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.
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.
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?
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.
There are many reasons why living in the closet is not an okay place. The fifteen reasons listed here are drawn from my memory of life before I came out fully to my congregation in Wandsworth in 1995. Coming out, of course, is something that we don’t do just once. It’s something I’ve had to do many times over, calculating each time what kind of reaction I might receive. There are still occasions when I hesitate before saying “I’m gay”. It’s now rare to receive anything less than a very positive response – bishops, please note. The problem for you is that the church is one of the few remaining places in Western society where homophobia and the abuse of LGBTI people is still acceptable.