LGB&T lives become a public battle ground once again

Being a gay man, a gay Christian and a gay Christian activist feel very uncomfortable identities this morning. Yet again, matters affecting my identity and my freedom to be the person God has created me to be are being fought over in public in the most intense way. Many of the arguments against making a further radical change to the status of lesbian and gay people in our society are being advocated by people who have no idea what it is like and has been like for the whole of my life to live under a cloud of prejudice and discrimination.

I am angry with the Church of England’s spokespeople (nothing new there) who continue to issue statements about LGB&T people AND wilfully ignore what they know about us from personal experience. The Church of England continues to oppose the Bill as if the Church of England in its entirety was indeed opposed.

Church of England Briefing Note

The Parliamentary Unit, Mission and Public Affairs Division and Legal Office of the Church of England, at Church House, Westminster has issued a press release and briefing note. The Church of England cannot support the Bill, it says, “because of its concern for the uncertain and unforeseen consequences for wider society and the common good, when marriage is redefined in gender-neutral terms.” Well, friends at Church House, that statement begs an awful lot of questions. I am a member of the Church of England and I support the Bill. Where is the nuance in your statement that allows for dissenting views, not from the majority, but from “the Church of England says”?

The briefing note deals with three issues: teachers and guidance to schools; freedom of speech and conscience clauses; opposite sex civil partnerships.

Not all LGB&T Anglicans support equal marriage. Changing Attitude England is committed to support the equal marriage bill because it will open marriage to those lesbian and gay couples who believe their relationships to be equal in quality and status to heterosexual marriage.

Many members of the Church of England support equal marriage. They have never been consulted about their views – the CofE isn’t a democracy. We are a Church episcopally-led and synodically-governed.

The debate on women in the episcopate last November and the inability of the House of Bishops and the two Archbishops to prepare the ground for a successful vote shows the difficulty of achieving a common mind in the Church. Opponents think the failure of the measure demonstrated

Neither the House of Bishops nor the General Synod are able to reflect on what God through the indwelling Spirit and the prophetic ministry of Jesus Christ might be communicating to the Church through the experience of deeply spiritual LGB&T Anglicans. That’s something I’ve blogged about a lot and will return to later.

Wrecking attempts in Parliament

One of the amendments tabled for today’s debate in Parliament seeks to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. It has been tabled by Tim Loughton the former children’s minister who opposes gay marriage and is clearly designed to wreck the Bill.

The Labour Party can ensure the passage of the Bill today by voting with the Government. Labour supports equal marriage. But party needs might trump the commitment to equality. We will find out later when the vote takes place.

It’s enervating to have the loving, healthy, creative, often deeply spiritual lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people being fought over once again by Church and State. This is how democracy works. Campaigns for change and justice are often hard-fought. When will the Church of England side with us rather than with those who, on the basis of tradition, oppose our full inclusion?


  1. Laurence Cunnington says

    Another fact-lite Henny Penny pronouncement from the CoE Head Office types. But four cheers for the Bishop of Buckingham who, on another site, made the point that it is impossible to have “concern for…unforeseen consequences” when, by definition, no-one can foresee what they will be.

  2. Kate says

    Reading this in the light of Andrew Brown’s killer piece in the G yesterday about the collapse of support for the Church in the last decade (esp among 20 somethings where 25% have defected). Was particularly struck by:

    “Yet this may not have been inevitable. What is extraordinary is the tally of advantages the Church of England has failed to capitalise upon. Its considerable social reach, its schools, and its place in civic and political life, none of them have seemed to make it convincing. It is not even convincing from the inside: a friend of mine in his early 40s, who has worked at Lambeth Palace and now has a good chaplaincy, says people of his generation are all as cynical about the organisation as the party members were in the last days of the USSR. They know that all the official stories are lies, and are waiting and hoping for some Gorbachev-like figure who will admit this.”

    Meanwhile over on Twitter @BishopMark1 is tweeting comfortably: “Confirmed over 80 people @durhamcathedral wonderfully organised by an amazing Precentor. Rumours of Church’s death a tad exaggerated?” – which is surely an 120 character masterclass in squinting at the bit you want to see (and ignoring the multi-million pound comprehensive census that you don’t want to see). 80 people? Well it must all be fine then.

    The latest press release on gay marriage is just another restatement of the usual – ‘the corn yields in Siberia have been sabotaged by enemies of the revolution!’ But it’s hard to believe that anyone’s taking much notice of this.

    Fingers very firmly crossed that the gay marriage bill is not wrecked – quite apart from anything else, if it is, it increases the chances of another couple of years of reality avoidance from Church House.

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