Monday 21 December 2009

Facing fears, campaigning for global justice

There is an element of fear on many sides in the reactions of groups and individuals to the final draft of the Anglican Covenant. Conservatives fear that the Covenant is toothless, that it won’t do what they require, it will not provide a solution to their demands that the Communion conform to their version of tradition and orthodoxy and therefore discipline or exclude the Episcopal Church for consecrating one bishop who is partnered and gay, electing a partnered lesbian and continuing to develop liturgies to bless gay relationships.

Pro-LGBT, inclusive church groups and individuals fear the Covenant will, at worst, deny LGBT people ANY place in the church, and at a lesser extreme, prevent the church from engaging with the expectations of LGBT members of the Church of England for the foreseeable future. The process in which we have been engaged, of listening to and developing understanding of the place of LGBT people in God’s creation, becomes impossible under a Covenant which liberals fear will be used to inhibit the place of LGBT, restrict conversation and the development of honesty and integrity in the church. This is my fear.

None of the scenarios, none of the fears, may turn out to be accurate or justified. Most reactions to extreme scenarios turn out to be wrong, in hindsight. But the authority structures of the Communion, the newly-titled Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, indicate that the place of LGBT people is to be further inhibited and progress towards our full inclusion curtailed.

The safety, let alone the full inclusion, of LGBT Anglicans in Uganda and other African countries is to be sacrificed for an indeterminate period to satisfy the traditional prejudices of African culture and the claimed greater good of maintaining unity in the Anglican Communion.

LGBT advocacy groups such as Changing Attitude will continue to argue and work for the global Communion to recognise that we will not rest until the church welcomes and accepts us as we know ourselves to be welcomed, accepted, blessed and unconditionally loved by God. Many LGBT Anglicans do not believe themselves to be so loved by God, having been taught how much they are hated and despised by God and the church because the Bible says ....

We seem to be on a collision course with conservatives and the hierarchy of the Communion. Conservatives think they are heading for a collision but from the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, the Indaba listening process continues. The Communion is still committed to listening and to ‘Don’t Throw Stones’, the outworking of the commitment not to diminish, victimise or demonise LGBT people. These threads of hope continue to be worked out but are mostly invisible to the majority of LGBT Anglicans who are at present unaffected by them.

Meanwhile we confront the extreme challenge presented by the Ugandan, Rwandan and Nigerian Bills and the comparatively lesser problem of the Church of England opposition to the employment provisions of the Equality Bill.

The challenges faced by LGBT people on our different continents are totally different.

How can life be made safe for LGBT Africans living in intolerant cultures under punitive legal codes?
How can LGBT people in Africa be helped to find the confidence to come out, circle by circle, to become more visible, available for conversation?
How can African Anglicans be given a safe space to bring their experience and wisdom to the table – in their own dioceses and Provinces?

In England, how can we face the Church of England with the reality of LGBT ministry in its midst and help it become truthful and honest?
How can we open church buildings and free clergy to perform blessings of gay relationships?
How can we end the present discrimination against vocations to ministry for LGBT people?
How can we change the culture which inhibits the appointments system for LGBT ministry?
How can we encourage LGBT people to respond to their natural spirituality and the call of God in our lives?
How, above all, can we make the Church of England a safe and welcoming place for LGBT people and our families and friends?

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