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.
Classical Anglican teaching is held to be rooted in the three-legged stool of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason based on Richard Hooker’s teaching in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. More recently, some have argued for the addition of a fourth leg, that of experience. Conservatives opposed to the full inclusion of LGBTI people in the church rely primarily on Scripture, arguing that the other two legs are utterly dependent on this. They deny that experience can be legitimately added as a fourth leg. We live in a society where experience is accepted as a given, an essential component of life. Conservative Christians argue against this cultural change.
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.
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.