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. 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. 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.
We have learnt this week, thanks to the open letter sent by the Bishop of Maidstone to the Bishop of Lichfield, that the Church of England also unwittingly created a bishop to enshrine prejudice against LGBTI people in the Church of England. Writing about Bishop Thomas requires the use of words that have been taboo when used in the context of equality for women in the church: prejudice and discrimination. The prejudice enshrined in the authority and teaching of the Bishop of Maidstone raises great concerns about the lengthy, complex process now being undertaken to produce what the House of Bishops clearly intend to be a new, definitive Teaching Document.
Many LGBTI people continue to experience rejection when they are treated with anything less than an unconditional welcome by the Church in the name of God whose unconditional love for creation was exemplified in the life and teaching of Jesus the Christ.Tthe Bishop of Maidstone is outlining advice to his clergy that directly contravenes the teaching agreed by the House of Bishops and outlined in the Guidance on Same Sex Marriage.
On Wednesday I wrote to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York putting a question to them arising from the blogs exchanged by a number of bishops’ chaplains: “How are you going to ensure good practice in the future, practice that at least meets the legal requirements, to avoid a repeat of the concealment that led to the shameful abuse of children in the Church of England?” This is but one example of the bad practice within the Church of England that has been the subject of recent reports. Below the letter, I comment on the Archbishop of York’s failures, the incompetence of the Clergy Discipline Commission and the disregard for proper process exhibited by William Nye, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council.
One of my gay Nigerian friends was in conversation with me on Facebook this morning. I told him about General Synod and the bishops’ report. He asked me send him the link to the report, which he read swiftly. My friend was confused by one particular part of the report. I told him it means the bishops have a problem, that bishops in Nigeria have a different theology and live in a different social context, a homophobic context according to our values, and the English bishops don't know what to do about them. My friend replied: “After I returned from the hospital, a friend of mine called me to let me know I will be planning his wedding in South Africa. Then my question was why South Africa - why not Nigeria? Why can't I find love here and get married here and be happy here? This guy is a church guy, he grew up in the church and always dream of getting married in the church, now just because he is gay the church rejected him, saying he is demonic.
Yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote to every primate in the Anglican Communion in advance of the next Primates’ Meeting, which takes place in Canterbury in October. The letter reveals the mindset of the Lambeth Palace team, determined to maintain the unequal status of LGBTI people in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The letter inflames an already incendiary situation. There is now fury among the Church of England’s LGBTI networks about the content of the report, the way bishops have presented it and the use that is now being made of it. The Archbishop has now ensured LGBTI people and our supporters will approach next week’s Synod debate in a hostile mood.
When I sit deep in the presence of God every morning for 30 minutes, sometimes contemplating a crucifix of the self-emptying Christ, I experience the presence of God as caring about and affirming my love, my fulfilment in relationship and my openness to and love for my partner. God cares that my self-giving mirrors the self-emptying of Jesus the Christ. This morning my mind roamed over the Gospels and the narratives of Jesus’ ministry, actions and encounters. Crowds clamoured after Jesus, pursuing him across lakes and up hills and mountains. They clamoured because they knew they were in the presence of someone who held the key to the transformation of life. The crowds I encounter in congregations and at wedding breakfasts and the blessing of same-sex relationships are wholeheartedly supportive of equal marriage.
What were the millions of Anglicans praying for during the Primates’ meeting? Were they neutrally praying supportively for the well-being of those present? Were they praying for unity above all things? Were they praying for the Primates to be infused with the love of Jesus the Christ? Were they praying for an in-breaking of the Holy Spirit? Were they praying for a radical comment to love, truth and justice? Were they praying for an end to the caricature and prejudice that can lead to violent persecution and genocide and the cessation of simplistic criticism and ridicule by the Primates that leads inexorably to the dehumanising and degrading treatment of others?
In a week’s time the Primates of the Anglican Communion will gather in Canterbury for an emergency meeting designed to resolve the ruptured relationships in the Communion. Jonathan Petre has filed a very predictable report for the MailOnline. According to Jonathan’s report, the Archbishop of Canterbury wants to broker a deal to allow both sides to co-exist peacefully. I hope and pray with all my heart that he achieves his goal. To co-exist peacefully with my brothers and sisters across the globe, whatever their gender, sexuality, faith or spirituality is most profoundly and prayerfully to be desired.