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.