On Tuesday, angry protests erupted across India following the arrest of Anna Hazare, an anti-corruption campaigner who was due to begin an indefinite hunger strike in protest against corruption. The Indian protests add another continent to the outbreak of democratic outrage which began in Egypt and extended to an Arab spring of people demanding and fighting for change.
I’m not planning to go on hunger strike and Changing Attitude is not preparing a campaign of non-violent protest against the oppression of LGB&T people in the Anglican Communion, but there are moments when I fantasise about the possibility.
LGB&T people in Africa are living in an increasingly extreme state. The anti-gay laws tabled in Nigeria and Uganda and the murderous rhetoric fuel hatred and violence against gay men and lesbians. Hidden in African society are tens of thousands of young people who are lonely, isolated and depressed. They live in the closet, passing for straight, living under often unbearable family pressure to bring home a girl friend, marry and have children. They are the victims of an abusive culture in which survival demands the suppression of “the natural instincts and affections, implanted by God” in LGB&T people.
In the UK we live in conditions which are far from the African extremes of prejudice and violence, and yet I hear from more and more supporters of Changing Attitude and others who experience the Church of England as an increasingly uncomfortable and intolerant institution. It has reached the point where many tell me they are on the edge of leaving the Church.
This increases my sense of the urgent need for change. The Church of England and the Anglican Communion are in an intolerable state from the perspective of LGB&T people and those who are our friends in the Church.
Some of us are aware of a paradigm shift taking place in the global community. Pressure for change is building. There is a longing amongst millions for democracy and greater personal freedom. In the UK last week, deep frustration at the quality of life and a vacuum in people’s spiritual core were among other reasons that inflamed civil disorder.
Traditional ways of thinking and understanding are being questioned and the old order is collapsing. My relationship with the Bible as the book which provides me with spiritual inspiration and wisdom is radically different from the relationship of the majority who define the teaching and practice of the Church.
On Tuesday I wrote that people misuse the Bible to justify anti-gay prejudice in the Church. They bring homophobic prejudice and preconceptions to their reading of the Bible. In the end, there can be no accommodation to prejudice, whether it is dressed up in the guise of tradition, orthodox Biblical theology, the unchanging teaching of the Church or the faith once delivered to the Fathers.