The Intimate Convictions conference has been an extraordinary event. Probably for the first time in Jamaica lesbian, gay and bisexual people spoke publicly in a forum as equals about the effect of anti-sodomy laws in the thirty-six countries of the commonwealth where sodomy is criminalised and the sixteen countries that also criminalise lesbians. Over the two days twenty presentations were made with people describing the relationship between their church’s teaching and the lived experience of LGBTI people. The universal conviction of the presentations was that homosexuality had to be decriminalised.
I question the truth about ‘God’ being proclaimed in the church today. The image of God is based on an uncritical reliance on Scripture and Tradition, a simplistic reading of the Gospels, and a proclamation of the teaching and practice of Jesus which is in many ways profoundly in error. What theology, what image of God, is held by the bishops of the Church of England and the Primates of the Anglican Communion? Is it the toxic version of God and Jesus that supports discrimination and the abuse of LGBTI people or the radical, prophetic version that melts prejudice, confronts abuse, and transforms lives through living and loving unconditionally?
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.
Whatever disruption in the structure of the Communion occurs next week, there will be LGBTI people praying and longing, and in some cases working quietly and effectively, for our full, public, joyful inclusion in the life of the Church. The evolutionary trajectory of God in history makes this outcome inevitable. The Gafcon Primates are trying to reverse a movement which is irreversible.