The last four weeks have witnessed a dramatic change in the dynamic of the conflicts in the Anglican Communion. The Reflections on General Convention by the Archbishop of Canterbury and their elucidation by the Bishop of Durham have provoked a passionate reaction among Anglicans committed to truth, justice and inclusion. People are angry.
I am angry. Angry because of the language used. The Archbishop referred to ‘chosen lifestyle’ and Durham to ‘non-celibate homosexuals’, ‘homosexual instincts’ and ‘certain habits and styles of life’, language which I find provocative and offensive. Trying to be charitable, I can only assume the Archbishop’s paper was drafted by a member of staff whose natural instinct is to ally with the GAFCON/FOCA/ACNA axis and the Archbishop let the phrase stand.
I’m angry because of the disgraceful dishonesty which infects the Church of England. It is almost tedious to remind the church, bishops and archbishops included, that every diocese includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parishioners and priests, something they know (or should know) perfectly well. How dare they write as if LGBT people don’t exist here and are only present (problematically) in the North American Churches?
We are no longer invisible and neither are our partners. We LGBT Anglicans are present in General Synod, the House of Bishops and bishop’s staff meetings. Bishops lay hands on us and give us communion, appoint us, counsel us, take advice from us, anoint, heal and forgive us. How dare they write as if we don’t exist and are not fully present throughout the Church? We are a gift from God to the Church.
I’m angry because some of the conservative evangelical and anglo-catholic bloggers insidiously undermine the Church all the time by deceitful spinning. They poison the Church, damaging individual souls and the corporate body of the Church alike. They infect the Instruments of Communion - Primates, ACC meetings and Lambeth conferences with their own divisive views. I have witnessed the conservative lobby at work.
I am angry because some bishops in my Church, the Church of England, have bought into the lie about The Episcopal Church. They believe the lie that it has chosen to walk apart, torn the fabric of the Communion, and is alone responsible for the mess we are in. The reality is that The Episcopal Church has committed itself to walking together with the Communion. It is the ACNA/FOCA leaders who peddle the lie about the torn fabric. Indeed, their behaviour suggests that they delight in 'torn fabric'.
I am angry because English bishops prevaricate and hold the party line in public whilst partying with their LGBT brothers and sisters in private. Many of them offer wonderful, generous friendship and pastoral support and then, at critical moments, fail the test – deny couples a blessing in church, offer compromised support at times of sickness and distress, turn a blind eye and allow partnered LGBT lay people to preach and lead worship but refuse to grant licences.
I’m angry at the way the church's attitude to LGBT people undermines mission and evangelism. We are mired in controversy about something which no longer troubles British society. We are unfit for purpose as the Body of Christ at a time when society sees the church as less relevant than ever. I’m tired of the church wasting time, money and energy on something that can’t be resolved at present. The Church has to accept the diversity present within God’s people.
I’m angry because of the lies that are told about us, the smear campaign waged to link Changing Attitude’s work for the full inclusion of LGBT people with polyamoury, bestiality and sado-masochism. It’s an outrage being perpetrated by people claiming the moral, Christian high ground. They emphatically do not occupy it.
I’m angry because the small but significant LGBT Anglican minority is being asked to forgo progress towards full inclusion now. There are LGBT people in every Province, for goodness sake, some being persecuted, attacked and imprisoned because of their sexuality. It isn’t only LGBT people in the UK and North America who are paying the price.
We are not campaigning for schism or exclusion but for the Gospel of Jesus Christ which we live and proclaim and the God we love and worship. We have been too patient, too tolerant, too generous and understanding towards those who judge us unfairly. This month, the tipping point was reached. Our campaign for equality will become more vigorous and our defence of classic, Anglican, Christian values more assertive. Changing Attitude with our partner groups in the Rainbow Alliance are standing firm in the mainstream of Anglicanism.