Church Times nails the challenge to homophobia in the Church

This week’s Church Times has an editorial about the new church guidelines on homophobic bullying in schools commending their existence as much as their content.

After years of clumsy official statements (e.g. Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998), it is good to read: “Pupils may justify homophobic bullying because: they think that homosexual people should be bullied because they believe homosexual people are ‘wrong’; they do not think that there is anything wrong in bullying someone because of their sexual orientation; they do not realise that it is bullying . . .”

Bullying is tightly defined by the report: insensitive use of language, direct abuse and physical harm.

But, says the Church Times leader, if the definition is widened to include discriminatory behaviour, persistent condemnation, and the scapegoating of equal marriage for “undermining” Christian marriage (unmarried cohabitation, divorce, and serial marriage being a few elephants in this room), surely the Church would find itself in detention.

Thank you, Church Times, for identifying the fundamental challenge faced by the Church of England, a challenge which the Archbishop is unable to see and the House of Bishops corporately unable to confront (although many bishops know their policies about LGBTI people in the Church are untenable).

Changing Attitude does more than find the Church in detention.

The use of the Bible to discriminate against LGBTI people is prejudiced and homophobic. The Pilling Report and the House of Bishops Guidelines on equal marriage, the inhibition on equal marriage for lesbian and gay clergy, the quadruple lock denying freedom to celebrate equal marriages in church, and the continuing conservative dogmatic against the full inclusion of LGBTI people in Church and society are all examples of homophobia in the Church.

Why treat adults this way, asks the Church Times. The Church of England urgently needs policies to replicate what we now have for schools. Instead we have Pilling, Facilitated Conversations, and yet more delay and appeasement.


  1. Jeremy Pemberton says

    Thank you, Colin. When discriminatory practices and attitudes that do harm to the lives of LGBT people are woven into the fabric of an institution, then I don’t think that appealing to tradition and religious conscience will exonerate the institution as a whole from the charge of insitutional homophobia.

    I know that that is a charge the authorities in our church want to avoid and which they vehemently deny. The authors of the report spent a whole chapter of Pilling telling us why we were not allowed to call “traditional” attitudes to homosexuality homophobic. I have to tell them that it is not their privilege to do that – they are welcome to their opinion, but, and this is particularly to the Bishop of Gloucester who tells us that gay people “must realise” that the church is not homophobic, the best arbiters of whether insitituions are homophobic, sexist or racist are gay people, women and black people respectively.

    The fact is that the negativity, diminution, double-think, double-speak and double standards that surround the way our church looks at this issue, and (much more importantly) the people who lie behind “the issue”, means that unless and until the Church of England as a whole admits how deeply homophobia is woven into the fabric of the institution then we will not be able to start to address it.

    In saying this I would want to include not just the obvious homophobia of those implacably opposed to making any space at the table for LGBT people, but also the self-hating internalised homophobia that has bedevilled the operation of the whole enormous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Ordinands, clergy, bishops, readers, congregations – everyone who has taken part in pretending that things were not as they have been, and in so doing have reinforced oppression. Because in not speaking the truth in love we have not allowed people to discover the freedom that is theirs in Christ, we have denied to parish churches the privilege of being places of truthful liberation and have made them become secretive covens, and we have emotionally crippled several generations of clergy and readers if they have (often out of a deep sense of vocation) been obliged to operate within the DADT policy. If that isn’t an example of what constitutes the institutionalization of a problem, then I don’t know what does.

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