Thursday, 17 February 2011

Changing Attitude England’s campaign for civil partnerships to be held in Church of England churches.

Changing Attitude England welcomes today’s government announcement that it plans to remove the ban in England and Wales on civil partnership registrations being held on religious premises. Changing Attitude expects to be involved in the public consultation on the detail of the changes to be made before the new arrangements are implemented.

Changing Attitude will now campaign more directly for the Church of England to allow civil partnerships and the blessing of same-sex relationships to be celebrated in church buildings. The trustees are already formulating the details of our campaign and we invite all who are working and praying for our Church to become fully inclusive of and welcoming to LGBT people to support the campaign by becoming a supporter of Changing Attitude or sending a donation. We are going to need all the resources, practical and financial, that we can muster.

Church House and a number of conservative Christian lobby groups have already issued negative statements about the government proposal, statements which misrepresent the reality of life in the Church and the careful proposals being made by the government.

The Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, issued a statement “on behalf of the Church of England”. On whose behalf was it issued? It wasn’t issued on behalf of the tens of thousands of Anglicans who support the blessing of same-sex relationships in church.

The statement says the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships. This is absolutely not true. Changing Attitude knows that about 50% of diocesan bishops have either actively encouraged lesbian and gay clergy to enter a civil partnership or deliberately ignored those who do and have taken no action against them. Blessings of civil partnerships in church, sometimes with the formal permission of the Parochial Church Council, take place routinely in England. The House of Bishops has not been consistently clear. It is colluding in a state of affairs in which many bishops dissent from their agreed pastoral statement. Changing Attitude will be asking the House of Bishops to research the numbers of licensed lesbian and gay clergy who have contracted a civil partnership and those who have blessed same-sex relationships.

The Church House statement says there may be a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths. It says change could only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured. Lesbian and gay members of the Church of England, our friends, families and congregations, are also among those seeking freedom – the freedom to have relationships blessed by God in our parish churches.

The government recognises the place of individual conscience and says the provision will be permissive and religious organisations that do not wish to host civil partnerships will not be required to do so.

Anglican Mainstream has issued a statement containing deliberate misinformation. The policy of issuing false information followed by the conservative evangelical lobby groups is something that we will monitor and challenge as our campaign develops.

Anglican Mainstream claims that “public figures have been terrified to be seen as ‘anti-gay’, hence their unwillingness to discuss and debate LGBT issues. Moreover, many are relatively ignorant, and as the subject matter is not everyone’s ‘thing’, they have neither known nor been too curious to find out.” This is far from the truth, a deliberately constructed lie. I don’t know any public figures who are terrified to be seen as anti-gay. If there are politicians and public figures who are anti-gay or who are ignorant of the experience of LGBT people in our society, they should rightly be ashamed of their prejudice and ignorance.

Anglican Mainstream says the state is claiming the right to dictate morality and the gay religious lobby is using the government and sympathetic quasi-Christian groups to do its bidding. That comes as news to Changing Attitude (and who are these quasi-Christian groups?). Mainstream says that being ‘gay’ is now perceived like being ‘black’ etc. Yes, it is – prejudice against LGBT people in our society is now seen for what it is – prejudice. Mainstream claims that complete ‘gayification’ of religion, including the CoE, is on the cards. That isn’t part of Changing Attitude’s aims and objectives. We simply want a Church in which we are free to pray, worship and love faithfully.

Anglican Mainstream then raises all the old canards - the damage of gay marriage on children; members of other sexual minorities whose demand for rights actually place in question the legitimacy of the LGBT agenda; public health issues; and the significant loss of religious liberty.

The Christian Institute, Christian Concern and Reform are also concerned to protect themselves against the possibility, now and in the future, of any kind of legal action being brought against churches which conscientiously disagree with civil partnerships because permission often turns rapidly into coercion. They list faith-based adoption agencies, Christian marriage registrars and Christian B & B owners as examples of those who have been coerced as a result of legislation.

Christians who are committed to ending the injustice perpetrated by Churches against their LGBT members don’t want coercive legislation. We want to be given the freedom, the space, in which our Christian lives and ministries can flourish, space where we can celebrate in church with our friends the life commitment we make with our partners, in love and prayer.

Colin Coward

Monday, 14 February 2011

Civil Partnerships and Gay Marriage in church - yes, we want it NOW!

St Valentine’s Day is a good day on which to welcome the leaked news that later this week the government is expected to announce full marriage equality for gays and lesbians under reforms to the marriage law as well as allowing civil partnerships to be held in religious buildings.

Changing Attitude England has been involved in consultations with the government that tested public and LGBT opinion before the decision was made. We will now campaign vigorously for the Church of England to adopt the changes being proposed by the government, open Church of England doors to welcome gay marriages and civil partnerships and grant clergy persons the freedom to preside over and register them.

The Archbishop of York has other ideas. He says he “believes in a liberal democracy, and actually wants equality with everybody,” but the Church of England does not support the introduction of gay marriages or civil partnerships being held in churches. Sadly, Sentamu doesn't want equality for LGBT Christians.

A Church of England spokesman said: “Given the Church’s view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships.” He said the change will “lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths. Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured.”

Here’s the arrogant Church of England again, claiming the right to oppose equality legislation and gay marriage in church on the grounds that it is protecting all other denominations.

LGBT Anglicans and our families and friends want this change enacted as much as our friends in the Quakers, Unitarians and in Liberal Judaism. The spokesperson doesn’t speak for us but for a controlling and unrepresentative minority at the centre of church affairs. He doesn’t even speak for the House of Bishops but for their mythic Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships, observed as much in the breach.

The argument against change has become untenable in the church. Last week at General Synod I learnt of yet another bishop who has encouraged a priest to contract a civil partnership to provide both him and his partner with the appropriate emotional and legal security that partnerships can provide.

We know what church spokesmen say about the House of Bishops and it’s a fantasy. The House of Bishops is not clear. It is deeply divided and dishonest. It is impossible for bishops to speak the truth to one another. This dishonesty seeps into national church life and affects LGBT Anglicans and clergy. In practice the majority of bishops affirm LGBT people to the extent of knowingly approving blessings and civil partnerships. The rest are still blissfully and dangerously ignorant of the LGBT clergy in their diocese or act dishonestly – the Archbishop of York being a prime example.

I took part in an interview on this morning’s Radio4 Today programme with Rod Thomas, chair of Reform. As one friend commented, I’m not sure he and I were answering the same questions! The card which Reform, Anglican Mainstream, Forward in Faith (home to so many closet gays), and other conservative groups are going to play is the inequality of the proposals.

Rod claims that if a right is given for anything to happen, perverse consequences follow as we are discovering in Europe. I’m not sure what it is that’s happening in Europe that makes Rod so anxious. The crux for him is that the legislation that will have vicars up before the courts. They will have to permit gay weddings and civil partnerships to take place even if they are against it. It’s unfair, you see, as the Bed & Breakfast and Christian Registrar cases show – Christians are now the victims of legal and social change.

Rod then played the numbers card. There were 6000 civil partnerships last year and 250,000 marriages. There are fewer civil partnerships and plenty of places where they can now take place, so why add church buildings as a venue? Why? - because many LGBT Christians want to get married and contract civil partnerships in church, Rod, that’s why. Reform doesn’t represent the whole Christian community. It represents a set of very theologically-minded Christians for whom the Bible is the sole source of authority.

We will have to wait and see how permissive the proposed legislation is when it is published. A Whitehall source told the Sunday Times: “This is not just about gay rights but about religious freedom. Quakers and liberal Judaism want to do this. Attitudes have changed to gay marriage. We are going to look at what legislative steps we could begin to make gay marriage possible.”

Exactly, it’s about religious freedom, and we who are Anglicans and part of the Changing Attitude network want the freedom to celebrate our love and relationships in church – legally and without fear of being judged and condemned.

My guess is that not all churches will be forced to host civil partnership ceremonies under the legislation and individual priests will be free to refuse to conduct such ceremonies, just as they can decline to marry divorced people. But I hope all Church of England buildings will become available for civil partnerships.

The Changing Attitude trustees meet next Saturday in Derby and our campaign for equality, truth and justice in the Church of England for LGBT people will be a major focus of our discussions. To enable us to campaign effectively for change in General Synod and the House of Bishops, please send a donation or become a supporter of Changing Attitude right now!

Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude England

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The murder of David Kato – Michael Kimindu of CA Kenya writes an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Archbishop Williams,

Happy New Year, may God endow you with wisdom to lead
the people of God in the Anglican Communion and globally.

I take this opportunity to thank you for adding your voice to the call for an end to homophobia and bigotry, the result of which may have contributed to the death of our brother David Kato. The death of David and the root cause may not lie in the position held by the Church of Uganda alone.

Since 2009, missionaries of hate and homophobia especially from USA have been spreading false teachings and interpretations on some selected texts of the Bible to some Charismatic Pentecostal believers, the results of which include the Bahati Anti-Homosexual Bill. Ignorance of the holistic interpretation of Scripture on the part of these missionaries of hate and their converts is much to blame.

These missionaries take advantage of the poverty affecting most of their followers, who are vulnerable, enticing them with money. Some of those confessing healing from homosexuality are heterosexuals who are simply after money. Homosexuality, like HIV/AIDS, has attracted large interest from people who see it as a way of getting rich. Even well meaning allies are accused of being affirming for the sake of money from the USA and EU Countries.

Personally, I have been involved in LGBTI advocacy for the last 7 years. I was at the last Lambeth Conference as part of the Voices of Witness Africa and I am the Coordinator for Other Sheep East Africa. David Kato, an Anglican, was part of Other Sheep Chapter Uganda.

Your Grace, homophobia in Africa cannot be fought by one denomination let alone one religion. It is time now for the Ecumenical Movement to take a step towards the concerted effort to fight homophobia. Leaving every member denomination to have their own position is not helpful. How many people are enough to wake up the WCC to action?

Christians alone will not win, Interfaith cooperation is necessary, and even then non-religious communities have to be included in this campaign. You have heard the false claim that homosexuality is imported from Europe and America. Africans do not formally talk about human sexuality including same-sex even when they come across it. They know sexual acts of all forms take place, but bury their heads like the proverbial ostrich.

If we are to save Africa, homophobia will have to be fought from all fronts, but the army must be united. Deliberate disunity among early missionaries succeeded in dividing the people hence creating suspicions which haunt us to this day. Homosexuals are homosexuals whatever religion or culture.

It is my plea to you and those in a similar position to think of new approaches in the fight against homophobia.

Poverty eradication should not be left out as a strategy in fighting homophobia. So is holistic theological training in our theological Institutions. Time is now to embrace Jesus' teaching on the importance of LETTING THE TARES TO GROW WITH THE WHEAT.

My last point to Your Grace is for the fight against homophobia in Africa to be led by an African Human Resource to avoid the claim that the West is imposing homosexuality on Africa.

I hope you will find some of these ideas useful.

Your obedient servant,

Rev. Michael Nzuki Kimindu, Anglican Priest
Changing Attitude Kenya contact
Coordinator for Other Sheep, East Africa
MCC Licensed, but Anglican flesh and blood

To enable Michael to develop his work with Changing Attitude and Other Sheep in Kenya, please send a donation or become a supporter. The time for action is now and the need is urgent.