When the Guardian published Jeffrey John’s article marking the issue of a new edition of Permanent, Faithful, Stable two weeks ago, it edited out the God-stuff with which Jeffrey begins his new Preface to the book.
“Most human beings, heterosexual or homosexual, know instinctively that a framework of secure, lasting, covenanted commitment maximizes our chance of happiness and fulfillment. Almost all of us hope for someone who will be there for us, and who will stay with us ‘until death us do part’. From a specifically Christian point of view, this model of human loving is best not only for practical reasons, but because a covenant of this kind between two people, whether of the same or different sexes, is in the image of God’s own covenanted, constant love for us. It is sacramental because it helps make God’s own kind of love visible in the world.”
This is the essence; this is why Changing Attitude is campaigning for a changed Church; it’s about God first and the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Church as a consequence of God’s infinite love, a constant, covenanted, intimate, tender love.
This is what the Church doesn’t get – why prejudice against LGB&T people is so wrong and so painful for us. It’s wrong because God looked at creation and saw that it is good, God ‘so loved the world’ that he gave his Son to draw us into love. It’s painful for us because the Church tries to deny God’s equal love for us.
The Church of England’s line on homosexuality has hardened over the last decade, says Jeffrey.
“The Church of England has refused to countenance any form of official liturgical recognition for civil partnerships; has sought special exemptions from human rights and equalities legislation in order to continue discriminating against openly gay clergy or gay employees; has repeatedly restated its condemnation of all sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage; and has formally debarred even celibate gay clergy from becoming bishops. Most recently the bishops of the Church of England have set themselves hard against government proposals to extend civil marriage to include same-sex couples.”
And all this when Rowan Williams has been Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan, who had previously written that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage.
“The chief motive for this regression is not any principled or consistent conviction about the wrongfulness of gay relationships. On the contrary, in private discussion and pastoral practice the majority of bishops, including both the present and last Archbishop of Canterbury, have been personally supportive of gay relationships, and eager to say so. Their opposition to equal treatment is a public and political stance which is intended to maintain ecclesiastical unity, particularly within the Anglican Communion.”
“For the mission of the Church of England the present policy is a disaster.”
“Fearful of the very large number of gay clergy and bishops in its own ranks, the Church’s employment and disciplinary practices regularly punish the truthful and reward the deceitful. Not only gay people are repelled by all this: many more people of straightforward goodwill who instinctively expect the Church to uphold justice and truth, are scandalized when it so obviously does not.”
I’ve quoted enough. If you haven’t yet, buy yourself a copy of the latest edition of Permanent, Faithful, Stable. Buy two copies and send one to your bishop, highlighting relevant passages first!
We are Christians because we have been called by the tender, subtle, infinite love of the Creator, not because we believe in fitting in with Church rules and traditional teaching and obedience to hierarchies who, as Jeffrey accurately says, punish the truthful and reward the deceitful.
Changing Attitude plans to engage the bishops, all 114 bishops, gay and in particular over the next four months leading up to the House of Bishops meeting in December. There will be pressure on the bishops at that meeting to accept the reports of both Review Groups; Sodor and Man and Pilling. An Archbishop about to retire will want to do so having made a breakthrough in Anglican attitudes to same-sex relationships.
Changing Attitude yearns for a Church of England with a heart open to God and love.