‘One of gayest churches in Christendom’?

I think the phrase was the late Monica Furlong’s in a Church Times article where she lamented the fact that the Church of England was tearing itself apart yet again over homosexuality. There she argued, (if I remember rightly), that this was a particular tragedy, given that the Church of England was, in her opinion, one of the gayest churches in Christendom. Maybe other churches hold the actual title for the gayest church – I wouldn’t know – but Monica’s assertion was based on a detailed inside knowledge demonstrated in her book, The CofE: the State It’s In (2000) where she wrote:

‘When […] is the Church going to have the courage to celebrate the creativity of its homosexual members, who are more discriminated against than black people or women [Monica was a campaigner for women’s ordination] … Sometimes it seems as if the Church is the only body that cannot deal with homosexuality…’

What, one asks, have been the effects of such a negative culture of discrimination on the many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people who inhabit one of the gayest churches in Christendom? Silence has been the most obvious, as Diarmaid MacCulloch has noted in the second part of his Gifford Lectures, Silence: A Christian History. LGBTI people have been silenced. Not always, of course: some of us are very talkative! But the culture is still largely one of secrecy and this is hugely damaging for people’s souls.

When the secular culture was far less accepting than it is now, some churches were safe places for gay people; but while British society has become more tolerant in its attitudes, the leadership of the Church of England has appeared increasingly uncomfortable with, and now downright hostile to, the LGBTI people in its midst. That they might be presiding over one of the gayest churches in Christendom would probably be a horrifying thought, rather than, as Monica suggested, something to be proud of, and to celebrate, which is why, Changing Attitude, England, is proudly organising a celebration of the gifts of LGBTI people in the Church, under the title, Unadulterated Love. Do come and join us on Saturday 1st March. https://www.facebook.com/events/570782926330633/

The silence and the secrecy have to end, and the huge contribution of the LGBTI membership of the Church of England acknowledged and respected. Think about it: if we are one of the gayest churches in Christendom then we have a largely untapped resource of people to draw on who could change and transform the Church of England’s homophobic culture … almost overnight: if we wanted to. And we do, surely. As Monica wrote:

‘Change, of course, is inevitable. … Maybe not this year [that was 2000] or next year, but before too long, the Church is going to have to get up its nerve (and it is not in a bold frame of mind), and accord homosexuals full status in the church, because, like black people or women, they are increasingly refusing the meek and silent status enforced upon them.’

Well, you heard the lady: you are the people who can make the difference – no one else is likely to do this for you. This change is inevitable, but it will come sooner rather than later, if you play your part now. And it’s heartening to hear that people are mobilising, galvanised by the unacceptable pastoral guidance from the House of Bishops, published on Saturday morning, which tries to prevent clergy and ordinands from marrying a same sex partner. My, my, that was such a dumb move by the leadership of what is, possibly, one of the gayest churches in Christendom.


  1. evensongjunkie says

    When I hear the fresh voices of the Oxbridge Colleges singing evensong (via the many webcasts today), I think that they are the future of the CofE. And it breaks my heart that a disproportionate of them are certainly LGBT, and are singing their hearts out for a bunch of nasty old people that would wish them to go away. It is these old people that need to change, or go away.

    • Kate says

      By the time most of these singers turn 30, we will be in a completely different world: Andrew Brown rather gruesomely points out in the Guardian, that in a decade about half of all the Christians now in pews will be dead or nearly so, because the average age is just so high. And *if* a new generation choose to replace them, then we know from all the polls that they will be much more liberal – and probably too taken up with the realities of climate change to bother much with the culture wars. The worst case scenario is as you say: that all these young things will simply have walked by then, leaving behind a narrow and diminishing church.

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