Saturday 19 June 2010

The full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians is the most serious threat to the life of the Communion says Kenneth Kearon

Canon Kenneth Kearon met the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council on Friday and told them that in removing Episcopal Church members from some Anglican Communion ecumenical dialogues “the aim has not been to get at the Episcopal Church, but to find room for others to remain as well as enabling as full a participation as possible for the Episcopal Church within the communion.”

He said the church ought to have known that it would face sanctions when Mary Glasspool was ordained as the church’s second openly gay, partnered bishop. Asked about incursions by other provinces of the Communion he said such ongoing breaches of the moratorium on incursions do not rise to the same level of departure from the faith and order of the Communion as does the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Christians.

There you have it. We LGBT people are the problem that needs to be dealt with. With my brothers and sisters in North America, Africa, South America and Asia, I am the problem. My sexuality is the element that needs to be contained and suppressed by the Communion because I threaten its life.

Dr Rowan Williams, Canon Kenneth Kearon and conservative theologians, commentators and pressure groups are now united in having identified the single problem causing distress to the Communion and have focussed the problem on the Episcopal Church, it’s actions, theology and praxis. It’s an easy solution to pin all the blame on the actions of the Episcopal Church in consecrating two bishops who are in committed relationships with same-sex partners.

I want to broaden the scenario. It’s too easy to narrow the focus of blame. Historically, the failure started following the Lambeth Conference of 1978 when no action was taken on Resolution 10 and was repeated in 1988 when no action followed the passing of Resolution 64. It is the failure of the Communion to engage with the issue of homosexuality that is the precursor of the present problems.

My self-interest in wanting to survive as a gay Christian in a church that is becoming increasingly hostile to my presence holds that the guilt and responsibility for where we are now and the dynamics in relation to the Episcopal Church can be laid elsewhere. Why didn’t the Communion respond in 1987 and 1988? Were the powers-that-be too afraid to deal with homosexuality?

Much, much more critically, why was nothing done in the 7 years following Lambeth 1998 and the passing of Resolution 1.10? No Communion-wide response was started until Kenneth Kearon was in post as Secretary General. Those 7 years were critical and left a vacuum in which conservatives pursued a campaign against gays in the church and TEC elected Gene Robinson.

Blaming the Episcopal Church for breaking the rules now ignores, to my great distress, the abhorrent attitudes and behaviour towards LGBT people manifest in many Anglican Provinces and leaders. It is this that really outrages and incenses me and why I think the Communion is getting the debate so horribly wrong. Attention is focussed on rule-breaking by TEC but fails to hold Provinces, church leaders, bishops and primates to account for the bigotry and intolerance of LGBT people they express in the name of Christianity.

So we continue down the fateful path outlined by the Windsor Report and the Anglican Covenant, driven by conservative forces on the ground of upholding the plain meaning of the Bible, the unchallengeable historic teaching of the church and the unexamined prejudices of Christianity and human societies against LGBT people, sacrificing LGBT lives in the process.

In the shadow of the Anglican obsession with homosexuality are tens of thousands of people, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, who live as I lived in the 60s and 70s, in the closet, in hiding from parents and families, friends and peer groups, work colleagues, congregations and priests, in fear and sometimes with self-loathing. I talk with people across the globe every day who sometimes patiently, sometimes in an agonised outpouring of anguish, describe their lives to me.

And I know, calming myself down, that Continuing Indaba is being progressed, laying the foundations for a process of education through shared experience that will eventually lead to change.

But that does not exempt church leaders now from the charge of being so obsessed with this issue, with tradition and orthodox teaching, with judging and condemning a church which openly ordains partnered gay men and lesbians and blesses loving same-sex relationships, with imposing sanctions, that they lose sight of the sinful behaviour of the church in colluding with violence, oppression and injustice against an innocent, vulnerable minority. We are an easy target for bigots.

I know I am one of the few voices crying in a wilderness but what is happening in the Communion is an outrage. Technically, the Episcopal Church has broken specific rules in contravention of the moratoria. I can see that it’s easy to issue a guilty charge as the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General have done. I can see where this is leading and I’m frightened, not only for the safety of LGBT people but for the future of Christ-like witness in our Communion.

It’s much easier to issue sanctions against TEC than it is against Provinces who have transgressed the moratoria on boundary crossing. It’s not quite so easy to gather the evidence. It’s much easier to blame TEC than to challenge the behaviour of Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of Nigeria, who is waging a fight against homosexuality and called for Nigeria to withdraw from the UN because of its support for homosexuality. Isn’t this a contravention of the Windsor Report? But not of the three moratoria, so not actionable in the way consecrating a lesbian or gay bishop is.

Homosexuality has been made the defining issue by conservatives, not women priests or bishops, not polygamy, divorce or abortion, not abusive behaviour, power or corruption, not the survival of our planet, but the love people of the same sex have for each other, deemed by the majority in our Communion to be deviant and bringing the church into disrepute.

We are not the most serious threat to the life of the Communion, we are not in any way a threat but a gift and blessing.


  1. Stunningly bang-on. I am actually saddened and a little nervous at 'ringing' at a certain cathedral in SW England in a month's time. I think a canon there who has been trying to bridge the "gap" will certainly hear from me about this nonsense.

    I think it's time for a silent protest in front of Lambeth, not to mention perhaps a rainbow flag on our choirbooks.

  2. I'm with you, and I'm not ready to be consigned to the wilderness just yet. It is an outrage, and I don't believe a majority in the C of E want it.

  3. Thank you for speaking out, Colin.

  4. It is an outrage. The danger is that everyone is so tired of it all that they don't speak out. Thank you for expressing that outrage on behalf of all of us.