Lets begin at the beginning. Changing Attitude is a Christian organisation committed to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) people in the Anglican Communion. We believe LGB&T people are created by God and on whom God looks with tenderness and delight. God created human beings in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them … (Genesis 1.27-28). God saw all that he had made and it was very good … (Genesis 1.31).
We in Changing Attitude are members of the Church of God and we are committed followers of Jesus Christ who taught that the first and only commandment is to love God, neighbour and self with all your heart and soul (Luke 10.27). Do that, said Jesus, and you will have life. We are followers of Jesus in whom the text from Isaiah was fulfilled: ‘… to announce good news to the poor, to proclaim release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; to let the broken victims go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Luke 4.18,19).
The astonishing thing in the statement issued by Chris Sugden and Vinay Samuel about AMIE being a game-changer is that God doesn’t get a look-in until paragraph 9, and gets just that one mention – AMIE will follow the calling to mission wherever God leads. Even more astonishing for an organisation that claims the Biblical and theological high ground is that Jesus doesn’t get mentioned at all.
Chris and Vinay think there are many parallels for what is happening in the Anglican Communion with the Arab Spring. They have the audacity to equate a bishop’s refusal to say that he would teach that homosexual practice is a sin and the refusal of three young men to accept ordination from him with the actions of the tyrannical leaders of Egypt, Libya and Syria. The Bishop of Southwark is acting like Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Ghaddafi and Bashar al-Assad. This is such an extreme comparison and reveals how far AMIE and GAFCON have strayed from the teaching of Jesus and the nature of God revealed in Jesus’ life and teaching.
I know this is an audacious proposal, but I’d like to call Chris Sugden and Vinay Samuel back to the reading of the Bible and discover there a complex narrative of humankind’s experience of and relationship with the God who calls and reveals, tenderly, intimately, infinitely in love.
I’m reminded of the Ghanaian pastor on the All Africa radio programme 3 weeks ago who responded to my statement about the primacy of Jesus’ teaching in the Bible by telling me that the Gospels are just four books among 66 and the teaching of Jesus occupies only a small place in the whole of the Bible.
Chris Sugden and Vijay Samuel are devout Christians who seek to follow the teaching of Jesus as best they can. Something has got seriously out of kilter, however, if they seriously believe that actions of the Bishop of Southwark in the case of three young men who would not participate in the Church of England’s selection and training process can be equated with the action of abusive, murderous tyrants.
AMIE have now categorically said they will not play the game of Church of England politics as defined by the Church of England Establishment. If that statement is true, then as others have pointed out, Chris would immediately resign from General Synod and Bishop Wallace Benn would resign from his post at Lewes. I don’t expect either of them to take such action because AMIE has too much invested in power and authority and in their campaign to force the Church of England to adopt their narrow, sectarian, schismatic pattern of faith. It’s hard to call it Christian because I don’t think it has much to do with the pattern of Christ which those of us who are deemed heterodox by AMIE follow.