As we await the report of the Lambeth Commission set up to address the crisis over sexuality, it might be useful to look at the rest of the news, and the way the secular world addresses such issues in Britain. The BBC news website has the following
A gay Conservative candidate has survived a deselection vote within his local party after winning support from Tory leader Michael Howard. Mr Howard earlier stepped in after press reports that Ashley Crossley hadbeen the victim of homophobia. He said there was ‘no place whatever for discrimination of that kind’ in his party, in a letter to local Tories.
Whilst the news media are all clear in their reporting of the Tory leaders’ view, what is equally significant is that without exception they all consider him to have acted correctly. Silence, or fudging the issue, would have been seen as reprehensible.
Of course Michael Howard has the full support of the law of the land in taking his stand. Discrimination on grounds of sexuality is wrong. Yet only ten years ago gay members of parliament were still being persecuted in the news media simply on the grounds of their sexuality.
There has been a complete revolution on this issue, one perhaps as challenging to people’s perceptions as was the ending of slavery in the 19th century.
The Church has asked for an opt out clause on sexuality, and this is beginning to look increasingly inappropriate. It is as though the Church were saying, at the point when slavery was outlawed, ‘but Christian clergy may continue to keep slaves’ with some argument like those used in the apartheid days of South Africa, to justify maintaining the status quo.
Lest this example appear unduly offensive, note that it is the South African churches and nation that have been foremost in campaigning against discrimination against homosexuals. They know, from their experience of discrimination, that all forms of it must be eradicated.
So, when the Eames commission reports, the rest of the Anglican Church will need to note that society in North America, in Europe and South Africa, finds discrimination against homosexuals unacceptable. The public, decisive, action taken by Michael Howard, as leader of the Conservatives, and Liam Fox, party chairman, ought to be an example to us all, and particularly to our own bishops. Homophobic discrimination has no place in the Church, and no place in the world today.