The Government’s LGBT+ Action Plan and the Church of England’s systemic homophobia

I am writing the same article over and over again because the Church of England establishment doesn’t see just how homophobic the church is. The institution continues to be closeted and fearful. By ‘The Church of England establishment’ I mean the House and College of Bishops, the staff at Church House, Lambeth Palace and Bishopsthorpe, the Archbishops’ Council, and the courtiers appointed by or working under the jurisdiction of these bodies.

The systemic homophobia of the Church of England can be seen in the effect it has on the thirteen members of the College of Bishops who are lesbian or gay. One of them is openly gay. The others live in the closet because they fear being open and the subject of prejudice against them in the church. If I am wrong about their reasons for keeping their sexuality secret, perhaps the lesbian and gay bishops would like to correct me openly.

Systemically homophobic culture

It is now incumbent on every element of the Church of England establishment to be aware of the systemically homophobic culture of the Church. What do I mean by a systemically homophobic culture? I mean one that is unaware of the abusive effect the hierarchy and the teaching and practice of the church has on LGBTI bishops, clergy and laity, friends and families, congregations, and on those who observe the church from the outside.

By a ‘systemically homophobic culture’ I mean the issue of a press release about the government survey that focuses solely on conversion therapy and ignores every other element of the Government’s LGBT Action Plan.

Other results of the survey included:

  • Two in three people (68 per cent) said they avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner in public for fear of a negative reaction
  • Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said people at work reacted negatively to them being LGBT+
  • 70 per cent said they avoided being open about their sexual orientation for fear of a negative reaction
  • Of trans respondents, 59 per cent said they avoided expressing their gender identity for fear of negative reaction

The closeted nature of the Church of England and the unwillingness to confront the way in which the Bible is used to underpin homophobic teaching and prejudice contributes to the negative reactions LGBTI people experience in UK society.

By systematic homophobia I mean the repeated failure of the Church of England to develop a clear, confident teaching document that affirms unequivocally God’s unconditional love for LGBTI+ people.

By systemic homophobia I mean the initial failure to welcome civil partnerships, the about turn when equal marriage was introduced, the quadruple lock to ensure the church cannot conduct equal marriages, the ban on clergy entering equal marriages, the ban on clergy enjoying a sexual relationship, and the refusal to allow relationships, civil partnerships and marriages to be blessed in church. I could go on – examples are legion.

By systematic homophobia I mean the subtle and not so subtle homophobic teaching of groups and individuals in the Church of England including Reform, The Church Society, The Christian Institute, Christian Concern and the Bishop of Maidstone.

By systematic homophobia I mean Christian Concern’s claim that there is an international movement aimed at banning and criminalising therapy and counselling for unwanted same-sex attraction and gender identities. I challenge Christian Concern to publish their evidence for this claim.

The systemically homophobic culture of the Church of England is integral to the way in which LGBTI+ people are subjected to abuse in the church, systemic abuse which must be investigated by the National Safeguarding Team.

I have written to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about the Bishop of Maidstone’s open letter to the Bishop of Lichfield, a letter I identify as advocating abusive action against LGBTI people. I received an acknowledgment from the Archbishop of York. I have written to the National Adviser of the National Safeguarding Team urging the Safeguarding Team to act on the safeguarding risks posed by the Bishop of Maidstone, Reform, the Church Society, and Christian Concern. I copied the letter to the two Archbishops and the Bishop of Newcastle (in her role as chair of the Pastoral Advisory Group). The Archbishop of York’s Chief of Staff alone has replied, telling me that my correspondence has been safely received in the office.

No one has written a substantive reply. This in itself I take to be abusive. The silence fuels the systemically homophobic culture of the Church of England.

Now is the time to deal with systemic homophobia in the Church of England. The archbishops and bishops think they have dealt with it by setting up a group to produce a new Teaching Document in 2020. The Business Committee think they can park all LGBTI business until the Teaching Document is published. The pernicious, silently abusive culture continues to undermine all attempts to confront homophobia and prejudice now.

I will continue to write letters asking for action to be taken now, not postponed until 2020 and beyond.