Friday, 28 July 2017

A time to Celebrate and Lament

The Anglican Peace and Justice Network has published this:

Fifty years ago today the British Parliament took the first steps on a long journey to end the victimisation and diminishment of LGBT people by decriminalising consenting ‘homosexual’ acts in private.

We celebrate this step and lament that more progress has not been made.


Anglicans can celebrate that in 1967 Archbishop Michael Ramsey strongly supported the change in law; a change that enabled gay men and women to live private lives without fear.

A change in law is not a change in heart and mind. The first step was tolerance and from there acceptance. Over recent years there has been a move to celebration and the road continues for the full celebration of LGBT people in society and church.

The recent commitment of the Archbishops of Canterbury to a ‘radical inclusion’ signifies a new path for the Church of England confirmed by the General Synod of the Church of England rejecting ‘conversion therapies’ and making a commitment to the welcome of transgender people.

None of this would be possible if the first step of decriminalisation had not been taken.

We celebrate the first step on a long road.


However, ‘homosexuality’ in some form or other remains criminalised in 72 countries around the world. LGBT people continue to face diminishment and victimisation and where one suffers we all suffer. Our humanity is diminished when sisters and brothers are victimised.

In many countries the laws are rarely used, but their existence breeds a culture of fear and legitimises violence, intimidation, and bullying. People are not free to be who they are and it is impossible for their voice to be heard.

All the instruments of the Anglican Communion have made clear their commitment to the end of criminalisation in every nation, most recently the 2016 Primates Meeting – where the Archbishop of Canterbury was explicit in its commitment to decriminalisation.

The good news is that some are speaking out. The Archbishop of the West Indies and the Bishop of Jamaica have both spoken out publicly and courageously for decriminalisation in cultures where homophobia is rife. Anglican lay people are also acting. Human Rights lawyer Alice Mogwe was one of the leaders of a successful campaign for the rights of LGBT people to organise in Botswana.

Now is the time for more action

APJN calls upon every Anglican to support Anglicans for Decriminalisation. Please read this article from Maurice Tomlinson and support the campaign Anglicans for Decriminalisation by signing the petition.

We also lament that transgender people have this week come under attack from the President of the USA. The direct target of his words may be a small group of people in the US military, but the result is the legitimisation of prejudice against transgender people everywhere.

* Today we celebrate a monumental first step, let it give hope.
* In celebrating this step let us not be content until there is an end to the criminalisation of LGBT people around the globe.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 3:10pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Theology essay topic for the weekend: "Compare and contrast this statement with the Archbishops' statement".

Posted by: Shamus on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 4:58pm BST

Good grief, it's groundhog day.

For the same reasons that I regret the Archbishops' statement, I'm left reflecting on what's absent from this message.

The statement focuses on the wondrous progress claimed for the anti-criminalisation stance of the Primates, but it leaves unsaid the Primates' continuing underlying position that gay sex remains a sin and is wrong.

That is the Anglican Primates' position - that is the underlying motivation for the 'Anglican Covenant' which was intended to embed this theological criminalisation as a Communion-wide uniformity.

That being the case, the stance against the judicial extremes is window dressing, because behind that front, the Archbishops, the Primates, still teach (and pressurise and sanction their clergy) that gay sex is illegitimate.

The grounds for hope come not from the Anglican establishment, or Justin who wrote the foreword for this statement, but from ordinary church members and clergy who challenge the anti-gay status quo.

And yes, the Anglican establishment is still anti-gay. It's anti-gay because it says that the very thing that crowns their gayness - their natural and lovely human sexuality - is illegal in the eyes of Church and God. It demands repentance and celibacy. It diminishes gay lives, robs partners (Christian or not) of their wholeness and tender sexual expressions. It subverts the alrightness of LGBT people's lives - in society, in the church, in the community. It says 'it is not alright'.

But I lack energy to go through all this again. I refer you to my posts in the other thread, two articles ago. Because the two articles both make the error of highlighting the Primates' position on criminalising gay sex, while entirely omitting to mention that the very same Primates maintain - by a large majority - the theological criminalisation and illegitimacy of gay sex... because legitimate Christian sex can only happen inside marriage, and they deny gay people marriage, and, besides, they mostly regard gay sex as sin anyway.

Ask Justin and John: is gay sex a sin? But this just gets airbrushed out. The Anglican Communion is still a harmful and toxic environment for gay and lesbian people, and the public in England see this. At least Scotland has grown up, and moved on. But the English Primates give disingenuous soundbites.

"Over recent years there has been a move to celebration." No there hasn't. Celebration of gay marriage is banned. Gay sex remains sin.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 5:55pm BST

Susannah Clark also speaks my mind.

Brava !

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 10:28pm BST

Susannah, Much of what you say is true but you overlook the recent change to the Marriage Canon in the Scottish Episcopal Church which now allows equal marriage.The newly retired Primus and his successor do not deserve to be lumped in with the Anglican Primates and the Anglicam Etsablishment.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Friday, 28 July 2017 at 11:29pm BST


There are indeed exceptions, and the Scottish approach is exactly what is needed in England. However, the Archbishops in England have not shown willing to let people have an equivalent freedom of conscience, and have so far seemed set on imposing a uniformity based on the mantra that gay people can't marry, and therefore should not have sex, which is still portrayed as a sin in the Church of England.

Scotland should indeed not be lumped together with all the Provinces (including England) that regard gay sex as sinful. Sadly though, it's likely that the Scottish Episcopal Church will face strong criticism and possibly 'sanctions' because they allow gay people to marry and no longer regard gay sex as wrong.

My point is that the 2016 Primates Meeting is being cited as a beacon of gay friendliness and yet it came to a deeply reactionary and negative position on gay sex, including the sanctioning of TEC.

The statement reads almost as if it was drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both statements gloss over the anti-gay position of that Primates Meeting, and its continued position that sex between two men or between two women is not only wrong in itself, but not possible because you can't have sex outside marriage (from which most of the Primates banned gay and lesbian people).

The 2016 Primates Meeting was not the great positive that this statement set it out to be.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 12:12am BST

This statement is to be warmly welcomed. There is nothing negative in it. It is particularly good to see it coming from the Anglican Peace and Justice Network.

Well done to all who involved.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 10:35am BST

I have recently attended church services where I spoke with four priests, three with their same-sex partners and one who mentioned his partner. I asked, "does your situation create problems in the parish?" The response in each case was, "nobody cares," and it was evident that their congregations (including people of all ages) were supportive.
It is clear that the official C of E line on gay relationships becomes daily more out of touch with parish and human reality, yet the official episcopal mantra remains, "the Institution/Anglican Communion matters more than anything." As others have said on TA, there is no point in waiting for our leaders to make a decisive move forward. The pressure must come from below. There's the challenge.

Posted by: Barry on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 11:21am BST

Thank you, Susannah.

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 11:43am BST

".... and your neighbor as yourself." Though so many who call ourselves 'Christians' don't and never have. It does seem (to me)that after slavery and the long (continuing) fight for civil rights, and most especially after the Shoah, instigated by Nazi Germany, but widely participated in and made possible by local police in all the occupied countries including Poland, France,and Holland just to begin naming them, and the almost total failure of the local churches and even of the churches beyond Nazi power to make strong outspoken condemnation, we can no longer tolerate and must not tolerate the concept of "us and them" however we want to define the "them". And today "them" in many countries, cultures and churches are LGBT. A worthwhile article "Why Autocrats fear LGBT Rights" by Marsha Gessen appears in the New York Review of Books online ( I find it intolerable that any church which aspires to be Christian can exclude in any way any person because of who they ARE, made in God's own image, as we believe we all are. I am in pain for dear and beloved friends whose reality is not "accepted" by the church in which I am an ordained member. Amen.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Monday, 31 July 2017 at 6:47am BST

An inspired clarion call from Sara MacVane.

Brava !

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Monday, 31 July 2017 at 9:01pm BST

Thank you so much for this. As i take my first steps towards fulfilling my vocation, i need to read these loving, enriching, inclusive words and beliefs. There are many challenges ahead but i do hope and pray that we will make wise, humane decisions prayerfully and never end up back in the cold, dark ignorance of yesteryear.

Posted by: Leti Hawthorn on Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 9:55pm BST

Barry, I think your assessment is 100% correct but your strategy isn't what's going to pan out. Just as, in the states, Rupert Murdoch's Fox News will die when its septuagenarian+++ viewing audience does (which, thank God, isn't far away) so the change in the "official position" in the CofE will have to wait until its exponents' forty years of wandering in the wilderness of Bronze-Age hate has expended itself and lies in the grave. Everyone who will be in leadership at that time has already moved on where this issue is concerned, so it won't even be revolutionary when those documents are published. I suppose the only outstanding question is: will anyone be left in the church who actually gives a rat's patootie?

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 11:15pm BST
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