John Gladwin wasn’t the only person recently affected by the policies of the Province of the West Indies.
From the Trinidad and Tobago Express a profile this week of the American priest who had her invitation to return to her native country withdrawn by the local bishop, God loves Gays.
Ifill’s attitude of inclusion-expected, of course, from a priest-landed her in the midst of a local controversy last month, when she became the second cleric from whom an invitation to speak here was withdrawn. The Trinidad and Tobago Anglican diocese cited conflicts between its and the invitees’ views on homosexuality. (The other rejected priest was UK bishop John Gladwell.)
Ifill says media headlines referring to her as “pro-gay” distorted her views on the issue. Her stance might best be described as open and non-condemning.
“I still struggle with the issue,” she says. “Every day you see scientific research and evidence contrary to what we think might be someone taking on (homosexuality) because it’s a fad or because they feel to go this way.”
Ifill tells the story of praying and crying with a suicidal gay young man who had been ostracised by his church and family. The painful experience had a great impact on her outlook.
“It’s very, very hard for me to come hard and fast on any particular side,” she says of the conflict that has been rending the international Anglican community.
But Ifill is certain that her role in dealing with gay parishioners is the same as dealing with straight, that is, to counsel, comfort and-above all-accept.
“The church is called to reconcile all people to God and to each other,” she says. “The church has a mission in this world to preach the gospel and we cannot be about alienation.”
Ifill’s moderate position was close enough to the church’s liberal extreme—concentrated in the USA, Canada and the UK, which supports gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions, to alarm local bishop, Calvin Bess.
He, like other West Indian Anglican leaders, believes gay relationships are a contravention of God’s laws and therefore not consistent with Christianity.
“The whole question of homosexuality has been pronounced upon by the word of God,” Bess says in a phone interview. He cites biblical passages some believe prohibit homosexual acts. One, Leviticus 18:22, reads: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.”
“Who am I to go contrary to the word of God and stay a minister?” says Bess.
Reassurances from Ifill that she would not preach anything contradicting the West Indian position weren’t enough.
“She had a number of programmes in schools,” says Bess. “How would she know the kinds of questions those children were going to ask? I cannot allow myself to be seen as somebody who is saying one thing and doing the opposite. I would look like a madman.”
Ifill is regretful of Bess’s decision and the rift in the worldwide Anglican church.
Here’s the earlier reports of her disinvitation, Anglicans blank another foreign priest on gay issue and West Indies Withdraws Invitation to American Missioner.
For good measure, here’s a recent piece by Angela Infill, What Is Expected of the Baptized?.