Misapprehensions by Anglican Mainstream 4: The Listening Process will change the Church

I fear that Anglican Mainstream and other Anglican bodies want to rewrite history and deny the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, make us non-persons in the Church.

Dr Philip Giddings maintains there is an important distinction between the “listening process” to which the Anglican Communion committed itself in the Windsor Report and the commitment to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons.” The commitment to listen to the experience of homosexual persons was indeed part of Lambeth 1.10 but the resolution would not have been passed had it been understood as leaving open the question that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture. By contrast, the listening process implies that that question is to be considered still open. There was never an expectation that theology was to be changed by the experience, says Dr Giddings.

On the same day that Dr Philip Giddings’ reply to the LGB&T Anglican Coalition was posted, an article by the Revd David Doveton, Vice Provost of the Cathedral of St Mary the Virgin in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth, was posted. He says “it was made clear by bishops of the Global South that any programme of ‘listening’ was to help persons experiencing a homosexual orientation to live in conformity to the churches quoted understanding that homosexual practice was ‘incompatible with Scripture.”

David Doveton argues that opening the Church to the process of ‘mutual listening’ opens the door to false doctrine. He describes LGB&T people as “people who struggle with homosexual tendencies” and “persons experiencing a homosexual orientation.” Articles posted by Anglican Mainstream do not necessarily represent their own opinions but their support for ex-gay ministries demonstrates a belief that homosexuality is a ‘lifestyle choice’ from which people can be delivered.

In the UK, this attitude makes little difference to the behaviour of the majority of LGB&T people. People experience desire, fall in love, form relationships, make commitments; they are expressed and consecrated sexually. We are not people who struggle with homosexual tendencies but with the failure of the Church to welcome us as sexual people and full members of the body of Christ.

But Anglican Mainstream’s consistent attempts to undermine the integrity and identity of LGB&T people has a negative effect on the faith of some of us and on our relationship with the Church. Some despair of the Church as a place where their faith can be nurtured and their ministry welcomed. They leave, or are tempted to walk away. This is something I encounter every day in my work as Director of Changing Attitude.

There is an even more insidious effect in the wider Communion, and in Africa in particular. LGB&T Africans also ignore Church teaching as desire draws them to meet others and find a sexual partner. The hostile, judgmental, secretive homophobic culture means relationships are formed with difficulty.  The one thing I am told most often is that other gays only want sex, and the one thing I am asked most often is for help with finding a partner who will be loving and faithful.

Many in the Communion have refused to engage at all in the Listening Process. Others deny that homosexuality exists as an identity. Both groups put the physical, emotional and spiritual lives of tens of thousands of LGB&T Anglicans at risk, plus all who are affected by Christian support for penal codes which criminalise homosexuality and cultivate and reinforce homophobia.

The oft repeated claim that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture is hotly disputed and ultimately will not stand firm. LGB&T people, our families and friends and those we worship with reject the interpretation of Scripture and tradition and refuse to be disenfranchised by the Church. The Church is and will be changed by the reality of our existence and our presence in the Church, having been called into relationship by God.

Comments

  1. Andrew Ibbotson says

    As a gay Christian I find myself trying really hard to continue with ‘the church’ at the moment. I am a member of a very welcoming congregation but the machinations of the church lead to wonder ‘am I wanted by this institution?’ Time will tell but at the moment I can’t envisage calling myself an Anglican for very much longer.

  2. says

    Dr. Giddings’ principal error is the assertion that Lambeth I:10 1998 has permanent authority as doctrine. Lambeth has no such authority nor do any of the other fictive Instruments of Unity with respect to creating doctrine that binds the provinces. We now have groups like Anglican Mainstream and ACNA claiming that the IU need reforming even before they have been initially authorized by Provincial adoption of the Anglican Covenant. It is a bizarre and silly dance and would be funny it it were not so shameful.

    But gosh, I suppose if people can deny the Holocaust, denying the “listening process” is small potatoes by comparison. The good news is that the broader public has been listening and growing in recognition of the sensibility of full inclusion.

  3. Richard Ashby says

    Oh for heaven’s sake, what is a homosexual ‘lifestyle choice’? Judy Garland, ruched curtians and the back rooms of sex clubs?

  4. Dah•veed | Bro David says

    Wonderful words here Padre Colin. And the words that you speak here is exactly why GLBT folks need to also have nothing to do with Andrew Marin. He believes exactly as does these folks at Anglican Mainstream. He likewise believes LGB&T people as “people who struggle with homosexual tendencies” and “persons experiencing a homosexual orientation.”He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who extends the hand of fellowship and then reaches around behind you with the other hand to stab you in the back. He is as much a danger and likewise equally undermines the integrity and identity of LGB&T people. He has a negative effect on the faith of some of us and on our relationship with the Church.

  5. says

    ‘The oft repeated claim that homosexuality is incompatible with Scripture is hotly disputed and ultimately will not stand firm. LGB&T people, our families and friends and those we worship with reject the interpretation of Scripture and tradition and refuse to be disenfranchised by the Church. ‘

    Applying the time-honoured method of comparison, if you substitute the word, ‘circumcision’ for ‘homosexuality’ and ‘Pharisees’ for ‘LGB&T’, you probably have something close to the official position of the Jews were adamant about imposing Mosaic observances on converted Gentiles and opposed the decision of the Council at Jerusalem. Both sides had understandable difficulties in arriving at a fair decision for the future of the Church.

    The competing claims regarding scriptural prohibitions on homosexuality are ‘hotly disputed ‘because they are thoughtful positions that offer mutual challenges to both sides of the debate. Bold, premature assertions (during the Listening Process) that the contrary interpretation is fatally flawed is not a great way to engage meaningfully with those who might oppose your views on the basis of scripture and tradition.

  6. Erika Baker says

    David
    “The competing claims regarding scriptural prohibitions on homosexuality are ‘hotly disputed ‘because they are thoughtful positions that offer mutual challenges to both sides of the debate.”

    That is no longer really the case. In the light of modern psychology, science, biblical exegisis (have you read Tobias Haller’s Reasonable and Holy I recommended?) and the actual witness of gay families, the extreme conservative view about homosexuality is not thoughtful at all. It is fast becoming deeply immoral and way past it’s sell-by date. It should not be accorded the slightest bit of respect.

    That’s not to say that, in time honoured fashion, we don’t love the anti-gay sinner although we hate their sins, of course.

  7. says

    Erika,

    I would hope that a wide variety of voices would participate in the Listening Process. not just easily swayed moderates.

    I would think that St. Paul accorded a measure of respect for the views of his most strenuous detractors. Perhaps, it was that sort of engagement that led to his own Damascus Road epiphany.

  8. Erika Baker says

    David,
    I too hope that a wide variety of voices would participate in the Listening Process. But as one whose life is being discussed, you cannot seriously expect me to respect the views of those who call me immoral and who state categorically that I disobey God, that I must be treated as a second class human. That is simply something I cannot do.
    I believe those views to be deeply harmful to people like me and I believe them to be deeply immoral.

    That does not mean that I am unwilling to talk to people and that I dislike or disrespect them as people. It just means that, on this particular issue, I believe them to be shockingly and damagingly wrong.

    I’d rather not speculate whether the person who ordered the execution of St Stephen met his strenuous distractors with respect – I think we’d lose ourselves in some pretty fanciful thinking if we went down that route.

    As far as I’m concerned, the listening process, like any constructive listening, is not designed to change people’s minds, but to facilitate a genuine encounter. Too often, we talk about people as though they were issues or just a collection of views that we agree or disagree with. We bludgeon each other with arguments that we lob into the ring and that are aimed at silencing the other, getting them to surrender to our own brilliance.

    The conversations you and I have had on Thinking Anglicans are ample proof that a genuine conversation is not about desperately trying to get the other to surrender to our own view. Rather, it is about learning to respect them as people, to see their full humanity and integrity. Because that’s the only way we can stop treating each other as if only our own view mattered, the only way to dissolve hatred and contempt. And without that, we’ll never solve any of the issues facing us.

  9. Dah•veed | Bro David says

    David S., it was Saul who had the Damascus Road experience, not St Paul. And Saul was on his “mission from God” to persecute (execute?) the Christian folks of Damascus. That is not the behavior of one who is accustomed to hearing out the other side.

    It took the Lord knocking Saul on his arrogant ass in the center lane of that dessert highway, while on that mission of hate, to bring about the change that you might be inclined to see in someone who had later become St Paul.

  10. says

    Bro David,

    As Saul, his violent behaviour was in marked contrast to the conduct of the Christians he sought to persecute. Christians who stood their ground, but offered gracious restraint and respect. As Peter said, ‘be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear’ (1 Pet. 3:15)

    My point is that a strenuous critic is more likely to be disarmed by respectful disagreement than by thoroughly dismissive contempt. Post-conversion, St. Paul said: ‘And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.’ (2 Tim. 2:24)

    What was he thinking, eh?

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