Thursday 28 January 2010

Anglican witch hunts

On Tuesday, Christina Beardsley concluded her post with the comment: “I am convinced, more than ever, that for those who favour the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Church of England the time for revolt has arrived.”

The necessity for revolt has become critical because the Church of England and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion are pursuing policies which persecute LGBT people and are contrary to the much-vaunted Anglican documents. The Church of England continues to take a stance towards her LGBT members and priests which is prejudiced and hostile. Ultimately this stance will be defeated. Either the church eradicates LGBT people from membership or grants us the same dignity as we now experience in UK society – there can no longer be a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, dishonest fudge.

I have two questions for the House of Bishops following Monday’s debate on the Equality Bill.

Why did they think the amendments debated on Monday were so important that 7 bishops and one archbishop were required to attend and vote? Were the Equality Bill amendments really that threatening to the church’s ability to discriminate against unwelcome categories of people? At least Lord Harries of Pentregarth, a patron of Changing Attitude, was present and voted against the decisive amendments. The collegiality of the House of Bishops is only allowed to fracture in retirement when bishops become free to express their true thoughts and vote in accordance with their principles.

Which brings me to my second question – are the present House of Bishops really of one mind on the Equality Bill? Are there not bishops who might have voted with Lord Harries, and if there are, why did none of them attend and vote on Monday? Were they intimidated by the strength of opinion of their more conservative, reactionary colleagues?

Changing Attitude hears rumours of witch hunts being conducted against gay male clergy in different dioceses from time to time. (Lesbian clergy are, of course, exempt from the homosexual obsession which characterises some male bishops.) Single male priests are asked about the status of other men living in Vicarages and clergy houses. Some have been asked directly whether they are engaged in a sexual relationship. Such bishops are not, of course, interested to know whether a priest might be involved in a loving relationship with another man, only whether a ‘genital relationship’ exists. Many bishops with whom I have very friendly encounters would be horrified at the idea that witch hunts are being conducted against gay Anglican priests, but they are already taking place.

Some of the bishops who were there on Monday knowingly ‘tolerate’ the presence of partnered gay clergy and laity in church employment or in leading worship, preaching and teaching. They are hypocrites. Other bishops may be naive or ignorant enough not to realise that some of their clergy and laity are gay and possibly partnered.

Bishops who follow the policy and teaching of the church to its logical conclusion engage in witch hunts and terrorise their clergy. In Uganda Anglican bishops support a Bill which threatens life imprisonment or the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which definition includes having sex with the same person on more than one occasion.

The mind of the House of Bishops is deeply, fatally compromised because bishops are unable to be honest with each other or even with themselves. They are driven by extreme opinions within the Anglican Communion, homophobic attitudes in Africa and bigoted lobby groups in the West – just read the threads on Stand Firm or accept the witness of my gay friends in Uganda who tell me that every Christmas sermon last year was preached against homosexuality and in favour of the Bill.

Changing Attitude continues to support lay and ordained Anglicans in private. Many of them are subjected to extreme treatment at the hands of the church and her bishops, including levels of prejudice and abuse which would never be tolerated in secular employment. We will continue to campaign for a church which changes its attitude towards LGBT people, from a witch hunting church to one which embraces loving, faithful lesbian and gay relationships. Meanwhile, let us be revolting! If you would like to campaign with us please become a supporter of Changing Attitude. We can only achieve a healthy, holy, loving church with your help.

1 comment:

  1. I'n not saying that I neccessarily agree with all that you say, but I really, really understand what you mean when you speak of Anglican witch-hunts.

    Some folks have gone over the top and become quite simply hard-hearted, brutal and unloving and they will use any means available to them to demand compliance from others, whilst at the same time trumpeting their own rights.