blogs have indicated) who are either gay themselves or straight and totally gay-comfortable and gay-affirming.
We are simply being true to ourselves, to our sexual identities, to the people we are drawn to love, to our faith as Christians and to God who has drawn us deeply to ourselves and to the infinity of LOVE. We are not unchristian and we are not a threat to the Church.
We are spinning the threads of connection in creation, prophets who speak clearly and authentically of the holy in Creation. We are learning how to identify and avoid the toxicity of much Church teaching and practice.
If we are not responsible for the prejudice and negative energy infecting the Church, where does this toxic energy emanate from?
From Christian groups and leaders who claim to be ‘traditional, orthodox, mainstream, Bible-based’ who live in a vortex of negative energy. They are responsible for the abusive dynamic in the Church which feeds prejudice, secrecy, dishonesty and fear. They will, in their own good time, have to learn now to grow into deeper maturity and wisdom, integrating heart with head.
Our task isn’t to defend historic formularies and prejudices. We are here to dream dreams and live into a vision of God which transcends boundaries of sexuality, gender, race and creed, living into a new paradigm. Some of us have intuitions of what the new paradigm looks like. We are not simply praying for justice and full inclusion for women and LGB&T people and all groups marginalised by the Church but living into the reality, and it’s healthy, holy and glorious!