I’m grateful to Andrew Brown of the Guardian for alerting me to the subtlety of language in the legal opinion on civil partnerships. The note on the Equality Act was issued to General Synod members by William Fittall, Secretary General. It was prepared by the Legal Office in connection with episcopal appointments for members of Crown Nominations Commissions and diocesan bishops and their Advisory Groups.
As Andrew points out, it’s outrageous that the Legal Office ever thought it was acceptable to ask gay candidates whether they had been sexually active and if so, to publicly repent. No selection committee would ask straight candidates whether they had ever had pre-marital sex, and, if they had, whether they had expressed repentance for any previous pre-marital sexual activity. That’s obviously the result of deep institutional prejudice against gay people in certain sections of the church. Note that Mr Fittall’s fingerprints are on this document.
But the real point, says Andrew (the point that I missed) is found in the apparently balanced statements about disagreement.
“It is clear that a significant number of Anglicans, on grounds of strongly held religious conviction, believe that a Christian leader should not enter into a civil partnership, even if celibate … it is equally clear that many other Anglicans believe it is appropriate that clergy who are gay by orientation enter into civil partnerships.”
Conservative evangelical opinion is described as “strongly held religious conviction”. Liberals in contrast merely “believe it is appropriate.” What needs saying, loud and clear, says Andrew, is that the case for liberalism here is every bit as religious, and as theologically informed, as the case for the conservatives.
So, let’s say it on behalf of Changing Attitude. We hold to our convictions with deep, passionate, intellectual conviction. In the core of our being, the depths of our hearts and the prayerfulness of our souls, we tens of thousands of gay Christians together with the hundreds of thousands who are our friends, know the truth of our identity in Christ. We know (despite the best efforts of conservatives) that we are deeply, intimately and infinitely loved by God, as LGB&T people, because God has created us, just as we are.
The legal opinion is framed in the mindset of prejudice. It is written to satisfy a minority who haven’t yet worked out that God creates and loves gays and doesn’t want us healed or made ex-gay or falsely married.
Bishops, Archbishops, Church House Legal Staff, William Fittall – if you are reading this – the stance of the Church of England towards LGB&T people is intolerable. It’s not just out of touch with UK society, it is out of touch with God and with the witness of those of us who have been created healthily gay by God and called by God into ministry in the church, lay and ordained. Bishops and Archbishops don’t get it. Even those who are gay friendly compromise too easily.
The liberal, pro-gay majority of the Church of England are as deeply spiritual and religious and theologically informed as the conservative minority. We are passionate about the Kingdom of God and the mission and ministry of the church. We are responding to the Gospel and to a missionary call from God when we campaign for justice for women and LGB&T people and all who are marginalised and treated as inferior by the church.
Pressure for change is building up in the LGB&T Anglican community. We expect progress to be made this year, not sometime after 2013 when the bishops issue a consultation document.
Another period of consultation? No thanks. Come and consult us now, if you have the courage and the will – we know what we expect of the church and it isn’t more patronising attitudes – it’s a radical change of attitude.