Poison spreads in the Anglican Communion as conference describes homosexuals as lepers who spread a disease of epic proportions and malignancy in the Church

A poison has been spreading in the Anglican Communion since the publication of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality in February 1997 by the second Anglican Encounter in the South. It was a statement about the Bible, homosexuality, the ordination of practising homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions. Its target was the Episcopal Church of the USA. It found no conflict between clear biblical teaching and sensitive pastoral care. It planted the poisonous seed which has resulted in schismatic threats, abuse, and support for legislation which attacks the core human dignity and rights of LGB&T people.

Baroness O’Caithain’s amendment

Let’s keep the real poison until later. So, yesterday an attempt to add another poisonous ingredient of prejudice against LGB&T people in the UK was defeated, thank goodness. The amendment to the bill to block civil partnerships in religious buildings introduced by Baroness O’Caithin was withdrawn. The Bishop of Oxford spoke against her amendment, thanks to God. The defeat was one small victory against prejudice and poison.

Radio 4 profile of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Also yesterday, I went to the BBC Swindon studios to record an interview for a profile of the Archbishop of Canterbury to be broadcast by Radio 4 at 7pm on Christmas Eve. They asked me because they wanted someone willing to bring a more critical voice. You’ll have to wait for the programme to hear what I said, but I am more directly critical now of +Rowan’s failure to be more confident about his theology of human sexuality and to have been more prophetic in challenging the poisonous spread of the evil which is homophobia, fuelled by Biblical fundamentalism and the so-called Global South axis.

Homosexuality and the Life of the Church: The Lepers Among us

This is the title of a book and a conference being held in London on Friday 29 January 2012 at Emmanuel Centre in London. Jim Reynolds, author, will consider compassionate ways of ministering to same sex attracted believers, those who struggle with same sex sins. Same sex sin, says the flier, is a disease of epic proportions, a malignancy spreading through the church.

Yesterday I realised how outraged and angry I felt at the use of the word leprosy in this context. It is foul, and undermines my identity and sense of self and well-being. It’s an attack on the core of my being.

If the conference were likening Jews to lepers (as indeed the Third Reich propaganda specifically did) there would be an absolute outcry, and I suspect legal action. Well, Changing Attitude has asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate because we believe the conference organisers are guilty of a hate crime.

One of the CA National Trustees who is a lecturer in law sent the flyer to a contact in the police force asking whether it breached hate crime laws. They concurred and have logged the complaint as a hate incident (which may or may not be a criminal offence). The key definition is that an incident should be ‘perceived by the victim, or any other person to be racist, homophobic, transphobic or due to a person’s religion, belief, gender identity or disability’.

The conference is sponsored by Core Issues Trust, which believes that celibacy is the only option, homosexual acts being forbidden by the Bible. Two members of the Trust’s Council of Reference are Canon Chris Sugden and Andrea Minichiello Williams, both members of General Synod. Both campaign in Synod on an anti-gay platform, building on the campaign started nearly15 years ago in Kuala Lumpur.

There has been a reluctance in the Anglican Communion to name the poison for what it is – evil – a prejudice that puts the lives of thousands of LGB&T people at risk and causes misery for millions. It is manifest in the Church of Nigeria’s active support for the current anti-same gender marriage act. It is manifest in the campaigns of Anglican Mainstream, the Christian Institute, the American conservative lobby groups and schismatic churches in North America.

It’s time to campaign vigorously for appropriate pastoral and liturgical provision for LGB&T people in the Church of England and the world-wide Communion. It’s time to campaign vigorously for an end to abuse, prejudice and homophobia. We urgently need resources for our campaign. Please click on the donate button below and send a donation or even better, become a supporter.

If you would like to report the flyer and conference to the Metropolitan Police, you can do so online: http://www.met.police.uk/csu/hatecrime.htm.


  1. Ali Wearing says

    Thanks for this Colin, I’ve posted a link to our LBGT discussion board at work. However, it might be helpful to see the offending flyer?
    God bless


  2. Noble Charles says

    Considering the present situation in Nigeria, Am supporting the campaign and I would love to thank Collins Coward for all his contribution towards the right of the LGBT pepole.

  3. Laurence C. says

    “It is foul, and undermines my identity and sense of self and well-being”

    I agree, it is foul. I hope, however, that it has only attempted to undermine your identity and sense of self and has not succeeded in any way – it is beneath contempt. Kind regards, Laurence

  4. Raphael Wong says

    Hmm … perhaps read the *full text* of the declaration first before succumbing to anger and rage? Oh that’s right, Anger also happens to be one of the seven deadly sins, and there’s so much of it in this article…

    If Jews were associated to lepers, the legal action would still have to go through many hoops. After all, there are many sorts of “associations” to be made. Surely, someone who said that “Jews today are discriminated like lepers in the 1st century” can’t properly be charged with a hate-crime? That is also an association, after all.

    • Deb says

      TONY: Jim Reynolds is senior pastor for Lake Highlands Church, a non-denominational charismatic evangelical church located in the Dallas, Texas suburb of Lake Highlands. Its roots are from the Church of Christ, part of the Stone-Campbell Movement evolving from the American Restoration Movement.

      Having grown up in the Church of Christ and being a former member later of Lake Highlands Church I can definitively tell you that neither bears any semblance to the Anglican Church. Lake Highlands Church might be considered very liberal and tolerant within the context and spectrum of the Churches of Christ (from which it famously broke away from) in the state of Texas and the American Bible Belt, but not the Anglican Church (although its building is next to St James Episcopal Church).

      Hope this helps! (I have been an Anglican in the UK for some time now.)

      Peace and joy.


      (After all the debates I heard, I like their explanation of how they FINALLY felt led to change their name.)


      • Deb says

        (I now realise how late my comments come in light of the others posted in December. OOPS!)

        Please do note that the conference poster was poorly worded. As well, the title of Jim’s book reflects more many of the American church-going audience’s attitude towards the LGBT community in the USA.

        Jim himself is no stranger to controversy and if you were to give him a fair hearing you might even find he is quite likeable. He is a compassionate man and a good listener. Though fervent in his convictions, he is known for being able to lovingly ‘agree to disagree’. Lake Highland Church has always been regarded as a ‘safe’ church to attend for those who feel marginalised in expressing their faith.

        Many conservative evangelical leaders from Jim’s background and in his geographical area are not even willing to openly discuss how their churches treat the LGBT community. They run away from dialogue. That is one thing Jim has never run from. You will find he openly embraces dialogue with intelligence and compassion. Even if you might not agree with everything he says you will walk away with some admiration for the guy and feeling inspirationally provoked. 🙂

        In peace

  5. Laurence C. says

    “Same sex sin, says the flier, is a disease of epic proportions, a malignancy spreading through the church.” Colin Coward

    Here is the relevant section of the flier, copied and pasted from the Anglican Manstream website:

    “Failure to live out the reality of Jesus Christ’s presence in the common life of the church with those who struggle with same sex sins is a disease of epic proportions, a malignancy that spreads throughout the Body”

    If you look at the structure of this sentence carefully, it says that it is the “Failure to live out etc.” that is being described as “a disease of epic proportions” and “a malignancy” and NOT same sex “sin” that is being described as those things.


    • Changing Attitude says

      Hi Lawrence,

      You are, of course, right about the wording of the flier. If “same sex sin” didn’t come in the middle of the sentence, I might have read the whole more carefully and applied the disease of epic proportions not to my own sexual identity but to the failure of the church.

      I agree with Jim Reynolds that there is a disease of epic proportions, a malignancy spreading trhough the church, that is the result of the failure to live out the reality of Jesus Christ’s presence. Same sex sin is the phrase used in this sentence. The title of the conference is The Lepers Among Us: Homosexuality and the life of the church. It might have been “human sexuality and the life of the church” or “hetersoexuality and the life of the church” but it isn’t. It’s about homosexuality.

      The disease and malignancy which I see spreading through the church is on the one side, prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people which often makes its presence felt in extreme homophobia – support by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) for the anti-same gender marriage bill, for instance, support which extends to conservative groups in the UK and North America.

      On the other side, the disease is a failure of the church to be captured by the infinite and intimate tender, generous, self-giving love of God and the transformation of the human imagination which has been taking place over the last decades and the last century.

      There are further grounds for suspicion that the conference is more about sinful homosexuals than the “other diseases” the flier refers to which are “not so easily identifiable”. Sexual sin is sexual sin, and the majority who are guilty of sexual sin are heterosexuals. They are not in the frame according to the conference programme. Another reason to be suspicious of the conference intentions is the presence of Lisa Nolland, Canon Chris Sugden and Andrea Minichiello Williams, all of whom are arguing for “biblical standards” to be applied to homosexuals. This means no intimacy, no sex, no mutual, loving, sexually fulfilling relationships and the belief that homosexuality as an identity doesn’t exist. Reparative therapy is therefore the answer, to contain homosexual lust or convert to heterosexuality.

      If Lisa, Chris and Andrea are fully committed to the ethos and agenda of Core Issues Trust, then they would be vehemently opposed to anti-homosexual legislation, woulf not oppose permissive legislation to enable lesbian and gay couples to affirm their fidelity in church and would be putting their time and energy into building relationships with Changing Attitude, LGCM and the LGB&T Anglican Coalition.


  6. Brent says

    The speech is ugly, but speech should be countered by better speech, not criminal prosecution. Here in the U.S. we have extremely broad protections of speech, protected by our constitution’s First Amendment. Our speech, our reliance on rational argumentation, has produced greater and greater social acceptance and legal protections for groups previously marginalized. Appeal to the minds of men and women, not their fear of Big Brother. If you allow the government to suppress speech it considers dangerous, tomorrow your speech may be the crime.

  7. Erika Baker says

    These people remind me more and more of those little huddles of religious people with sandwich boards telling everyone that the end of the world is night.
    I don’t like what they do either, but I can’t bring myself to be outraged by this childishness.
    The only ones who will be influenced by this nonsense are the ones who already hold those beliefs, most people are thoroughly fed up with this demonising of gay peeple and will either laugh or ignore it.
    Which is really all it deserves.

    The Church of England, of course, will eventually collapse under the venom. It should stand up and speak out if it wants to survive in our more enlightened society.

  8. Barry says

    Well said, Deb. It should be obvious now that the concerns about “gay-bashing” were unfounded in the case of Dr. Reynolds. Many who were dubious of him came away from the conference with renewed hope and even requesting an autographed copy of his book. Jim Reynolds is a compassionate man who reflects the teachings of Jesus in his life. This is a very positive development for all.

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