Comments: Observer challenge to Anglicans

"The Anglican hierarchy in Britain has avoided speaking out too frankly on this matter (homosexuality) to avoid a schism, but the church's quiet diplomacy has done nothing to help the victims of homophobic repression. Increasingly it looks like complicity." - Observer Editorial -

Culture may be locally conditioned, but justice is universal. Where the Church of England has taken pains to establish the Anglican Way of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, all inheritors of that tradition have a responsibility to open up clear avenues of dialogue about the emergent science of gender and sexuality, so that a clearly-enunciated theology of sexuality may be brought to light.

Old ideas of sex = sin have to be re-assessed, in the new understanding of human biology and social relationships. Only in the acceptance of a radical climate of listening and learning - especially from the LGBT community (a process urged on the Church by Lambeth) - will any real progress be made in parts of the world like Africa, which have still to come to terms with reality on matters of sexual identity and the integrity of relationships outside of the heterosexual majority paradigm.

The concept of Unity at any price is not a Gospel precept. Justice, with mercy are the only bases of true fellowship in Christ.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 23 May 2010 at 12:07pm BST

The State Departments of 2 different American administrations have both spoken out more forcefully against the legal persecutions of gays and lesbians going on in Uganda, Malawi, and in the rest of the world than any Christian bishop anywhere.
So much for the moral authority and moral leadership of Christian hierarchs who once again bring up the rear in a major humanitarian transformation.

If Christian bishops are associated with anything these days, it's backwardness, hypocrisy, and pedophilia scandals.

I suppose institutional preservation precludes any real effort to present Christianity to the rest of the world as anything other than bigotry and superstition.

Permit me to laugh bitterly when clergy of any kind talk about evangelizing gays and lesbians.

Posted by Counterlight at Sunday, 23 May 2010 at 12:48pm BST

The Observer may dream on, but the Church of England will never denounce the brutality of African homophobes, not any more than it will remain in communion with churches (Sweden, TEC, Canada) that ordain gay and lesbian persons in committed relationships. Everyone knows what the Church of England's position is on these matters; the last couple of years have made it blindingly clear to all.

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 23 May 2010 at 4:06pm BST

Once again, Fr. Ron Smith writes a beautiful and clear response to the issue of homophobia in the Christian community. Fr. Smith sounds like the Anglican version of our Fr. Kung in the Latin Rite Church. A recent "incident" in the Roman Catholic Church in America involved some children in Colorado who were refused a place in a Catholic school because their parents were gay. The local Colorado archbishop fully agreed with this homophobic position and said so. At the same time, a similar incident happened in the Boston archdiocese and another parish school offered these children a place in one of their Catholic schools. It remains to be seen if the Cardinal in Boston will back this move and we are hoping he will do the right thing but this is another example of the ways homophobia acts to devalue other human beings in a Christian setting. I have faith that the vast majority of bishops in The Church of England will be forward thinking on this issue. I am aware of the few fundamentalist bishops including the former Archbishop Carey who are very backward thinking, hypocritical and at various times homophobic in their views but in general, I have faith that the majority of CofE bishops will do the right thing and stand up for glbt people. I agree with Fr. Ron Smith that "the concept of Unity at any price is not a Gospel precept". Well said, and it needs to be said over and over again. Earth to Rowan Williams and Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox prelates and Protestant leaders around the globe: Are you LISTENING? I hope so.

Posted by Chris Smith at Sunday, 23 May 2010 at 4:30pm BST

One excuse for such homophobic legislation in the developing world has always been presented as being because other faiths will persecute Christians by being accepting of people with differing sexualities! Didn't our Saviour stand up and defend those which God's people of that time rejected. May be Christians in such places need to consider that perhaps God is perhaps calling them to treat others as Jesus did and create a home for those who are the persecuted of today!!!

Posted by Fr. Jon at Sunday, 23 May 2010 at 9:30pm BST


It´s especially dangerous as the Archbishop of Canterbury gives freely of his enthusiasm for the ¨Anglican Covenant¨ as it was shaped and is written currently...unfortunately the lethal undertow/tone of this potentially ¨excluding¨ document reflects the deadly culture of Jamaica and the Anglican Province of the West Indies. A Province where crimes of HATE are running rampant and MOST ALL MEMBER COUNTRIES have anti-lgbt laws against ALL CITIZENS for simply ¨being¨ alive.

I suggest that Archbishop Gomez, in his retirement, make use of his ministry efforts and compassionate ¨inclusive¨ Christian teachings at home, in the WEST INDIES.

Bishop Drexel ought speak out against harm caused/initiated by politicians, the uneducated and ¨religious¨ extremists against LGBT Anglicans who are being persecuted in the West Indies and beyond...anything less is ¨forgetting¨ fear/hate and ignoring the current deadly abuse directed against Anglican/others.

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Monday, 24 May 2010 at 3:41pm BST

The difficulty in having any meaningful debate in the present climate is two fold

1) There is something to the sugggestion that opponents are guilty of homophobia. Certainly those who are happy to accept divorce and remarriage in church and who are happy to completely divorce the conjugal act from its procreative function. Until this is admitted then there is a problem because the accusation of homophobia is, in part, fair.

2) But on the oother hand there are the militant liberals who shout too loudly and are very unfair in their utter refusal to admit that it is perfectly possible to believe that sexual activity is for heterosexual marriage alone without being in any way homophobic. The simple statement support us or be labelled as hate filled might work politically but it does not theologically.

Posted by Ed Tomlinson at Monday, 24 May 2010 at 5:36pm BST

I am in spirit with FRS but reading through all the comments it strikes me that we have to be careful about scapegoating Africa; there are homophobes everywhere - if we keep using news from Africa as *the* occasion for standing up and defining ourselves in this respect, then we run the risk in my view of providing those whose secularism is a specious means of attacking "the Third World" with a certain type of heavy munitions.

I certainly don't think this is part of our intent, or that it's on anyone's agenda here - but I know I have found myself nearing this position, which could make Africa the continent enslaved to our particular notion of liberation, or "good (enlightened, liberal Western) faith vs bad (irrational, unyielding, dogmatic, non-Western) faith".

Posted by Achilles at Monday, 24 May 2010 at 6:32pm BST

"The difficulty in having any meaningful debate in the present climate is two fold" Ed Tomlinson

Oh I don't know. I should be equally horrified should a man and woman be sent to prison for 14 years for contravening some such law.

Posted by Davis d'Ambly at Monday, 24 May 2010 at 8:49pm BST

when you start to speak out very loudly and clearly against gay persecution wherever it arises, I may just believe that your beliefs are purely theological.

Until then, while you and the rest of the church remain silent and your campaigning voice is only heard when you're upset about women bishops, it is patently obvious that this ice-cold "theology" without a shred of compassion or empathy and without a care for the real lives of real people cannot be labelled as anything other than homophobia.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 24 May 2010 at 9:17pm BST

I do agree with Achilles (on Monday) when he says that we can overdo the reference to African countries as being particularly homophobic. South Africa, for instance, cannot be accused of this. However, the recent homophobic activities of some African Governments have drawn attention to their oppressive treatment of Gays - especially Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and now Malawi. Granted, they are influenced by early Missionary Teaching on certain sexual taboos which the Church of England then considered to be sacrosanct, but that does not excuse modern governments in those countries from making their own research into modern scientific and social studies in the area of sexuality and gender. Maybe the local Church will then follow!

Perhaps the homophobia of other Provinces of the Anglican Communion (taught by the same teachers) is more attuned to the practice of 'Don't ask; don't tell' - except where the local LGBT communities are prepared to demand their common human rights. Then the local Church and Government practise harsh means of repression. As this closetted stance has been the practice of Mother Church, who can blame them for following this sad example?

Until the Church of England is upfront about this critical area of human rights for LGBTs, then we can expect some other Provinces to maintain their reluctance to address the issues. This is why the prophetic action of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada is so important to the rest of the Anglican Communion. The current hypocrisy around gender and sexuality issues is contrary to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church today.
If we waited for the R.C. Church to implement any degree of tolerance towards homosexuality, there would be no progress on this matter.

Regarding Ed Tomlinson's opinion that 'sexual activity is for heterosexual marriage alone'; this statement only betrays an appalling ignorance of the basic reality of our human sexual being. Such an understanding really belongs to the Ark.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 24 May 2010 at 10:30pm BST

"The church will give you little succour. "Homosexuality," says Pastor Mario Manyozo of the Word of Life Tabernacle Church in Malawi, "is against God's creation and is an evil act, since gays are possessed with demons." The Anglican bishop of Uyo, Nigeria, the Right Rev Isaac Orama, believes homosexuals are "inhuman, insane, satanic and not fit to live"." - Guardian article -

Now, I wonder what the Primates' Conference will have to say about this appallingly ignorant assessment of the LGBT community in Malawi?? In their future talks about the 'immorality' of TEC and the A.C.of C.'s inclusive initiatives, will the reactionary Primates continue to put their collective heads in the sand - while ignoring the many other issues of human rights violations under their disdainful noses?

"Justice is mine" says the Lord; "I will repay."

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 24 May 2010 at 10:41pm BST

FRS. Yes, first of all, quickly, resolutely and unambiguously, the Church of England has to make a statement about sexuality and gender that is fully cognizant of the advances we have witnessed in science and our rational human understanding and appreciation of them over the past 50 years. It has to say: "This is our story".

But digging deeper, I see parallels here between the concentration on one aspect of intolerance and what Adorno observed was taking place in West Germany after WWII, where reconciliation with Jews and with Israel stood as a kind of proxy for a liberation from prejudice. In effect (if I recall correctly) Adorno was saying that there is a deeper underlying prejudice that will continue thrive despite any apparent desire to make things right with this or that group: in West Germany's case I seem to remember that Adorno made reference to how it continued to view disabled people, despite fanfares in the media about its diplomatic and political coups in Warsaw and Jerusalem.

This for me is the implicit danger of continuously speaking about 'human rights'; these are laws only, and we are here to live beyond the law. Under 'human rights' we can easily slip into trading prejudices, instead of praying for persons, indviduals, yes, even our named enemies. Who are you going to choose? A blind African homophobe or a rampantly capitalist homosexual? A sexually conservative socialist heterosexual or transgendered person prepared to use political violence? In trying to rank these persons we may see that the UDHR becomes a sort of Leviticus.

Yes, I am being my usual rhetorical self - but I think Adono's words of caution are worth heeding for each of us.

Posted by Achilles at Tuesday, 25 May 2010 at 7:22am BST

"2) But on the oother hand there are the militant liberals who shout too loudly and are very unfair in their utter refusal to admit that it is perfectly possible to believe that sexual activity is for heterosexual marriage alone without being in any way homophobic. The simple statement support us or be labelled as hate filled might work politically but it does not theologically."

Would you care to explain this salto mortale?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 25 May 2010 at 5:24pm BST

"certain sexual taboos which the Church of England then considered to be sacrosanct"

Only because they were the LAW in England and some other countries which didn't have the French Code Civil.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 25 May 2010 at 5:29pm BST

Like Polygamy and Slavery Homophobia depends on being supported by law. Ask any 18th century jurist. They can tell you! It is not in any sense "natural".

"the state of slavery is so odious that it can be upheld only by positive law."

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 25 May 2010 at 5:38pm BST

It is good to read of the Province of South Africa's letter of protest on the issue of the recent legal action against the two LGBT men in Malawi. This is further proof of the fact that not all Africans are united in the predominant climate of homophobia on the African Continent. Thank God for the Church in South Africa, which is not afraid to speak out on issues of justice. Desmond Tutu must be very proud of his successor! When will the Church of England come out in protest at Malawi's action?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 27 May 2010 at 12:07am BST

Great to hear today of their release at last.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Saturday, 29 May 2010 at 5:50pm BST
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