Time to confront and end abusive, homophobic teaching, theology and practice

Jayne Ozanne, editor of ViaMedia.News and author of Just Love, has written a powerful blog, drawing on her own experience. She describes the mental anguish and trauma, the suicidal thoughts and feelings of self-hate that she and so many other LGBTI people suffer as a result of Christian teaching that claims to be orthodox, traditional and biblically-based.

The result of this teaching: young people’s lives are put at risk; people are told they are an abomination; some are forced to endure forms of prayer ministry, deliverance ministry, fasting and penance. It is, says Jayne, demeaning, humiliating and utterly exhausting. She has been through it all and has written about in her memoir, Just Love.

Jayne identifies this Christian teaching and theology as the cause of a safeguarding issue of immediate importance.

She pleads for church leaders to look at the fruit of this teaching, to see whether it creates lives that are flourishing or places burdens on people they cannot carry and leads to death rather than life. Many of these teachers live in denial of reality, she says.

She asks for those with ears to hear to listen to the cries of a community in deep and ongoing pain, and having heard, to act immediately. The House of Bishops do not need a Teaching Document to tell you them how to respond.

The campaign for the full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church of England has been actively pursued for over four decades. It continues to be trapped in a conflict between the self-proclaimed ‘biblically-orthodox traditionalists’ and those they label ‘revisionists’. Jayne represents LGBTI Christians who have been and still being deeply damaged, some to the point of suicide, by the so-called biblically-orthodox traditional teaching about homosexuality. It is based on biblical ignorance, prejudice and intolerance of difference.

The church has become systemically homophobic as a result of this teaching and use of the bible. The church breeds homophobia. The church fails to recognise it is systemically homophobic.

We can now see with clarity, thanks to the testimony of survivors of abuse in the church and the evidence being uncovered in the IICSA hearings that this is, as Jayne identifies, a safeguarding issue that must be dealt with immediately.

The House of Bishops cannot wait until 2020 when their complex Teaching Document is due to be published. They must take action now to end the teachings that fuel homophobia. This raises difficult questions for the six groups working on the Document; the Coordinating Group, the Pastoral Advisory Group, and the four Thematic Working Groups.

How are they going to do this? It means confronting some of their own, those bishops whose teaching advocates abusive practice, and it means confronting vocal, powerful bodies within the Church of England, including Reform, the Church Society, and in particular, the obsessively homophobic group Christian Concern. It means confronting the decision of the Business Committee of General Synod to refuse debate by Synod until the Teaching Document is published.

How are we, LGBTI+ groups, networks, campaigners for equality and justice, going to press for change and ensure that action is taken now? We have our own truth and our own vision, authentic to scripture, of God’s unconditional love revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus the Christ.