Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Men in frocks

Writing of the police raids that led to the Stonewall riots that marked the dramatic beginning of Gay Liberation in the United States, Colin recalled that “it was the drag queens who led the resistance”. Indeed it was, and looking back at that event in the light of the consolidation of transgender identity during the past four decades, Trans people have begun to ask the question, ‘were those drag queens the precursors of those who nowadays would identify as the T in LGBT, rather than as Gay?’

This sort of question is often asked about ‘our history’ as LGBT people, whether it be ancient history or more recent times. Gay historians look at certain behaviours in an earlier culture or society – like the Berdeche, or ‘two spirit’ people in the Native American Indian past - and say, ‘Hey, those people were definitely lesbian or gay’. Then along comes a Trans-aware historian who says, ‘Hang on a minute, these people weren’t gay or lesbian at all - they were Trans!’

The problem is that the categories and labels by which we define ourselves now, and which we band around so freely, were not available in times gone by, so we have to be careful not to impose our concepts where they may not apply.

The Stonewall riots, however, were a defining moment for gay liberation, and what has followed, including the whole LGBT spectrum, so maybe there are continuities here worth exploring, and yet, the differences between then and now seem vast.

The Stonewall drag queens were, apparently, into ‘radical drag’ – in other words they were not entertainers, like drag queens on the commercial gay scene today, (though no doubt they were entertaining to be with). What they did was mix masculine and feminine behaviours and presentation in an attempt to subvert the rigidities of the gender binary. Remember that these events took place when radical feminism was also on the march, and there were dreams of creating a new society liberated from patriarchal oppression.

In England, in the early 1970s this radicalism was embodied in the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), some of whose members did adopt drag in the subversive spirit of Stonewall to shock the Establishment and to make sex (and gender?) more political. The Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), by contrast, had a more subtle approach to change, working with the structures, rather than challenging them, though some members of that ‘camp’, notably, Roger Baker, were very interested in the history and significance of drag, and cross-dressing in general. (Baker was the author of Drag: the history of female impersonation in the performing arts).

Whether we be LGBT or heterosexual, queer or straight, most people want to be accepted in society, and to fit in, but we also need the nonconformists, and the misfits, who challenge the status quo, and highlight the injustices which so many of us take for granted. In Christian culture, people like that, who inspire our longing for a better world, are called prophets, and forty years ago in New York, when the police kept picking on a gay bar in Greenwich Village, they were ‘men in frocks’, God love ‘em.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Survey shows dramatic change in UK attitudes

The Times commissioned a poll, conducted by Populus, to commemorate the Stonewall riots 40 years ago. The riots took place on 27 and 28 July 1969 were a spontaneous resistance to repeated police raids on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York and it was the drag queens who led the resistance. It was a defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and Britain.

The poll reveals a revolution in attitudes towards gay men and lesbians. It shows that a majority of the public want lesbian and gay people to share identical rights to everyone else.

68% of the public back “full equal rights” for gay men and lesbians.

61% want gay couples to be able to marry, not just have civil partnerships.

51% want children to be taught in school that gay relationships are of equal value to marriage with 44% opposed.

49% believe that gay couples should have equal adoption rights.

The Times headlines the poll results “Church 'out of touch' as public supports equal rights for homosexuals” and names the Church as the final bastion of formal discrimination.

In a separate article, Peter Riddell shows that people have become far more tolerant in the past two decades. The British Social Attitudes survey shows that those who think that homosexuality is always or mostly wrong fell from 75% in 1987 to 32% in 2006.

Since January 2005 those agreeing that gay couples should have exactly the same rights as heterosexual couples has risen from 65% to 68%, the number disagreeing falling from 31% to 27%.

A 1999 Ipsos MORI poll found 37% in favour of gay people being allowed to adopt with 57% opposed. Now, 49% agree that gay couples should have the same rights to adopt with 47% disagreeing.

A year later another Ipsos MORI poll found people evenly divided about whether gay couples should be allowed to get married. Populus now finds almost two thirds support the equal right of gay couples to marry.

Less confident are parental responses to their children coming out as gay. 41% say they would embrace it while 45% would feel upset but try to understand and come to terms with it. 9% said they would not accept it and would reject the child.

The survey results are good news for lesbian and gay people in the UK. Those of us who are gay know from personal experience that there really has been a profound change. From my work with Changing Attitude I know that attitudes have also changed for the majority of Anglicans, bishops included. So there’s potential good news even for lesbian and gay Christians.

But the churches in the UK are afraid to change their attitude. They adhere to what they maintain is the church’s traditional teaching about homosexuality. They are intimidated by a small but vocal conservative minority in the church. They are unwilling to risk the schism which is threatened by vociferous leaders in other parts of the Anglican Communion.

Conservatives will say that a change in social attitudes is no reason to change 2,000years of church teaching and practice. They maintain a conservative theology and alliances with global conservatism rather than questioning their own attitudes.

It’s an outrageous suggestion, I know, but could the change in attitude towards LGBT people taking place in many secular cultures be the work of the Holy Spirit – a prophetic sign for those who still wish to use the Bible to humiliate, denigrate and marginalise gay people?

Sunday, 28 June 2009

A black man or a white woman?

It was early in 2008 and the television show host was talking about the Democratic Party’s leadership contest: “It looks like the Democratic field has really narrowed down. It’s going to be a black man or a white woman.” The opportunity seemed too good to miss, so he went on: “A black man or a white woman. You know, this is the same decision Michael Jackson has to face every morning of his life.”

There was shock and dismay from the black community when Michael Jackson first began to ‘lose’ his colour, but that particular change seems to have arisen as a consequence of the condition vitiligo, which causes de-pigmentation of the skin, rather than alienation from his Afro-American roots. As Jackson explained to Oprah Winfrey, whether to be ‘black or white’, to quote his own lyrics, was not something over which he had any control.

It is, of course, an exaggeration to imply that Jackson was faced with a daily dilemma concerning his gender identity, but the gradual feminisation of his face, followed later by implants to produce a manly cleft chin, suggest that he oscillated, quite dramatically at times, in his self awareness as masculine and feminine. He was, though, without a doubt, gender variant in his self expression.

And so are lots of other people. Not just transsexual people, many of whom go through the once-in-a-lifetime process of transition from female-to-male, or male-to-female. Gender variance can be found in cross dressers and among those who choose to defy conventional stereotypes of what it means to be a man or a woman. It is common among intersex people, some of whom identify with both genders, while others find it difficult to relate to either. There are people whose sense of gender identity is fluid and shifting, as Michael Jackson’s seems to have been. And, of course, gender variance is not unknown among lesbians and gay men. Indeed, studies show that gender variant children – tomboy girls and ‘sissy’ or effeminate boys - are more likely to grow up to be lesbian and gay as adults rather than transgendered.

During the recent reading of the Equality Bill, MPs tried to get across to the Minister this huge range of gender expression, and that the term ‘gender reassignment’ – hitherto used specifically of transsexual people – used in the legislation, should be replaced by the broader concept of ‘gender variance’, so that the Bill’s protection could be extended to anyone who is victimised because of their gender expression.


In her reply the Minister said that she was not aware of any specific evidence of discrimination against this wider spectrum of gender variant folk. Really? Snide tabloid attacks on the ‘gender bending’ behaviour of celebrities like Michael Jackson, and, more recently, Cristiano Ronaldo, are very public expressions of the transphobia that does exist in our society (as well as a deep underlying misogyny).


The Sibyls, who offer Christian Spirituality to the Transgendered, could cite many examples of people who have been rejected by their churches simply because they did not conform to gender norms. Nowadays, though, mainstream churches seem more ready to welcome those who are different, including those who are not gender normative. Long may that continue: and let there be no resorting to ‘ecclesiastical exemptions’ to the Equality Bill, provisions which only serve to frustrate Christ’s invitation and welcome to all.

On the night Michael Jackson died, Paul Gambaccini, a personal friend of the star, as well as an authority on pop musical history, was at pains to point out that Jackson was tall – over six foot. Other friends emphasised his firm handshake and that in private he did not speak in the high-pitched voice that he adopted in public. In other words, he was not really girly at all. One can understand the desire to ‘protect’ his friend at that painful moment, but in the cold light of day, it has to be said, that being girly – or butch for that matter - is not something to be ashamed of - not at all.

Christina Beardsley

Vicar claims Romans 1 will be censored

“The legality of the Bible in English, at least in uncensored form, is now at its most precarious since the reign of Mary I (1553-1558).”

So begins the entry for June 28th, 2009 on the blog of Julian Mann, Vicar of the Church of the Ascension Oughtibridge in the Diocese of Sheffield cranmercurate.blogspot.

Why does a member of Reform who presumably claims to be upholding Christian values and teaching begin his blog with an outright and deliberately malicious lie? His claim is scandalous and a further example of the deliberate lies told repeatedly by those who wish to get their own way in the church by any means possible.

The reason for Mr Mann’s lie? He claims that “it is difficult to foresee how elected politicians would be motivated to support the uncensored availability of biblical statements such as St Paul’s in Romans 1.” He then quotes verses 26-27 – King James Version of course.

He goes on to make another malicious claim: that Stonewall will influence the State to censor the Bible by only allowing a Stonewall approved version of the Bible to be sold in retail outlets with the offensive passages excised.

Stonewall is a good deal more adult and mature than Mr Mann. Stonewall has a carefully considered strategy to promote legislation to protect LGBT people and it does not include censorship of the Bible. Mr Mann’s blog is barely worth commenting on except it IS a malicious lie and it comes form a strand of Christianity which is prejudiced and judgmental.

Worst of all for a priest who claims (presumably) to be Bible-based, Mr Mann quotes the verses out of context and thus loses the whole point of St Paul’s extended argument, which is turned against people like Mr Mann and those in Anglican Mainstream who re-posted his blog. Of course they quote selectively – St Paul is not advocating what they claim.

The Bible is not going to be censored by the next Government, Labour or Conservative. If it were, I could think of other passages worthy of censorship (the murder of Sisera by Jael comes to mind).

Mr Mann fears that support, particularly amongst younger voters, is likely to be de rigueur for the suppression of views that are perceived to be ‘homophobic’. Mr Mann’s views ARE homophobic and he would like freedom to preach and teach them. Proposed legislation will protect LGBT people from the narrow band of Christians who claim the freedom to preach intolerance and evil against minority groups.

Please don’t lie, Mr Mann, when trying to make your case against homosexuality.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Holding the faith

The new conservative Anglican alliances are clearly wrong in their prime conviction. They claim they are returning to the unique, authentic roots of Christian biblical orthodoxy and tradition, universally recognised as such by all the major denominations throughout Christian history.

The most superficial glance at Christian history, or at the differences between denominations in 2009, or at the extraordinary proliferation of free, independent congregations and churches, shows the conservative claim to be a fallacy and a fantasy.

The fundamental documents of Christianity don’t change – the Bible, the creeds, the Councils of the Church, and for Anglicans, the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. But the weight of authority and the interpretation of them by each particular church at different times in Christian history has undergone constant change. This is reality. This is the real world in which ACNA and FoCA are being launched.

What conservatives are doing is creating a new, different relationship with their roots, one affected by the needs of this decade and the international context in which they are formed. Their narrative is constructed in their minds to convince themselves that they are returning to secure, unchanging and unchangeable foundations. They are not. They are doing a new thing.

All the foundational documents of Christianity and Anglicanism are the result of the work of God in creation and human history, God always doing a new thing. Jesus was and is God’s new, unique revelation who set in motion awareness that God is always doing a new thing in creation, things which upset human traditions and undermine our attempts to achieve security through stasis and control.

No, says God in history, move on. I call you to set out on the road, not there yet, always journeying, adventuring, exploring. Launch out into the deep – I am calling you to risk all, your very selves, your souls and bodies.

It’s natural and normal for human beings to seek security, safe harbours; we each live through periods of personal exploration followed by reflection and integration. Huge conservative forces are at work in today’s diverse world of religious movements, Christian and Moslem. They in turn affect political movements. To our shame, secular political movements have become more radically creative than the dominant religious forces.

There are other global movements working painfully slowly but inexorably towards racial equality, economic equality, equality for women and equality for sexual minorities. They are countered by religious and secular reactionary forces of power. Conservative Christians campaign to resist the global forces seeking transformation of human society and relationships. They will fail. God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom of oppression.

What stance should more radical, liberal Christians take – those who support Changing Attitude?

Hold the faith. Root yourselves in God, in prayer and spiritual practice, in self-awareness, in all that is good and holy and life-giving in creation; root yourselves in your heart and in your body. Conservatives want to disembody, disempower, desexualise and dispossess us – to eradicate our soul. Don’t let them!

Living God, as we struggle to understand and use aright the power that you entrust to us, set before us again the way of Jesus, and work through us in your Spirit, that we may steward our power in ways that do not bind others but free them to take their share in the inheritance of life. May we grow tall but humble.

Jim Cotter, Out of the Silence . . . Prayer’s Daily Round, p206

Friday, 26 June 2009

Homosexuals arrested in Nigeria as ACNA and FoCA embrace the Church of Nigeria

ACNA has launched this week in the USA and Canada and FoCA is preparing to launch in the UK. Anglican Mainstream have announced that the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop of Bendel and Bishop of Asaba, Nigeria will be speaking at Christ Church Beckenham at 6.30pm July 5th as part of the FoCA launch.

Today, 26 June, a report from the LGBT African Coalition says that three homosexuals were arrested by the Edo State police command in Benin City, Nigeria. They were paraded like common criminals and displayed on television. The command Public Relations officer has said they would be charged to court as homosexuality is a criminal offence in Nigeria.

The report does not say that the three men were engaged in homosexual activity. Being homosexual is enough to be arrested as a criminal in Nigeria. Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria has asked the group in Benin City, Edo State to investigate and find out how we support can be given to their fellow brothers. The Coalition calls on all human rights activists everywhere to speak up against this injustice.

ACNA and FoCA have no interest in human rights or justice. If they did, I would consider asking Davis to join me in meeting with Archbishop Okoh when he is here. But the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) supports the arrest and humiliation of gay people as common criminals. Indeed, the church supports the further criminalising of gay people in the Same Sex Marriage Act.

By embracing the Church of Nigeria ACNA and FoCA commit themselves not just to a conservative position on homosexuality but one which treats gay people as common criminals.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Why are Church of England bishops betraying the Communion?

We have reached another seminal moment in the threatened destruction of the Anglican Communion by newly-formed networks of dissidents, Provinces and Primates who claim to represent the majority of the Communion – 80% according to one English bishop. This isn’t a threat coming only from overseas, from North America, Africa, South America and the Far East but from within our own church. We may be heading for schism, or the destruction of the Communion as at present constituted, or the failure and collapse of the dissident movement and the return of the majority to the fold. It’s impossible to predict.

The dissident plot involves the abandonment of the Archbishop of Canterbury as head of the Communion and the replacement of the Communion as at present constituted by the other three Instruments. Instead we will have a Communion of the so-called faithful orthodox constituted around the 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This Communion will deny an equal place in the church to women, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people among others.

One crucial plot development has been taking place this week in Bedford, Texas. The Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) has been formally constituted, adopted Canons and recognised Archbishop-in-waiting Bob Duncan as its head. We’ll return to him in a moment. It proclaims itself to be the legitimate Province for the USA and Canada, aiming to replace The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, because it says it's more orthodox than them.

The next crucial plot development takes place on 6th July in Westminster Central Hall, London, when the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FoCA) is launched in the UK and Ireland. This event is another building block in the dissident scheme to replace the Church of England as currently constituted with a GAFCON-style church.

Both events are timed to precede and trump the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Anaheim from 8th to 17th July and the Church of England General Synod meeting in its shadow in York.

How is the Communion responding to this strategically choreographed threat to its future? A number of English bishops are supporting the threatened take-over.

On behalf of the Church of England Evangelical Council, Bishop Wallace Benn of Lewes (left) and Archdeacon Michael Lawson (right) sent greetings and expressed delight to be in full communion with the dissident Province. On behalf of Anglican Mainstream Canon Chris Sugden (left, who is present at the meeting) and Philip Giddings sent very warm greetings, rejoicing at this very significant stage of development and expressing their fellowship and communion in the Lord with the dissident body. Philip Giddings (right) is Vice Chair (House of Laity) of the General Synod of the Church of England.

A report posted by Anglican Mainstream says that Archbishop Bob Duncan informed the assembly on Tuesday that greetings had been received from the Bishops of Rochester (below left), Winchester (below right), Chester and Chichester. The Bishop of Rochester is speaking at a meeting on Sunday 5th July in support of the launch of FoCA.

The bishops of Lewes, Rochester, Winchester, Chester (right) and Chichester (left) and the Lay Chair of General Synod are all supporting a dissident, ultra-conservative, reactionary movement which aims to destroy and replace the Anglican Communion as at present constituted.

The plan doesn’t end with replacing Provinces in North America. The FoCA launch on the 6th July is the first step in a movement to replace the four UK Anglican Provinces. The only names missing from this list of usual suspects are the bishops of Blackburn (left) and Exeter (right) who signed a letter of support for Bishop Bob Duncan last year.

Whether from ignorance, naivety or deliberate intent, these bishops and a senior lay person have committed themselves to a strategy designed to destroy the Church of England. They may think the strategy will rescue the Church of England from falsehood and error. The majority of Anglicans in this country do not agree with them.

What puzzles me is, how do the rest of the House of Bishops tolerate such dissent? Changing Attitude would like to know why English bishops and senior lay people are prepared to support groups which treat LGBT people and women as inferior third class citizens at best. At worst, they don't believe gay people exist and advocate prejudice and intolerance.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Coroners and Justice Bill and the Waddington Amendment

The Church of England just don’t understand that the line it draws between sexual identity and sexual activity isn’t understood or accepted by the majority – the majority of MPs, the majority of people in this country and the majority of Christians.

There is gulf of understanding between the church and members of parliament. The Church of England’s submission, the position outlined by William Fittall to the Committee and in the speech by the bishop of Southwell and Nottingham all argue for something not shared by the vast majority of people.

In the Committee, Dr Evan Harris, LibDem MP for Oxford and West Abingdon, said:

“…I believe our discrimination case law makes it clear that the manifestation of sexual orientation, whether heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, is inextricably connected with sexual orientation. We are saying that in law, religious organisations are not entitled to justify religious discrimination to make a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual practice. Sexual orientation and its manifestation in sexual behaviour are both inextricably connected with a person’s private life and identity and so cannot be dealt with separately. It would be helpful if the law were clear that if someone has gay sex, it is a sexual orientation matter, not a religious matter.”

I am sure some bishops understand this but the official voices of the CofE - bishops in the Lords and William Fittall – don’t.

The Bill has added "hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation" to "religious hatred" as an offence if "A person … uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening." The Waddington amendment, supported by the church, says: "… the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred."

The CofE position paper argues that: “… Christians engaged in teaching or preaching and those seeking to act in accord with Christian convictions in their daily lives need to be assured that the expression of strong opinions on marriage or sexuality will not be illegal ….” It draws attention to: “the possible ‘chilling effect’ on free speech, which formed part of the debates on religious hatred.”

The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham speaking in the Lord’s last month said "Our concern is with the potential application of the law to restrict legitimate discussion and expression of opinion about sexual ethics and sexual behaviour—bearing in mind that existing public order legislation has sometimes been used to warrant over-zealous police investigations against people with conservative views on homosexuality. It is generally agreed that this should not be so. The question is, how is it best avoided?"

I think the bishop is wrong. It is no longer generally agreed that the church should be free to express conservative views on homosexuality. What the church deems conservative society now identifies as prejudiced and homophobic.

The church wants the freedom to continue to preach and teach against the lives and loves of LGBT people in the name of acting in accord with ‘Christian convictions’. The majority of Christians don’t want this, the Government doesn’t want it, and Changing Attitude certainly doesn’t want conservative Christians to win the right to continue to preach and teach OT prejudices about us.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

USA Christian 'civil liberties' group wants to burn gay book

A small story from the USA which has made it onto Pink News today. It’s about a book on display in West Bend Community Library in Wisconsin, USA. A group of men who have given themselves the title Christian Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit demanding the right to publicly burn the book, Francesca Lia Block's Baby Be-Bop.

It’s a novel about a young gay man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, aimed at young adults. In the novel, the protagonist, Dirk, struggles to come to terms with his identity and is beaten up by a group of homophobic men.

The group of elderly men claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by the book, saying it constitutes a hate crime and that it degrades the community. They have described the book as "explicitly vulgar, racial [sic], and anti-Christian". They say the use of the word ‘nigger’ could "put one's life in possible jeopardy" and the word 'faggot' is very derogatory and slanderous to all males.

Francesca Lia Block, the author, said that she had intended to “expose racism and homophobia, not promote it" by including the offensive words. Her brother works on a hotline for gay youth and she said that: “every night he's talking people down from suicide because they're gay and they're not accepted by the communities they're in."

These men are at the crazy extreme end of the conservative Christian campaign against all things LGBT. It's not something that is likely to happen in the UK – I hope. But these elderly men say the book is anti-Christian and claim their mental and emotional health is being damaged by it. Of course, they didn’t have to pick it up and read it if they thought it might be damaging. But until you’ve read something for yourself, you’re reliant on other people’s views and can’t make a personal assessment.

It connects with the campaign going on here to change Clause 61 in the Coroners and Justice Bill. The Christian Legal Centre want the government to change Clause 61. They think it will prevent any Christian “openly stating a conservative reading of the Bible’s views on homosexual practice.”

A conservative view on homosexual practice expressed in the work place would be illegal under the bill – indeed, is illegal at the moment – Clause 61 is clarifying the intent of the previous bill.

Conservative Christians in this country want the freedom to express homophobic teaching and attitudes toward LGBT people in the work place because they are found in the Bible. Conservative elderly male Christians in the USA want to publicly burn a book which offers help to young gay men struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.

The prejudice against which young gay men struggle in the USA and UK is inflicted by groups such as the Christian Legal Centre who want the freedom to preach what amounts to the way God hates gays – faggots, as the book and Pastor Fred Phelps, another poisonous influence, puts it.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Life in spirit and love or in law and judgement?

The lectionary readings for yesterday and today inspired a train of thought in me.

Jesus: Do not be afraid; do not be anxious; why worry about the rest; set you mind on [the Father’s] kingdom. Luke 12

“Those who live on the level of the old nature have their outlook formed by it, and that spells death; but those who live on the level of the spirit have the spiritual outlook, and that is life and peace.” Romans 8.5-6

Those who oppose the presence of partnered LGBT Christians in church oppose our presence because of OT and NT law. (Some of them don’t believe gay people as such exist in reality. Gays are heterosexuals who wilfully deny their true sexuality.)

To be trained, as these conservative Christians would have us, to live conscious all the time of sin and law, rules and commandments, is to condemn us to death in spiritual terms. This is a conundrum that Paul struggles to understand in himself in Romans 7. Paul knows where the truth lies – in the spirit, not in the law. Conservatives forget this basic every time they start quoting Leviticus 18.22, 20.13 and Romans 1.26-27 at us. Every time, they forget that Paul’s argument is turned against them.

I accept that I am gay, that I am called to follow my heart in loving another man, that I am right to express love for him intimately and physically and to commit myself to him faithfully. It’s hard to do this against the judgmental background conservative noise.

We are created to be free from fear, worry and anxiety, as Jesus teaches, not to have it drilled into us by conservative Christians.

We are created by God to live in loving relationship, with God, with creation and with one another. We are created to live in harmony and peace. The new-born child is born into this harmonious Eden but looses it – by the terrible twos, as a result of socialisation and the need to become an independent person, free from total dependence on parents.. We lose our innocence and our innate awareness of loving goodness, trust and beauty is eroded. If we are blessed, we spend the rest our lives working spiritually to recover our inner spiritual trust and awareness. Sin – missing the mark – lies in not recovering our deep innate spiritual awareness of God.

Many (the majority) never awake to their spiritual journey. Many do, including many LGBT people, partnered Christian LGBT people. Following the path of love, the road less travelled, living in the present moment, being open to God and creation – these are the qualities that make life different when living in relationship with God.

What St Paul tries to do in Romans 7 is come to terms with his internal conflicts, between law and grace, commandments and freedom in the spirit. The present conflict in the church revolves around this as much as it revolves around sexual identity and activity, power and authority, history, scripture and tradition. St Paul caught the vision, as an adult, of the world created in Christ and for Christ and of people transformed in Christ. But he could never quite shed that persistently haunting old self constructed around law and obedience to commandments, his sinful, legalistic past.

We are journeying from darkness to light, from legalism to freedom in the spirit – NOT back into the closet, to Levitical law, rules and commands. Whatever frees LGBT people to become open and confident in following a spiritual path, which deepens our awareness of inner and outer space, of the profound glory and goodness of creation, is holy for us and brings us closer to God and to the sacred in all things.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Conservatives who claim devastating consequences to Christian witness are driving people from church

Conservative Christians in the UK believe they are prevented by proposed legislation from openly explaining what they believe the Bible says about sexual conduct. Christian Concern for our Nation (CCFON) is petitioning HM the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House of Lords http://www.ccfon.org/. CLC believes the sanctity of life and freedom of speech are under immediate threat by measures in the Coroners and Justice Bill.

Barrister Andrea Minichiello Williams is one of the sources of “inspiration and support for this enabling and empowering outlet” which exists “to serve the Church by providing information to enable Christians to stand up publicly against a tide of unchristian legal and political changes” bringing together “focused legal, policy and media expertise and strategic intervention in order to secure favourable legal and political outcomes.”

The Christian Legal Centre, founded by Andrea Minichiello Williams, is a sister organisation “that offers legal support to Christians facing issues of biblical freedom.” Andrea Minichiello Williams says that buried deep within the Bill is a clause which could prevent any Christian openly stating what the Bible says, and Christians have believed for 2,000 years, about issues such as homosexual conduct or even marriage. Church leaders and individual Christians answering questions about their faith could well find themselves the subject of a police investigation and arrest just for speaking and living according to the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and marriage.

One person’s biblical freedom and unchristian legal change is another person’s salvation. LGBT Christians have welcomed the protection from abuse offered by government legislation. Christians who support CCFON are out of step not only with the huge majority of people in UK society in their attitude towards sexual conduct but also with the majority of Christians.

Nevertheless, it’s reasonable to ask if these conservatives have a just case. The clause in the bill does not further erode individual freedom. It makes clear the intention of the original legislation. That legislation protects both people of faith and LGBT people from discrimination and negative attitudes at work. It is about equality and diversity at work. The cases referred to on the CCFON web site are primarily cases at work.

Conservative Christians say they want freedom – preserve the right is how the petition puts it – “to, discuss, criticise and urge to refrain from certain forms of sexual conduct or practices.” This means they want the freedom, at work, to quote Bible verses at and be critical about the relationships and loves of LGBT people. The law says this is prejudicial to the well-being of LGBT people at work and you can’t do it.

CCFON, CFC and Andrea Minichiello Williams represent a tiny minority not just of people in this country but of Christians. They are not representative and yet they want an exemption for themselves which will allow them to be abusive in the work place to LGBT people. They are unable to recognise that their so-called Christian values and teaching about marriage and sexuality are deeply offensive to the majority.

They believe there will be “devastating consequences” to Christian witness and integrity in the UK if the Bill goes through Parliament. The tragedy is, they are the groups causing devastating consequences now. They are undermining the church’s mission and witness by making the church look homophobic, deeply prejudiced, obsessed with sex and negative.

Friday, 12 June 2009

The BNP, conservative Christians, Jews and Moslems the most prejudiced against LGBT people

I learnt yesterday which two groups in this country are the most homophobic. Government research shows they are the British National Party and the faith communities. Conservative Moslems, Jews and Christians together with the BNP hold the most prejudiced views towards LGBT people in the country.

This should shock the Church of England into a speedy reappraisal of its attitudes towards LGBT people and its use of the Bible to maintain a policy of prejudice, discrimination and inequality.

Before the recent European Parliament elections, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York warned people about voting for the BNP. In today’s Church of England Newspaper, Andrew Carey, son of the former Archbishop, writes about the BNP challenge in his Lambeth Notes. The church, says Andrew, is over-reacting to the BNP and its racist policies.

Writes Andrew:

“The fact is that a whole host of concerns around uncontrolled immigration, multiculturalism, Islamism and positive discrimination which might lead people in disillusionment and frustration to vote for the British National Party should not be confused with out-and-out racism. And these concerns are rife in the pews of the Church of England.”

I have to tell Andrew that these concerns are not rife in the congregation of St John and St Mary Devizes, where we welcomed the newly-elected Mayor of Devizes last Sunday morning.

Furthermore, says Andrew, Islamist crimes against clergy and places of worship in Britain are hushed up. This allegation connects with my previous post. I have never heard of Islamist crimes against clergy and places of worship being reported, let alone hushed up (and perhaps that proves Andrew’s point). I’d like to see the evidence for his claim, evidence of crimes, evidence of them being deliberately hushed up. I searched on Google. There are reports from Nigeria, Cairo, India, Kenya, Palestine, Ethiopia, but not the UK. Is this another urban myth repeated by or invented by Andrew?

Andrew goes on to focus on immigration. He argues that there is no debate on immigration in church circles and implies that the majority in church are against lenient immigration policies and want stricter controls (or “balanced immigration” as he puts it in 1984-speak).

In advocating anti-racist policies and peaceful multi-faith communities he says the church is in danger of treating with contempt the views of many of its active parishioners. The leaders of the CofE are in danger of alienating their supporters by petulant thinking which opposes as racist, immigration controls, multiculturalism and integration.

If Andrew’s claim about Islamist crimes against clergy are not true, then his allegations fuel Christian prejudice against Moslems. Andrew seems to be arguing that bishops and other CofE leaders need to attune their preaching and teaching to the views of “many” parishioners, whether or not their views are Christian or prejudiced, which seems to be immaterial to Andrew. I won’t be alone in finding this shocking.

The church’s attitude towards LGBT people is seen as being illogical and un-Christian by the majority of people in this country. According to Government research, even the majority of Christians think the churches have got it wrong. Andrew’s argument about bishops following the views of “many” parishioners is logical from his perspective as a conservative who believes the Bible teaches that homosexual activity is a sin.

The church has to decide whether it is more Christian to oppose injustice and discrimination against LGBT people, immigrants, Jews, Moslems, black people or women, or whether the Bible can legitimately be used to maintain discrimination against particular groups of people. The majority of Church of England members are aligned with the majority of people in this country in opposing both the BNP and prejudice against LGBT people. The church needs to disconnect from the racist and homophobic policies of the BNP and fully reconnect with a Christian commitment to justice and truth.

Are reports of persecution of Christians accurate?

The Church of England Newspaper reports today on the ‘Persecution of Christians in the UK’ conference held in the House of Commons on July 3rd. The conference was attended by Baroness Cox, the Bishop of Manchester, Andrea Minichello-Williams of the Christian Lawyers Fellowship (CLF) and Canon Yaqub Masih, secretary general of the Asian Christian Fellowship.

Canon Yaqub Masih reportedly said ““Christians in this country are being sidelined and discriminated and even some pastors have been threatened and beaten, because of preaching the gospel.”

The report interested me for a number of reasons. Andrea Minichello-Williams and the CLF have supported a number of cases involving what they claim is persecution against Christians for expressing views and taking actions which are in conformity with their faith but which have been deemed homophobic and for which they have been censured. The CLF is building up a case by case claim that Christians are being victimised and oppressed by legislation protecting LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace.

I was at a meeting convened by Stonewall last night at which their recent publication ‘Religion and Sexual Orientation: How to manage relations in the work place’ was presented. The booklet presents case studies on many of the cases fought by the CLF and demonstrates why CLF lost every time. The cases are often misreported (in the Daily Mail) and it is these reports that conservative Christians rely on for information.

I was curious about Canon Masih’s claim that pastors have been threatened and beaten for being Christian and undertook my own research on Google. There are many reports from other parts of the word but I could find only one report of a physical attack on a minister, despite trawling through the growing number of sites reporting the persecution of Christians in UK and western culture; try searching http://vladtepesblog.com/?p=8907 or http://blog.echurchwebsites.org.uk/category/uk-christian-persecution/

The only report of a physical assault I could find was a Daily Mail report about an alleged attack on Nobel Samuel on 14th March 2009. I say alleged because there were no witnesses to the attack.

The Daily Mail reported that the Reverend Nobel Samuel, based at Heston United Reformed Church, West London, was driving to his TV studio on 14th March 2009. Mr Samuel reported that a car pulled over in front of him and a man got out and asked him questions in Urdu. The man put his hand into the window, which was half open and grabbed Mr Samuel’s hair and opened the door. He started slapping his face and punching his neck. He was trying to smash his head on the steering wheel. Then he grabbed his cross and pulled it off and it fell on the floor. He was swearing. The other two men came from the car and took his laptop and Bible. The Metropolitan Police are treating it as a ‘faith hate’ assault and are hunting three Asian men. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1162039/Minister-beaten-clashing-Muslims-TV-show.html

I checked Google to see if there were other reports of the attack. The top 40 results on Google were all based on the Daily Mail article. Just one report added more information: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2009/s09060037.htm.

This reports Mr Samuel’s presence at and contribution to the Persecution of Christians Conference. At the Conference Mr Samuel said ‘he was attacked by four people after Musilm callers questioned the Christian belief of the “Sonship of Christ.” He said a Muslim caller asked him why Christians eat pork and drink liquor. “I was attacked and threatened when I told the caller that Muslim drink in Saudi Arabia and in other Islamic countries too,” said Nobel Samuel’. The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Dr Samuel.

How accurate are any of these reports – in the CEN, the Daily Mail and online? Stonewall have demonstrated that the reports of the cases supported by the Christian Lawyers Fellowship are inaccurate, and the cases have been lost. The claim reported in the CEN that pastors are being threatened and beaten because of preaching the gospel seems to refer to Mr Nobel Samuel. He wasn’t preaching the Gospel when he was attacked. Those who attacked him did not refer to his faith. It is Mr Samuel who makes the connection in his remarks at the Conference between the attack and callers to his programme.

Conservative Christians are trying to persuade Parliament and bishops and church leaders that legislation protecting LGBT people is causing Christians to be persecuted. Existing and proposed legislation benefits LGBT Christians. It is a minority of conservative Christians who believe they are being persecuted. Their freedom to refrain from offering goods and services to LGBT people has been circumscribed and they don’t like it. They fail to understand how the law works to protect the freedom of LGBT people and their freedom in the work place.

They misreport events and then rely on the misreporting to pursue their claims of persecution. Their lack of honesty and integrity is not Christian. I hope the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, a good friend, isn’t taken in by the CLF inaccuracies and misrepresentation of reality. More about the Stonewall report in a future post.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Anglican Mainstream’s despair

Anglican Mainstream is feeling isolated and beleaguered at the moment. Lisa Nolland despairs in her latest articles on their web site about the failure of key players in the evangelical Anglican British world to respond to the threat from “illiberal Liberalism.” Other evangelicals are apparently failing to indicate the pastoral response that biblically faithful Christians should be giving to lesbian and gay Anglicans and failing to take action in response to the erosion of the broader sexual ethic in the church, not to mention outside its walls. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is apparently prepared bravely to enter this dangerous arena.

Lisa is able to recognise that the approach advocated by Anglican Mainstream “is hotly contested and considered deeply offensive by many.” However, she still believes it to be true and she receives confirmation from her friends with same-sex attraction (SSA). SSA sounds like the acronym for a disease, and in Mainstream’s mentality it is – a disease of the soul. Mainstream is unable to understand the experience of faithful, orthodox Christians, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and heterosexual, for whom homosexuality isn’t a problem and love between two people of the same sex is as delightful and blessed as heterosexual love.

Anglican Mainstream is clearly shocked by the action taken by the Church of Scotland over the appointment of the Revd Scott Rennie as minister of Queens Cross church in Aberdeen. Lisa Nolland warns that what happened in Scotland will soon happen in England.

Lisa ackowledges reality:

“… there are many partnered gay and lesbian Anglicans embedded in our churches, parishes and diocesan structures now.”
From her perspective:

“… these people need pastoral support to move beyond their disordered response to a disordered situation. Yes, people with same-sex attraction (SSA) are more than welcome in our churches, but like all of us who live below God’s best, that should be in order than our lives be transformed by Jesus. It is an entirely different matter for them to be given responsibility to lead, teach and provide role models to the flock - in this case of sexual behaviour and lifestyle that is directly contradictory to biblical and Anglican teaching.”
Is it loving, she asks, to allow people to continue to live and believe a lie about themselves?

Lisa takes her own prejudices, shared by her friends with “same-sex attraction” to be valid for the majority of Christians and those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered. This is a minority view held by those LGBT people who feel guilty about being who they are and accept a conservative understanding of Christian tradition and teaching. This tradition, as with other traditions once held to be inviolable, is changing.

The response of the church to me and tens of thousands like me in the Anglican communion will be loving when it stops treating us as people who need to be healed and changed and welcomes us unconditionally as we are, people created by God and loved by God – right now, just as we are.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The answer to Lisa Noland is a categorical yes – Changing Attitude advocates lifelong fidelity

In her article posted today on the Anglican Mainstream web site Lisa Nolland quotes my blog from 9th March - ‘Changing Attitude wants to develop a Christian marital ethic which responds to the needs of heterosexuals and LGBT people alike in the 21st century who seek lifelong fidelity in love’. She wonders how this might be fleshed out in the marriages of people reading the Anglican Mainstream site http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/?p=11733#more-11733.

Incautiously revealing her own fantasises, she suggests they begin by sexualizing their close friendships (with husband or wife following suit) in order that both could enjoy ‘the enriching potential of variety’, but with the caveat that there is no ‘serious physical hurt or harm’ which can result from certain kinds (sadomasochism/bondage and domination) of sexual activity’. She quotes from the Clergy Consultation Sexual Ethics booklet, not from Changing Attitude material.

Lisa has bisexuality in her sights. She is fascinated by it. Lisa asks again what Changing Attitude’s attitude is to bisexuality. You see, Lisa has read the ‘narratives of active bisexuals for whom the binary is obsolete’. She speculates about the type of bisexual who wants and needs a lover of both sexes at the same time. She reads Jenny Block, an American writer who advocates open marriage and polyamory. She wonders whether I have heard of Jenny Block. No Lisa, I hadn’t. Changing Attitude isn’t researching alternative secular sexual lifestyles.

Lisa is among Anglican Mainstream leaders who seem to be obsessed with what people do sexually in the secular world. They seem unable to recognise that in the secular realm, people exert adult freedoms untroubled by Mainstream’s Christian ethics. Nevertheless, such people often have an ethical framework of their own.

Anglican Mainstream also finds it difficult to understand that Christian organisations such as Changing Attitude which advocate the full inclusion of LGBT people also observe Christian patterns of life and moral and ethical codes.

Changing Attitude’s ethical framework is of love, fidelity and monogamy in relationships, lesbian, gay and bisexual. The bisexual people I meet are faithful to their partner (if they have one). There is no difference in the choices Christian heterosexuals, bisexuals and lesbian and gay people make. If you are tempted to be unfaithful to your partner, it makes no difference whether you are heterosexual and tempted by another man or woman, gay and tempted by another man, lesbian and tempted by another woman, or bisexual and tempted by another man or woman. Just as heterosexual, lesbian and gay people do not need a sexual relationship with both sexes at the same time, neither do bisexuals. They commit to one or the other.

The answer to Lisa is a categorical yes - Changing Attitude advocates fidelity to one person in marriage or Civil Partnership where this is legally possible and in a faithful, lifelong committed relationship when it is not possible to register a marriage or partnership.

Conservative Christians – victims of totalitarian culture or threat to the common good?

British conservative Christians believe they are the victims of a “new political wave of cultural totalitarianism [that] is threatening the church.” Anglican Mainstream quote new examples on their website every day. Some examples:

This week police officers apparently told an open-air preacher in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, that it is a criminal offence to identify homosexuality as a sin.

An Australian blog repeated the three year old story that the Royal Navy has installed a satanist chapel in a warship to accommodate the proclivities of a satanist crew member or, as another report puts it, offered him space on board to carry out Satanic rituals. A correction had later issued been by Paul Docherty, the director of naval personnel responsible for diversity and equality issues in conjunction with the Catholic chaplain, but no-one was interested. This week’s story repeats the myth that Chris Cranmer became the first registered “Devil worshipper” in the armed forces three years ago.

Another report says the UK Government is pushing ahead with legislation that will criminalise politically incorrect jokes, with a maximum punishment of up to seven years’ prison.

In recent months, says the Anglican Mainstream report, innumerable people in schools, hospitals and other institutions have lost their jobs because of various religious scruples, often betrayed in private conversations and reported to authorities. The crime of one nurse was to offer to pray for a patient. A primary school receptionist whose five-year-old daughter was told off for talking about Jesus in class faces the sack for seeking support from her church when a private email to other members of the church asking for prayers fell into the hands of school authorities.

Mainstream thinks these incidents add up to a pretty clear picture, a campaign being waged by unelected or quasi-governmental bodies controlling various institutions which the Government surreptitiously helps drive and condone. Thought police with unprecedented powers to dictate ways of thinking sniff out heresy and there are harsh punishments for dissent.

Are these reports accurate and do they support the claim of conservative Christians that religious freedoms are being eroded? Changing Attitude has learnt to read news reports carefully and avoid rushing to simplistic judgements. There is some truth in the claims made by Anglican Mainstream and other groups. The freedom of Christians to do and say certain things is being legislated against.

Anglican Mainstream ignores uncomfortable truth that Christian freedoms have always been restricted in different ways by the State. Christians are not allowed to murder people. They are not allowed to incite murder. Yet Leviticus 20.13, one of the key passages quoted by conservatives in their campaign against homosexuality, says:

“If a man has intercourse with a man as with a woman, both commit an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood be on their own heads.” (REB)

Christians accept that they are quite rightly legally inhibited by the State from murdering even someone who commits an abomination. The current disagreement is not about whether the State is allowed to inhibit freedom of religious thought and expression – clearly it does. A much more complex argument is taking place about how and where it is appropriate for the State to intervene and determine what language and actions should be criminalised.

Conservative attitudes are partly responsible for ingredients of new equality and employment legislation. The State and a majority of people in our society have decided that the ideas held by some religious people are dangerous for our freedom and a threat to the common good.

For example, the campaign that creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution raises fears that Christians are trying to overturn the scientific and rational basis on which the National Curriculum is based.

Conservative Christians are at risk of being perceived to belong in the same category as the BNP – people who wish to restrict basic freedoms and are homophobic - who stand against the good, positive and humane developments that we have benefitted from in our membership of the European Union. All this is arguable, but it is the view held about Christians by many in our society and one of many reasons why they have abandoned the church.

Wider society sees Christians as being hostile to the positive values enacted in legislation – there is a reality in people’s minds to the accusations of totalitarianism in Government, but Christians are also perceived to be totalitarian. The way Calvinist conservative Christians handle LGBT issues is deeply affecting the relationship between church and State and church and society.

The State is legislating against hate speech. One half of Leviticus 20.13 is clearly hate speech. The State with the support of the majority in our society is now extending protection from hate speech to LGBT people. The State thinks the ideas and language quoted by conservative Christians against LGBT practice (as they insist on describing it) is prejudicial to the well-being of lesbians and gays in our society. It believes such language should be proscribed.

The first half of Leviticus 20.13 falls within this category by using the word abomination in the context of men having intercourse with men. When language like this is used about gay people, it is possible to see what the outcomes are. It can exacerbate prejudice and lead to people being abused, violently attacked and murdered. It is hate speech and the government has decided it should be prosecuted to secure the safety and protection of LGBT people in our society.

Yes, the freedom of Christians to teach and preach certain things which some in the church believe to be “Biblical”, “traditional” and “orthodox” is being restricted. Changing Attitude believes this to be right.

(My thanks to the Revd David Page who contributed to the ideas explored in this post)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

As FCA launch approaches, should CA supporters worry?

Should supporters of Changing Attitude who are working for a church free from prejudice against LGBT people be worried by the UK launch of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) on 6 July in Westminster Central Hall, London?

Anglican Mainstream has announced a series of events in and around London on the previous day, 5th July. They kick off in the morning at 9.30 at St Peter’s Bushey Heath where Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, the soon-to-retire Bishop of Rochester is the star attraction. At 18.00 at St Mark’s Battersea Rise Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney is journeying across the world, global warming notwithstanding, to lend his support.

Thirty minutes later at St Mary’s Lewisham, Bishop Keith Ackerman who retired as Bishop of Quincy (USA) on 1st November 2008 and is President of Forward in Faith North America, will be featured. At the same time Canon Vinay Samuel (India), speaks at All Saints Woodford Wells and Bishop Colin Bazley, former Primate of the Southern Cone and Bishop of Chile who retired in 2000 and is now an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Chester speaks at St Peter’s Harold Wood.

Events are also to be held at St Michael’s Chester Square, Christ Church Virginia Water and St Nicholas Sevenoaks. I can imagine FCA is hoping for some Africans bishops to arrive and lend their support.

The carefully choreographed launch is designed to give the impression that a well co-ordinated and widely supported new movement is taking root in the UK. It will rescue the Anglican churches by restoring biblical orthodoxy.

Yes, we should be worried by this because biblical orthodoxy in FCA terms means prejudice against LGBT people, discrimination, barely veiled homophobia and acute ignorance about LGBT Christians. We should be worried by Michael Nazir-Ali’s involvement, because he is one of a number of bishops ready to support FCA as a movement designed to impose reactionary conservatism on the UK churches.

On the other hand, only one Primate will be here in support, a Primate who lives on the extreme edge of the Anglican Communion, and three bishops - who have or are about to retire. The majority of people in the UK perceive the church as having lost its way in support of a prejudice which the majority have long since overcome.

The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is, says the publicity, an orthodox Anglican movement for mission at global and local level. The Fellowship, it says, is the outworking of last year’s GAFCON conference in Jerusalem, at which the 1200 delegates represented some 40 million Anglicans world-wide, 70% of the total active membership of 55 million. Many of the 1200 present did not approve of the GAFCON ethos and were certainly not representing anyone, let alone 40 million Anglicans.

The care with which the launch is being presented as authoritative is superficial, however. Scratch the surface and opinions as infantile and prejudiced as those posted to Stand Firm and VOL in the USA are revealed. Lisa Nolland in a related article on Anglican Mainstream refers to the “downtrodden group” of American secessionist parishes which “represent oppressed orthodox Anglicanism” as being “personally being sued by Katie and co … because they refuse to accept the LGBT agenda in the church.” David Virtue always refers to the Presiding Bishop as Mrs Jefferts Schori. Lisa Nolland shows a similar lack of respect.

The abuse which conservatives show towards LGBT people is echoed in their attitude towards pro-gay church leaders and bishops. It is their prejudice that we need to worry about – their failure to respect difference and truly embody Christian virtues.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The pro-family “biblically orthodox mainstream” agenda and belief system

Last week Anglican Mainstream posted a link to a guest editorial from the NARTH website in the USA written by Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council and a long time friend of NARTH.

Peter was responding to an article in USA Today, April 20 by Jonathan Merritt which criticized the evangelical church in general and the pro-family public policy movement in particular. Merritt said that "Evangelical opposition to . . . ‘the homosexual agenda’ has often been vitriolic and unbalanced by a message of love for our gay neighbors."

The Editorial Policy of the Anglican Mainstream website “seeks to present material relevant to the vision for biblically faithful Christian faith in the Anglican Communion. Material posted on the Anglican Mainstream site drawn from other sources should not be taken to imply that AM necessarily approves of or agrees with their content.”

In posting Peter Sprigg editorial, AM is presumably presenting material relevant to biblically faithful Christians and agrees broadly with the ideas expressed by him. Sprigg’s ideas are commonplace amongst the pro-life, pro-family, ex-gay, “biblically faithful” movements. Here is a summary of his argument:

Foundational truths about homosexuality are routinely ignored or obscured.

Christians are misinformed that gays have chosen their sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation is an umbrella term for three different things–sexual attractions, sexual behaviour, and sexual self-identification.

People do not "choose" to experience same-sex sexual attractions.

People are not born gay–developmental factors from childhood are at work.

People choose to become sexually active, choose their sexual partners, and choose whether to identify themselves as gay.

Homosexuals are people who choose to engage in homosexual acts.

Homosexuality is voluntary homosexual activity.

Homosexual activists demand public affirmation of their sex lives.

The terms gay and lesbian reinforce the myth that homosexuality is an intrinsic identity.

It is demeaning to define a person as gay based on their sexual conduct.

Conservatives can show respect and love for gay people by defining them not as gay but as human.

No human beings are created to be gay.

It is not homosexuals whose right to express their beliefs that is in jeopardy but those who believe in traditional family values.

No movement is subject to more hateful and vitriolic rhetoric from homosexual activists than the ex-gay movement.

Activists deny outright the existence of ex-gays.

Activists seek to prevent those with unwanted same-sex attractions from having access to the care that they seek.

Care for those with unwanted same-sex attractions might be one of the first victims of non-discrimination laws.

Pro-family movements must resist policies that would amount to governmental affirmation that homosexual conduct is normal, natural, and harmless.

Homosexual conduct is harmful to the people who engage in it, and to society at large.

Homosexual conduct is demonstrably associated with higher rates of sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse.

The pro-family belief that God’s model is a lifelong, monogamous, heterosexual union and that God desires a better path for his gay friends is more than sufficient to get them labelled as hatemongers and bigots by homosexual activists.

Labels applied to the pro-life movement by homosexual activists are a form of spiritual blackmail and propaganda.

The portrait of the pro-family movement is mostly a caricature drawn by homosexual activists and promoted by the mainstream media.

These ideas, offensive to LGBT people and many faithful Christians are repeated ad nauseam by those claiming to be Biblically faithful and orthodox. As LGBT people are slowly accepted by the Church as people created by God and blessed by God as we are, such ideas come to be seen as extreme prejudice driven by fear. They need to be highlighted not to give them the oxygen of publicity but to enable the poison it spreads to be identified and countered with truth and love.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Romans 1

Reading Romans 1.18-32 this morning, I was struck yet again as I attended to Paul’s carefully extended argument and blistering attack, that this has nothing to do with me. Let me explain it as I see it.


Divine retribution is falling on men and women who suppress the truth. Do I suppress the truth? No. I am unconscious of the whole of truth, as are we all, and the unconscious is a form of suppression, but I don’t consciously suppress truth.

All that can be known of God lies plain before their eyes. God himself has been disclosed to them. His everlasting power and deity have been visible to the eye of reason in the things he has made. Creation, says Paul, reveals God. For those with eyes and hearts to see and feel, God could be known prior to the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the writing of New Testament scripture. For those, like me, of an intuitive, introvert, contemplative nature, Paul’s statement that all that can be known of God lies plain before our eyes isn’t true, and early Christian tradition decided such statement cannot be true about God.

The conduct of those who know God is indefensible, when they refuse to honour God or give him thanks. I honour God, I worship and pray and reverence the holiness of God and the glory of creation. What do I do wrong? Is it my loving of another man?

All their thinking has ended in futility. Their misguided minds are plunged in darkness. Is this how I experience myself? No. I could be totally deluded, but I experience great openness and clarity of thought and awareness in my mind.

The people Paul writes about worship idols, images of human beings, birds, beasts and reptiles in exchange for the glory of God. Do I do that? No.

I am a contemplative. Every day begins with an hour of prayer focussed on the Bible followed by meditation and a deep, inner stillness rooted in the presence of God. I do not believe my life pattern and actions are in any way like the actions of those in Rome who Paul has in his sights.


God has given these people in Rome up to their own vile desires and the consequent degradation of their own bodies. I don’t experience this description as characterising me.

It does, however, help explain why conservatives need repeatedly to maintain that homosexuality is intrinsically related to pederasty, bestiality, shortened life span, addiction to sex, and the inability to create faithful, deep, loving, life-long relationships.

I feel so angry about the false witness born by conservatives against me and my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. Some conservatives are guilty of proclaiming wicked and false lies against us of scandalous dishonesty.

I offer worship and reverence to the Creator and not to created things. I do not give myself up to unnatural passions but to that which is natural and healthy for me.

Whatever Paul is writing about in 24-27, it is not about me nor people like me nor my LGBT friends and colleagues.


I acknowledge God. I am committed to the path of holiness, to worship with my church family, reading the Bible, corporate and private prayer and meditation, working for justice, truth and peace and the service of my fellow human beings – the poorest of the poor.

My thinking is not depraved. I am not filled with every kind of wickedness, villainy, greed and malice. I am not one mass of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery and malevolence. I am not a gossip, scandalmonger, blasphemer, insolent, arrogant or boastful. (Well, one moment Colin – yes, I can be arrogant and I’m well aware of my arrogance. One of my psychotherapy tutors told me not to be afraid of arrogance but to use it creatively).

I don’t invent new kinds of vice. I was respectful to my parents, both now deceased. I do have sense and fidelity. I am a person of natural affection and piety.

In my own self-awareness, I am not remotely like the people Paul is writing to, and about. Perhaps those who use Romans 1 as a proof text to attack LGBT people think that I am mistaken in my own identity and self-understanding – that I really am like the Paul’s people in Rome. However, if conservatives are wrong about my own nature, then their whole argument based on Romans 1 collapses.


In 2.1 Paul turns his argument outlined in 1.16-32 on those in Rome to whom he is writing. When they sit in judgement, whoever they may be, they have no defence for in judging others they condemn themselves since they are equally guilty. I refrain from expanding further on the implications of Paul’s argument.

This is the crunch point for Christians, those who have set out to follow the way of Christ. How does the conservative argument from Romans 1 ever stand as an authoritative word from God against faithful lesbian and gay Christians? I’m sure the conservatives will have an answer – they always do.