Sara Gillingham wrote about herself as a person with intersex characteristics and her experience of the Living in Love and Faith process in an article published by the Church Times in January 2019. More recently she has accused the LGBTI+ groups in the Church of blindly following a Process set out by the House of Bishops and failing to hold the House of Bishops to account. We need, she said, to hold each other accountable as well, as we are failing currently to set-out a roadmap against which we can measure our own successes or failures in bringing about change.
My transgender Christian friends are furious about the news that three senior bishops responsible for the Living in Love and faith process recently met a delegation of conservative catholics and evangelicals who had demanded a meeting to talk about the transgender guidance issued by the House of Bishops. Conservative Anglicans are exerting extreme pressure on the Living in Love and Faith project to ensure that the outcome absolutely does not respond to the expectations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people that our God-given identities are finally recognised and granted equality by a revision of Church teaching and practice about human gender and sexuality.
Tucked away at the end of this blog is the revolutionary dynamite that was inspired by an article in the Guardian Review on Saturday 18 May 2019. Only a seamless vision of creation, evolution, Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the risen Christ, son of God, can hope to radically transform our relationship with our planet, the universe, our brothers and sisters in every continent of every race and gender and sexuality, overcoming our addiction to the defence of prejudice and difference.
Bishop Peter Ball is gay, closeted, repressed sexuality, secretive, spiritual, and sexually, emotionally, and relationally deeply damaged, damaged, I will argue, by his Christian environment, as the IICSA Hearings laid bare.
Vicky Beeching has been and is being damaged by Christians in her environment as recounted in Undivided: Coming out, becoming whole and living free from shame. Her body system and health have been acutely damaged, emotionally and physically. So were many of the victims of Peter Ball.
Lizzie Lowe committed suicide aged 14 in September 2014. She thought she may be a lesbian, was scared of telling her parents and had struggled to reconcile her feelings with the family's strong Christian faith.
What is the first cause of the damage which so deeply affected Peter Ball, Vicky Beeching, and Lizzie Lowe? It is misguided Christian teaching and practice; abusive use of the Bible, of authority, and a seriously inadequate understanding of Jesus and his teaching.
The evidence of the effects of Christian teaching that is hostile to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the life and ministry of the Church of England is mounting. The evidence reveals a toxic environment in the Church of England leading to examples of extreme prejudice, abuse and homophobia. The evidence can be found in the tragic suicide of Lizzie Lowe, Jayne Ozanne’s and Vikky Beeching’s memoirs, the IICSA hearings into the Diocese of Chichester and the recent IICSA hearings into the way church leaders, most notably Archbishop George Carey, dealt with the survivors of abuse by Bishop Peter Ball. With one or two exceptions the bishops of the Church of England still do not get how shocking is the level of abuse against LGBTI people in church.
Jayne Ozanne has written a powerful blog drawing on her own experience of mental anguish and trauma, 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. Jayne identifies this Christian teaching and theology as the cause of a safeguarding issue of immediate importance. 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.
Conservative evangelicals are most afraid of people making a connection between their theology and John Smyth’s beating of the children in his care. Yet the connection is obvious – and at the very core of the evangelical story: that God the father violently punishes his son for the salvation of the human race. The bkishops are never going to achieve” a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” until they confront the dogmatic requirements of the conservative evangelical lobby and rid themselves of the abusive ideas they want to impose on the church.
All of us are born into a culture – the culture of our parents and of our mother in particular. We are born into an extended family culture, a social culture, and as we grow, we are influenced by other cultures – schools and organisations, and church or mosque or synagogue or for some, a culture hostile to religion and the spirit. Because we are shaped by the culture we are born into and that human societies have created, that makes it difficult to see our culture for what it is and in what ways we may need to release ourselves from it and transcended it. Creator and created, the divine and the human, should be living in a co-inspiring dynamic. We need to be living into spiritual teaching and practice that, as did Jesus, helps us integrate the intelligence of our heart with the intellect of our head. This is only going to happen when the church has the wisdom and courage to let go of the mythical and ‘religious’ projections surrounding Jesus.
Yesterday, Andrew Watson, the bishop of Guildford, issued a statement stating that he is one of the survivors of John Smyth’s appalling activities in the late 1970s and early 80s. He said this has placed him in a unique and challenging position when it comes to the events of the past few days. He said that survivors of the alleged beatings should not be “used as pawns in some political or religious game. But Christian teaching is responsible for unhealthy constructs of Christianity which directly leads to the abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
The media has reported allegations of abuse by evangelical Christian leader John Smyth who is accused of violent sado-masochistic beatings of teenage boys and young men. The Iwerne camps with which he was involved in the late 70s were designed to bring a Christian influence to this country, a very specific brand of conservative evangelical influence exemplified by Holy Trinity Brompton and marking the impact of Archbishop Justin on the changing culture of the Church of England. Ingredients of this unhealthy and abusive culture are to be found in the present House of Bishops. The “wholesome muscular Christianity” ethos in part explains the addictive conservative evangelical fascination with homosexuality.