Friday 31 December 2010

Changing attitudes in Africa in 2011

Changing Attitude has a small foothold, a presence, in three African countries. In Nigeria, Uche was appointed Director earlier this year to succeed Davis Mac-Iyalla. He is working with a small group to reactivate the local groups and plan for change in 2011. In Kenya, Michael Kimindu is making connections with bishops and with groups like the Mother’s Union in dioceses, inviting them to listen to LGBT Kenyans. The group around him in Nairobi continue to meet for worship. In Ghana, Richard is leading a group of gay Christians who meet twice a week in Accra, encouraging them to be confident in their faith and their commitment to Christ and the church as gay Christians.

These are small beginnings in a huge continent where attitudes to human sexuality are beset by prejudice, hostility and unexamined beliefs. British colonial law and C19th theology and Christian teaching are the foundation underlying African attitudes to homosexuality.

The search for love
The rapid spread of mobile phones and access to the internet across Africa in the last decade is transforming the awareness of LGBT people, most of whom are under 30. Ten years ago, young gay Africans began to discover gay dating sites such as gaydar and manjam. Many still access these sites but are repeatedly disappointed by their failure to meet the man of their dreams. What they repeatedly tell me is that all the other guys want is sex, revealing that what many also seek is love, a relationship, commitment, someone who will take them and respect them. These are elusive ideals in reality for LGBT Africans.

Their frustration and inability to connect with others who share their desire to meet a life partner has begun to change, however, in the last two years, thanks to Facebook. There are now thousands of LGBT Nigerians and tens of thousands of LGBT Africans with profiles on Facebook. They are increasingly confident in indicating their sexuality on their profiles – ‘interested in men and women, relationship status complicated’.

Young LGBT Africans are becoming more confident, posting pictures of their real selves (though many, to protect themselves, still post pictures from dating sites, or of gay icons, or avoid pictures altogether). The more adventurous and confident post pictures taken with gay friends or a partner or of themselves in camp poses. It has become much easier for those with internet access and a Facebook profile to meet other LGBT people in their locality, in safety online and with greater safety face to face (blackmail is a common feature on gay dating sites).

Loving relationships become a reality
The result of this access to real people, online, who can get to know as you chat with them in real time, watch them on a web cam, and then arrange to meet for a date is that the loving relationships that young gay Africans have dreamed of are becoming a reality in their lives – potentially permanent, faithful, stable, loving relationships. Older generations complied with powerful social and family obligations by marrying and having children while discretely having a same-sex lover as an adjunct to the marriage. The new generation is not following the same, dishonest, damaging path.

They have access to information about gay rights in the west, marriage equality, civil partnerships and the undreamt of levels of freedom we enjoy in society if not yet in our churches. They long for the freedom we enjoy to live openly and inevitably, many of them dream of escaping to the west because change in the entrenched African culture of intense prejudice and violence against LGBT people seems an impossible dream.

Despite that, some Nigerians are reporting a growth of tolerance in some parts of Nigerian society and the opening of social space where LGBT people have more freedom to reveal their identity. But the huge majority remain hidden, meeting other LGBT people clandestinely.

The desperate need for change
Tens of thousands of LGBT Africans are desperate for change. Africa is sitting on a hidden reality, millions of LGBT people, with a growing confidence in their identity, engaging with each other online and their networks of friends, but hidden from their families, school mates, straight friends, and of course, in their churches. African bishops, priests and congregations have no idea how many LGBT people worship alongside them every Sunday.

Change has to happen and will happen, but how, and when? This is the question I am raising with the leaders in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria and with other African LGBT leaders for whom the question and the challenge is becoming increasingly insistent.

Colin Coward

To enable Changing Attitude’s work across the Communion to be developed and help provide modest resources to our African brothers and sisters, please make a donation or become a supporter of Changing Attitude England.

Thursday 30 December 2010

The Church of England’s dramatic disconnect

The George Careys, Michael Scott-Joynts and Andrea Minichiello Williams (recently elected to General Synod, Director of the “Christian Legal Centre”) of the Church of England think that Anglicans (their type of CofE Anglican, of course) are now a persecuted minority that need protected legal status.

To me that sounds like an acknowledgment of reality – and failure. Just under 3% of the population attend Church of England services once a month and under 2% attend worship weekly, statistics show. We are indeed a minority, with seats in the Lords, the Established Church of our country, with a status and privileges way beyond our significance. It’s difficult stand back and gain a realistic picture of where we, Christians in general, C of E in particular, fit into British society. It is clearly even more difficult for those living with privileged status like bishops and retired Archbishops.

It’s difficult for Anglicans at the parish church level as well. I meet with a local support group once a month to talk about my work for Changing Attitude. The conversation is often about frustrations at the local as well as the national and international level. At the last meeting, we talked about the congregation to which most of us belong. Why is it so difficult to capture a vision of Christianity inspired by Jesus’ teaching and prophetic ministry? Why do so many feel they are just going through the motions?

My answer is that we are all victims of our normative environment, family, school, locality and church. We internalize values and ideas and they become ‘normal’, self-referential and self-reinforcing. The way we have come to read and interpret the Bible becomes normative, the way we worship, pray, conceptualise God, all become not just ‘normal’ but universally true.

Those of us of a certain age carry assumptions and expectations about church life and worship which we can see no longer work, when we are able to ‘take them out’ and examine them. There is a deep frustration and disillusion among many, of which church attitudes to sexuality and relationships are but one symptom.

It is hard for people to understand what their frustration is about and even harder to have any vision of what action they might take to change it for the better. That’s because the church is locked into maintenance mode (fabric and financial) and is on the defensive, as Carey and company repeatedly show us.

Even younger and supposedly more alert bishops like Tim Thornton, recently moved from Sherborne to Truro, can write an article about civil partnerships and marriage for the Daily Telegraph which is defensive and badly argued. He talks about the blessing of ‘homosexual practice, to put it in crude terms’ which is, from Changing Attitude’s perspective, to put it in very crude terms indeed, Tim.

Bishop Tim thinks the most significant thing is the danger of a confusion between different things, marriage and civil partnerships, which, “if we open ourselves up to blurring that difference ... would be unhelpful for all concerned.” This is a problem for a minority, for bishops who spinelessly toe the line and other Christians who still think gay relationships are unlike heterosexual relationships.

The advice to me from his replacement in Sherborne, Graham Kings, is that I should “lie low for the moment.” I suppose Graham wants me to act like a bishop.

From where I sit in Salisbury Diocese, the edifice looks insane at times, most especially around the way the church colludes in negative teaching about LGBT people and forces people into closets which our leaders seem all too willing to hide inside. There is a collusive corruption and deep dishonesty in our Church.

My heart aches and yearns not simply for a change in church attitudes towards human sexuality but for a church which inspires me and nourishes me spiritually and expresses a vision of God which responds to the age we are living into, a future in which God is doing so many creative, new things. What do we get in reality? George Carey, Michael Nazir Ali, Michael Scott Joynt, Andrea Minichiello Williams. God help us.

This is what we are up against. This is what +Rowan is up against. This is what the Holy Spirit is up against - impoverished, defensive lack of courage and imagination. The Church of England is trapped in a dualistic mode of thinking, nostalgia for a time when there was more ‘certainty’, fear of change and difference and of human beings, some of whom might be growing into greater maturity and spiritual depths despite the best efforts of the Church to restrain them and dull their hearts and minds.

Well, pooh to that! I am not a Christian who is a member of a persecuted minority in England and I don’t need legal protection to live my faith. I have a dream of a Christian community that is inspired, imaginative, creative, filled with energy, genuine in friendship and love, open, risk-taking. Rather New Testament, in fact, Christ-like, even Pauline in challenging the old and responding to the new.

So yes to marriage equality and civil partnerships, yes to new visions of God’s activity in the whole of creation (and not just the 2% the C of E tries to numb each week), yes to our campaign for equality in ministry for all, LGBT as well as straight, yes to a passionate, creative Christian witness and vision in the UK that is true to the infinite holiness of God.

Colin Coward

To help Changing Attitude campaign for a new paradigm in the church, please become a supporter or make a donation to our work.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Dreaming non-dualistic dreams and seeing visions of a new creation

We arrive at the end of 2010 with an ‘us and them’ duality still firmly embedded in the mindset of some Christian leaders. Us and them as in we who are Christians set against Moslems, we who are Bible-believing Christians set against those who have deserted the tradition, we who are faithful to Jesus set against those who have abandoned Biblical teaching, we who are destined for salvation set against those who are following Satan’s path to hell and damnation, we who are heterosexual and happily married set against those sexually licentious lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are promiscuous and engage in perverted sexual practices.

The Telegraph reports that Lord Carey has written to the Prime Minister. Carey highlights one subject he defines as particularly contentious - the clash of rights between homosexuals and Christians - as if these are distinct groups at war across a great divide.

Lord Carey mindlessly repeats the belief that those who hold traditional Christian viewpoints, “in common with millions across the globe and across history, suddenly find their position labelled discriminatory and prejudiced and then discover that it has effectively become a legal bar to public service.”

In the same vein, the ever-reliable Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, told the BBC’s World This Weekend: “The problem is that there is a really quite widespread perception among Christians that there is growing up something of an imbalance in the legal position with regard to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths to pursue the calling of their faith in public life, in public service.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to George Carey or Michael Scott-Joynt that Christians such as myself and the patrons and trustees and supporters of Changing Attitude and the tens thousands of LGBT Christians and their friends and families, hold a very different view of what it means to be a Christian, in deep prayerfulness and with great integrity.

The polarities which these two bishops wish not simply to defend, but extend the reach of, are in my view a danger to the health and safety of individuals, of our society and of the well-being of our planet and the global community.

They want to protect minority traditions, an exclusive idea of God and salvation, an us and them mentality, and a defensive, judgmental system of salvation.

This is not the vision of God’s creative energy and of the incarnation which inspires (too small a word – how about fuels?) my faith and my work in Changing Attitude.

“The Word became flesh; he made his home among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” John 1.14

“He is the image of the invisible God; his is the primacy over all creation. In him everything in heaven and on earth was created … the whole universe has been created through him and for him. He exists before all things and all things are held together in him. For in him, God in all his fullness chose to dwell.” Colossians 1.15-17, 19

All things are created in the image of God, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our loves and relationships.

Does the future of creation lie with those who want to preserve, defend and protect old paradigm, dualistic patterns of theology and human relationships? Will the Church continue to judge and find wanting those of us who are simply different from what the majority assumed to be ‘normal’?

Are those of us who dream of a new heaven and a new earth, a new paradigm, who dream dreams and see visions of the things which the apostles and evangelists were inspired and enlightened by, are we going to live more deeply into our vision of the Kingdom of God in 2011?

The apostles, evangelists and witnesses were given revelations into the nature of God and creation which can still transform our emotional, cognitive and imaginative ability to dream our own dreams and have confidence in our vision of this finite creation with its infinite potentialities which can transcend our destructive, dualistic thinking.

Today’s visionaries and dreamers include Desmond Tutu, Esther Mombo, Jack Spong, Elizabeth Stuart, Ken Wilber, Carter Heyward, Marcus Borg, Grace Jantzen, Thomas Moore, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Richard Holloway, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, James Alison, Nomfundo Walaza, Richard Rohr, Jenny Plane Te Paa, Gideon Byamugisha and many, many others.

More tomorrow!

Colin Coward

To support the work of Changing Attitude in bringing a non-dualistic, LGBT inclusive vision to the church, please become a supporter or make a donation

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Lesbian and gay members of Changing Attitude to be interviewed for Kenyan TV

The Revd Michael Kimindu, contact person for Changing Attitude Kenya, reports that he has been asked by NTV Kenya , part of the Nation Media Group to assist them in finding gay and lesbian couples who are prepared to be interviewed in order to give a positive human face to Kenyan lesbian and gay people. This is also intended to challenge the orders to arrest lesbian and gay people given by the Kenyan Prime Minister. The TV company asked Michael to accompany them so that the LGBTI people could be confident in allowing themselves to be interviewed and he will feature as the Pastor for the LGBTI Christian community.

Michael made contact with people in Mombasa, 445km south east of Nairobi, the major sea port on the Indian ocean coast. He travelled to Mombasa Tuesday last week arriving at 9pm. With his help, the NTV team was able to interview a gay couple and two single gay men and a lesbian. They also met an Italian gay couple but could not interview them, which would be seen to support the false idea that white people are the source of homosexuality in Africa. The Italians were visiting the Kenyan couple.

They left Mombasa on Saturday travelling by night bus back to Nairobi, and on Sunday took another night bus to Kisumu in western Kenya. Kisumu is the third largest city 320 KM from Nairobi situated on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Michael had made contact with two organisations working with LGBTI people and they were able to interview two couples, one gay, one lesbian. They also met a Dutch gay man but couldn’t interview him for the same reasons as in Mombasa. Some of those interviewed were willing to be filmed facing the camera but others requested that their faces were not filmed.

Tomorrow afternoon a group is coming to Michael’s house in Nairobi. So far 10 Anglicans and 2 Roman Catholics have promised to come, members of the Changing Attitude group in Kenya. NTV plan to record the service led by Michael and then conduct interviews.

For those who like to know how Changing Attitude might benefit financially from this media interest, Michael says that NTV paid his transport and hotel costs and will refund the bus fares for the group and following editing, will pay a token of appreciation to the group. Michael, being a good Anglican, will offer tea and soft drinks.

In small ways such as this, Changing Attitude Kenya is enabling LGBTI voices to be heard and faces to be seen on Kenyan TV. This is a remarkable achievement by Michael who also works as a pastor for Other Sheep Ministries and as an MCC minister.

Colin Coward

To enable us to continue to provide occasional support for Michael Kimindu in Kenya and campaign for change in the Anglican Communion, please join Changing Attitude or make a donation.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Moving at the pace of the slowest?

‘Standing on the platform’ indeed! It serves me right for blogging about waving off the Covenant Express – last night, at King’s Cross Station, our train to Leeds was cancelled and the revised timetable offered the delights of ‘extended running times and further delays’. Reluctantly, for I had been keen to see my family in Yorkshire, we returned home.

Ever since I first heard the analogy of the train departing from the station as a description of a community setting out to realise a vision I have been interested in those 'left behind on the platform’. It seemed to me then, as it does now, that they would not be forgotten by the other passengers, that they would be able ‘catch up’ if they needed to, and that the platform is at least a starting point, but that their reluctance to join in a particular excursion could not be allowed to hold up the entire train.

Very often, in parish life, the people who oppose the vision, or are unenthusiastic about it, can offer a valuable critique, and prevent the community rushing off in a wrong direction. But once a community has done its homework, and is all fired up and ready to go, it should be able to move towards the vision without being inhibited by those who are still unconvinced: their resistance cannot be allowed to act as a break on the project, otherwise one is moving only at the pace of the slowest, which would mean, in the end, stagnation and torpor.

In the Anglican Communion it sometimes seems as if we are being invited to move at the rate of the slowest. The Covenant certainly sounds like that. Jean Mayland, a Changing Attitude Patron, has said many times that if the Anglican Covenant had been in place thirty or forty years ago the ordination of women to the priesthood would probably never have been permitted. The pioneering ordinations to the diaconate, priesthood and episcopate by individual Provinces did cause offence in other Provinces of the Communion at the time and might, therefore, have resulted in requests for ‘gracious restraint’ or even ‘withdrawal’ from aspects of the Communion for awhile. Instead of the rest of the Communion being enabled to catch the vision, there would have been a clampdown on this particular development, and a firm hand on the break.

But doesn’t the Apostle Paul counsel going at the slowest person’s pace when he writes about not offending the ‘weaker brother’ over the eating of meat sacrificed to idols; not pursuing one’s Christian freedom if it causes another to fall (1 Corinthians 8)? Presumably such texts shaped the thinking of the architects of the moratoria, and weigh heavily with those who are in favour of the Covenant, but are the parallels just? Isn’t the ordination of women, like the full inclusion of LGBT and T people, more on a par with ‘non-negotiable’ Pauline teaching about the Church as a community that must include both Jews and Gentiles? For Paul there was no concession to the weakest or the slowest over the inclusive nature of the Church – the Gentiles were most definitely ‘in’.

This gracious inclusiveness of the gospel has to be our starting point. Far from the onus being on organisations such as ours, or individual LGB and T people, to make their case for belonging to, and participation in, the Church, the onus is on those who disagree with us, to justify their opposition, which does not stack up either in humanitarian terms, or theologically.

At the moment it is too soon to say whether it is they or we who will be left standing on the platform. We would like to put a break on a train that seems to be heading towards an authoritarian destination where LGB and T people will be less welcome even than they are now; our opponents appear to fear a runaway train that is racing towards unbridled freedom and chaos. It all looks horribly like 'a train crash waiting to happen'. I hope I’m wrong about that!

Friday 3 December 2010

From the vanguard to the rearguard: standing on the platform waving off the Covenant Express

Back in the 1990s the diocese recommended my benefice (two parishes) and the one next-door (three parishes) to ‘cluster’. We were described as ‘the untidy end of the deanery’ and it did make sense: the five parishes (three quite rural; two semi-suburban) did indeed encircle, physically, a growing conurbation. No matter that there had been, for decades, intense rivalries between the two benefices and former incumbents, the current ‘leadership’ believed that it was right to proceed with the idea because our communities (church and civil) would be the beneficiaries of this co-operation, and one of the first things we did together was the Alpha Course.

As you can imagine not everyone was enamoured with the notion of ‘clustering’ and an image was used to describe the various responses to the emerging vision for the future. It was a bit like setting out on a train journey: some people (the leadership of the parish) were driving the engine; others, who had caught the vision, were sitting in the various carriages, front or back, depending on the degree to which they had bought into the clustering project; and finally, as the Cluster Express began to leave the station, some people were left behind on the platform.

As one of those in the ‘driving seat’ I found it a very helpful analogy. There were some people who we were never going to convince to board the ‘train’ but that shouldn’t prevent it from setting off and perhaps, once things began to move, the people on the platform would recognise what they were missing and try to catch up (like F.W. Robertson who was left behind at Euston Station in 1849, as his lover moved off in the departing train, and overtook it later on the way to Chester).

I’d like to play a little with this analogy in terms of current Anglican politics. First of all, we had the inclusion train, with the Episcopal Church and Canada in the driving seat. Lots of people were excited by this vision and keen to ride in the carriages of its train because they knew that it wasn’t just about sexuality (gay bishops and same-sex blessings) but signalled respect, justice and equality for all who were oppressed whether it be because of gender, race, or disability.

But some of the other drivers didn’t see it like that and did all that they could to derail this train. That made the rail company very nervous and so they tried to push the inclusion train into a siding and in its place began to assemble another train, with four carriages. It was called the Covenant Express and it looked a bit strange: not quite like any other train that the people had seen before. Some were shocked by it, others afraid that once you got on it you wouldn’t actually move very far or very fast, in fact, that you’d end up going nowhere; but others loved it, extolled it, and warned, that if you didn’t climb aboard, well, you’d probably end up on that rusty old inclusion train, either stuck in a siding, or, if the company decided it was OK, allowed on the network, but not on the main track.

So here I am, a liberal Christian, once (in my own estimation at least) in the vanguard, but now, most definitely in the rearguard, standing on the platform waving off – with no regrets - the Covenant Express. Should we try to derail it – of course! Do we have the wherewithal? Probably not, but it would be interesting to find out. In the meantime we can only hope that the commuters will see it for what it is and shove into a siding and the sideline of history where it belongs.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Are you still there?

'One thing surprises me: that you, Sharon and Robert are still members of mainstream churches'. We were at the LGBT Health Summit 2010 held at Hatfield University in September The Revd Sharon Ferguson, Metropolitan Community Church minister and CEO of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, and Hospital Chaplain the Revd Robert Mitchell, had joined me there to lead the workshop – which has its origin in my collaboration with fellow Sibyl Michelle O'Brien - 'Gender, sexuality and spirituality: exploring the interplay'

Of the three hundred forty delegates fifty-five registered for this workshop, an indication of the huge interest in spirituality and it was a subject that sat well with the conference theme 'the emotional connection: healthy mind, health body' (the host organisation was an NHS mental health Trust). I spoke about sexuality, Sharon about gender while Robert focused on spirituality, emphasising its breadth, and that many people who do not belong to, or identify with, religious organisations, may have a profound and meaningful spirituality. Nevertheless, the three presenters were all ordained ministers – Sharon in suit and clerical collar – and hence the observation, made privately after the session, by one participant, who was surprised that we were - given the perceived narrowness of the churches, including a grudging attitude to gender equality, institutional homophobia, etc. - still willing to belong.

As a minister of a Church that was founded specifically to include gay people, and with a wonderful record of inclusion, Sharon's position, to me at any rate (I can't speak for Robert), looks less contradictory than mine, but maybe the comment was not just about the inclusion agenda but expressed an alienation from the whole culture of organised religion by those who were formed by it and once part of it, and who now, having 'moved on,' are surprised that others have stayed.

Over the years there have been a number of occasions when I have despaired of the councils of the Church of England. Now, in an era when HIV infection can be treated so successfully we can easily forget the hysteria of the mid-1980s and how some people, who disagreed with the Revd Tony Higton, signed his Private Members motion about 'personal morality' in order to separate the gay issue from that of HIV, which achieved the sensitive debate on AIDS that they had wanted followed by the catastrophic compromise motion now enshrined as official Church of England policy.

Some priests resigned then, Jeremy Younger's resignation being the most public, but resigning, as my husband pointed out at the time, would not help the people in our parish (though some might have been glad to be rid of me). Recently I found copies of the letters I wrote to the Synod members from my diocese prior to the 'Higton Debate' and its outcome, negative as it was, led to experiences that would have a profound effect on me personally, breaking down internal defences and barriers and enabling me to 'come out' publicly two years later, though that phrase 'coming out' does not do justice to what was, in fact, a confession or testimony to the Divine love.

A Mirfield Father, on being told of this, commented that my position was 'untenable' but he was proved wrong, and with the backing of my bishop, the loving support of parishioners, and – a not inconsiderable factor – the benefit of freehold, I was able to stay for another eleven years. Sometimes, as LGB or T people it is absolutely essential that we stay put and stand firm for by so doing we bear witness to the fact, for example, that one can be both a priest and gay or a Christian and trans.

This is not an easy calling to live out; to leave or transfer to another Church might – though who knows until you try it – seem an easier option; but somehow you are held there – it might be partly due to habit, or convention, or the need for stability, though my hope is that is mainly a response to God's call to be there, and stay there, because that is where you belong.

And if the institution should so change that it begins to deny and abuse you? What then? Have we reached that point now, considering the ease with which the General Synod has sent off the Covenant for consideration by the dioceses? Or is that (like 1987) yet another bit of tactical voting (in which case it will probably go wrong)? This post is becoming longer than I intended so let me come back to these questions in another one.

What will the pattern of the Anglican Communion look like in 10 years time?

The Anglican Communion is being reconfigured at the moment. We who campaign for the full inclusion of LGBT people fear that in 10 years time we might find ourselves marginalised and excluded.

The narrative of those conservative Anglican bodies and individuals opposed to the full inclusion of LGBT people claim that it is the Episcopal Church that has ‘walked apart’. In practice, the groups that have walked apart and distanced themselves from the Anglican Communion are those which have failed to participate in the Councils of the Church – the Lambeth Conference, Primates Meeting and Anglican Consultative Council. There is a growing and, to me, bewildering array of these bodies and alliances – ACNA, Global South, GAFCON, FCA, ACI, CANA, AMiA, etc. These are also the groups which refuse to act on the parts of Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report which advocate listening to and the pastoral care of LGBT people. The multiplicity of groups also shows dramatically that those who edge towards schism are unable to agree an alternative identity or strategy between themselves.

Strategies for dealing with the dynamic
People in favour of full inclusion advocate a range of strategies that might be adopted in response to this dynamic. Many ideas are posted in the comments on Thinking Anglicans. Let’s take a look at some of them:

• Form a new diocese of the Episcopal Church in England. This would need to create local churches where the pro-inclusion people could worship with the like-minded. I can’t see it happening and it isn’t what I want. Devizes already has 3 Anglican churches, one evangelical, one opposed to the ordination of women, one striving to be open and fully-inclusive. I want to be worshipping in a Church of England parish church that is properly Anglican in ethos – that’s the challenge, a challenge that my Rector is totally committed to engage with, as are the majority of the congregation.
• Create our own, alternative ‘liberal’ Anglican Communion, parallel with the conservative bodies. If the Church of England is a part of a liberal realignment, then the campaign for full inclusion will have been successful. If the Church of England is not a part of this new alignment, then it will be yet another schismatic Anglican Church and at the moment, that is most certainly not what Changing Attitude is campaigning for.
• Encourage TEC to withdraw from the Instruments of Communion and continue with its own polity in – isolation? That would be to throw another bone to the conservative forces (as +Rowan has repeatedly done, which may or may not turn out to have been a good strategy). The lesson is that the bones never satisfy them, of course. They will continue to scheme and chew away at any liberal, inclusive presence in the Church wherever they find it, CofE or Canada, Australia or South Africa, until they (in their fantasy) have destroyed everything which is against their reading of the Word of God.
• Campaign for a vote against the Anglican Covenant by the Church of England. For this to be effective, practical action must be taken now to canvass, lobby and persuade members of every diocesan synod to vote against when it is tabled for debate to ensure that a majority of dioceses vote NO before it returns to General Synod.
• With GAFCON withdrawing from the Primates Meeting and many Provinces not having attended the last Lambeth Conference, why shouldn’t those Provinces remaining fully committed to the Communion, including the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church of England, sign the Covenant and work with the other Provinces who sign to reconfigure it to reflect Anglican polity more properly, deleting Section 4 entirely. Such a strategy is uncertain of success and is very unlikely to happen.
• Other individuals have moved out of the Church of England, either abandoning the Church entirely or their membership of a local congregation or moving into a different denomination – the Unitarian Church in the case of Adrian Worsfold, the Metropolitan Community Church for some LGBT Anglicans. Yet others continue to worship both in their parish church and with another congregation where they find a more open ethos and/or a deeper spirituality.

In 20 years time?
The outcome I fear most is that the mainstream denominations will have successfully opposed the full inclusion of LGBT people in 20 years time, and will have moved in the opposite direction, barely tolerating us, excluding us from ministry at every level and treating us as ‘intrinsically disordered’. Those LGBT people living in societies which have legislated for equality will by then, if they have any sense of self-worth, abandoned the Church.

A less extreme outcome would see a fragmentation of denominations, schisms and realignments into churches with either a conservative, reactionary ethos or a radical, inclusive ethos. This may well turn out to be the least-worst and only practicable outcome.

There is a third possibility. The global community is slowly, painfully slowly, being educated into knowing that LGBT people are present in every culture and every community. This largely secular movement will impact on faith communities everywhere, destabilizing their ability to deny the real presence of LGBT people WITHIN their own communities. Other signs give hope for a third possible outcome. The attitudes of the Primates who are announcing unilaterally the policy of their Provinces do not consult their bishops and priests and do not represent the views of their people. It’s impossible to know what their people really think because deference to those in authority inhibits their ability to think and speak freely - just ask Michael Kimindu in Kenya or Bishop Ssenyonjo in Uganda. Global South Provinces in the next 10 to 20 years may well change as the culture changes around them and this generation of leaders retires and lose influence.

One comment on Thinking Anglicans describes GAFCON as having no shame, capable of doing anything to further their ends, failing to stay true even to their own principles - demanding orthodoxy yet violating church order, lacking of integrity, plotting and planning, characterized by machinations.

Strategies for achieving change
How can those of us who are faithful to God and the Spirit and to the ethos of the Anglican Communion counter the conservative movement whilst maintaining our own ethos and without adopting their ruthless, unscrupulous tactics? I think the challenge is almost impossible, were it not for my faith that conservative, reactionary forces do not have unique access to the flow of God’s creative presence in the world and from my perspective, are actively working against the flow of the Spirit.

Changing Attitude is totally committed to full inclusion of all the baptized, including all LGBT people, in every Province of the Anglican Communion, and to the Anglican ethos of scripture, tradition and reason. We have demonstrated our commitment by being the only pro-inclusion group to have been present at the Lambeth Conferences in 1998 and 2008, every meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council since Nottingham in 2005 and Primates meetings since Dar Es Salaam in 2007.

The strategy of pro-inclusion groups has to be to oppose the Covenant if there is any possibility that it will be used to inhibit progress towards overturning Christian prejudice against LGBT people. Our strategy also has to be positive, committed to building relationships with bishops and Primates across Provincial boundaries and with the Instruments of Communion, being present and not abandoning territory to conservatives, working out what practical action we can take which will make a real difference to the outcome. I’m not an idealistic dreamer (well, not only). I am also always looking for the practical strategies that are going to affect outcomes favourably for us.

Say No to the Covenant has to be more than an internet campaign. Say yes to LGBT people has to be more than saying no to the Covenant or strategising for our own schismatic body. And however we campaign, we have to do it in a more Christian, Bible-centred, holy way than those who wish to suppress us.

Colin Coward

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