Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 23 September 2023

Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News Trust is a Hard Thing to Come by Right Now…

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Neanderthal Christianity – what does it mean to be human?

Chrissie Chevasutt ViaMedia.News Keeping Students Safe: the Oxford LGBT Students Safe Churches Project

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Kate Keates
Kate Keates
6 months ago

Reading Chrissie Chessavut and the Oxford LGBT Students Safe Churches Project, it ought to be unacceptable that some churches are not considered SAFE by LGBT Christians. Not just unedifying but not safe. So far I have seen no response from the Bishop of Oxford but he ought to be promising urgent action. How can the Church of England tolerate such a situation? I read Charlie Bell’s piece with that in mind. His writing is powerful and, if a bishop reads it, doubtless they will bristle but it doesn’t go far enough. I know there is a lot of attention to… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Kate Keates
M Evans
M Evans
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

The CofE definitely tolerates it – the issue of LGBT safety is much wider than Oxford diocese. In every diocese in the CofE, and in most towns, there will be independent churches but also at least one CofE church that rates no higher than a 2, and many 1s. They will say they are ‘Bible-believing’ and faithful to God’s word, and there will be very few bishops who will want to challenge them on this, to the point of trying to change their stance. There will also be some bishops who think these churches are correct in their position, and… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

There is so much to comment and reflect on in Chrissie Chevasutt’s essay. Firstly there is the courage in naming names. It is one thing to describe anonymous accusations against a Church or person. But it is much more powerful and effective to actually specify exactly who or what person or institution is at fault, and in what way. But making such a statement puts yourself on the line and takes guts. Secondly there is the deceit in the way that so many anti LGBTQ churches are hiding their doctrines and policies from public view. Chrissie says: “It appears certain… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Simon Dawson
6 months ago

On the safe churches project I have permission to quote Marcus Green, a college chaplain in Oxford who knows the churches named here. He writes: ‘I think the most helpful part of this work is where it shows some local churches are working really hard to be great places for LGBTQ+ people to join communities of faith. For me, its occasional weakness is sometimes where it judges places as unsafe. I regularly attend one of the places listed here as among the most unsafe. I talk to the leaders there, and am in really productive conversations with them about the… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  David Runcorn
6 months ago

Thanks for your response David, I acknowledge this is a complex issue with many varying experiences and views. But it may be helpful (not only as a response to you, but to Andrew, Simon and Lorenzo below) to emphasise again what behaviour Chrissie appears to be complaining about. There is no problem with any church having an explicitly conservative and critical view on on LGBTQ relationships. But one would expect such a church to be open about such views, so any prospective church member could make an informed choice about whether or not to join. What is more problematic (and… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Simon Dawson
6 months ago

I disagree with you, Simon when you say there is no problem with any church having an explicitly conservative and critical view on LGBTQ relationships but you would expect such a church to be open about such views. The problem with their conservative teaching is revealed by the policy of keeping this teaching under the radar, and advertises itself as ‘youth friendly, progressive and liberal, welcoming everybody’, when this isn’t true. They welcome people conditionally. I experience God’s love as unconditional, and experiencing the unconditional love of God as a gay man has been true for me from the age… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
6 months ago

“I experience God’s love as unconditional, and experiencing the unconditional love of God as a gay man has been true for me from the age of 11.” – Colin Coward “I will marry you but you have to promise to stop seeing your horrible family.”. I am sure the clergy on this site would have very strong views about a bride or groom who insisted on conditions like that before they would get married. We would call it controlling or worse. One can’t enter into a loving relationship with conditions like that. True love doesn’t impose unfair conditions. If we… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
6 months ago

Colin. Just to clarify, there are two separate problems involved in this discussion. Firstly there is the “problem” of a church having an anti-LGBTQ culture, teaching and practise. And then Chrissie’s paper raises a second, separate but linked “problem” of a church having an anti-LGBTQ culture, but concealing that culture in order to attract young students into the door. The problem I was referring to as “not a problem” in my post is the second one – concealment. That problem is removed if the church is open and transparent about its anti-LGBTQ beliefs. As I have pointed out, deliberate or… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Simon Dawson
Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  David Runcorn
6 months ago

David, a list like this is not ideal because it is necessarily somewhat subjective. I fully accept that. It’s another reason why the bishops need to step in and specify minimum standards to keep LGBT people safe. At the moment they are trying to hide from the issue. That’s unsatisfactory.

One possibility might be a list of, say, 20 questions to which all churches have to give answers and post those on their website, with the bishop checking that the answers aren’t evasive. Then people could make up their own minds from public information.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

Who would have authority to answer these questions?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  T Pott
6 months ago

The trustees?

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

PCCs have no authority to determine doctrine. I’m unclear what sort of helpful questions they would be able to answer.

In regard to female priests, as a matter of fact, a statement that resolutions had, or had not, been passed could be made.

On Andon
On Andon
Reply to  T Pott
6 months ago

But how do resolutions get passed? By PCC’s I believe. And if they are not practised in answering questions — or more to the point, considering them from a range of perspectives — then the way is open for clergy who may have their own reasons to take formerly mainstream churches into the exclusion zone. This has happened very recently to an Anglo-Catholic church previously known and loved by me. I first got wind of what might be going on a few years ago, when I noticed that the ‘flying bishop’ was the only one who ever visited for confirmations… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by On Andon
T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  On Andon
6 months ago

In regard to the ministry of women priests there are certain legally defined resolutioms PCCs are empowered to make. In other matters there are not. You give an example of a minister covertly ignoring the PCC- this is very common I think. A rector I know got the PCC to approve offering Thanksgiving Services to parents who were not considering baptism for their child. He did the exact opposite and only pushed it on parents who did want baptism. The clergy are deceitful and no twenty questions I can see will get round this. But perhaps Kate has questions in… Read more »

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  On Andon
6 months ago

“She has now left the church (and so has the vicar, but for a more elevated seat in the separated hierarchy)“ … and for a fabulous new dressing up box!

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Runcorn
6 months ago

I would agree. I am leading a teaching day on the pastoral care of trans people at one of the churches listed as among the most unsafe, and that initiative has come entirely from their leadership because they want to understand trans needs better. Things are not always black and white. That said, I share the view of many that all churches should make clear their positions on sexuality, and on women’s ministry, as a principle of honesty and integrity. That is only fair to people investing emotionally and financially in a church community. Things have to be up front,… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  David Runcorn
6 months ago

Quoted by Simon Dawson, Chrissie says: It appears certain city churches now hold a policy of strict silence over their staff, of not saying anything about gender or sexuality that might go public. They realise that, if they are known to hold homophobic theology and pastoral policies, they will lose many of the students who flock through their doors. Simon Dawson commented Nicky Gumbel of HTB fame is reluctant to express his own personal convictions about LGBTQ issues on the record. WATCH says that many resolution churches rejecting the ministry of women priests do not declare publicly that they refuse… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

The historic position of the Christian Church has been (and in most places outside the west remains) to regard homosexual practices as immoral. Whether that position is right or wrong, it seems a bit rich for people to complain about feeling “unsafe” when they are confronted with it. We seem to have developed a culture in which people are unable to be exposed to views different from their own. To speak of being”unsafe” in this context is a misuse of language. It appears to be part of a strategy in which debate is closed down by an insistence on affirmation.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Andrew
6 months ago

There’s nothing wrong with being confronted with different views–the problem arises when the actions taken in accordance with those views result in harm to others. And that can mean more than physical harm–there is also psychological harm to consider.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Andrew
6 months ago

The risk of spiritual abuse does make places unsafe for LGBT people, as evidenced by higher rates of mental health issues and associated deaths. You may think they should be grateful because the abuse comes from (theoretically at least) good intentions but that’s neither here nor there. You can’t claim “debate is closed down” because people don’t want their church home to be a place that’s unsafe for them. Nobody forces LGBT people to pay heed to this list, but perhaps if churches feel they’ve been misrepresented they could be clear about where they stand. I’m sure the authors will… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Andrew
6 months ago

Actually I don’t think anyone is insisting on affirmation but on transparency and on protection of vulnerable people. In this context that means students who are away from home for the first time and, I would say, anyone under 18 (there being some overlap between the two groups). I don’t think the faith of a potentially vulnerable person should ever be used to leverage an attempt to change or suppress their sexual orientation. To my mind that is spiritual abuse. There is also a huge difference between exposure to ideas different to your own and to assaults on one’s innate… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

Kate Keates names what is going on as spiritual abuse. It is indeed an assault on one’s innate identity. Transparency and the protection of vulnerable people is essential. Christianity should never be used in an attempt to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation.

On Andon
On Andon
Reply to  Andrew
6 months ago

If people are told that they are ‘literally’ going to hell for all eternity because they have married (or wish to marry) the love of their lives, resulting in a massive stumbling block to faith for them and many others, I suppose that it could be argued that this is merely the expression of ‘views different from their own’ but good luck when you argue that on judgement day

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Andrew
6 months ago

Conservative evangelicals are themselves seeking “differentiation” because the new prayers make them feel unsafe. They want bishops who will affirm their “orthodox” views

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Kate Keates
6 months ago

It is not about feeling unsafe. They actually cannot agree with them.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  David Runcorn
6 months ago

I thought the claim was that they felt unsafe because they could feel pressured to offer prayers they don’t want to offer?

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Andrew
6 months ago

Andrew says the historic position of the Christian Church has been (and in most places outside the west remains) to regard homosexual practices as immoral. He says it seems a bit rich for people to complain about feeling “unsafe” when they are confronted with it. There is no room in Andrew’s stance for Christian moral and ethical teaching to evolve, is there? Or is it only teaching about homosexuality, based on the clobber texts, that has fixed God’s hostility to homosexuality for eternity? We haven’t developed a culture in which people are unable to be exposed to views different from… Read more »

Sam Tippetts
Sam Tippetts
6 months ago

With regard to ‘evolution’, I’ve come across two things in recent years that have helped me immensely. The first is a letter written by Charles Darwin to his son, which includes a postscript that is rather revealing: “I have lately read Morley’s Life of Voltaire & he insists strongly that direct attacks on Christianity (even when written with the wonderful force & vigour of Voltaire) produce little permanent effect: real good seems only to follow from slow & silent side attacks.” https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-9105.xml Another is this paper given at the Royal Society in 2016: “But in the past decade, without much… Read more »

Simon L
Simon L
6 months ago

I feel I have to raise an issue here. It is one thing to identify churches by their theology on LGBTQIA+ matters it is quite another to label those take a more traditional approach as ‘unsafe’. We are essentially talking about ‘consumer’ choice here. I can’t believe that your average Oxford undergraduate can’t work out pretty soon what the church they attend stands for on such matters. Whatever happened to discerning choice? Oxford, now a distant memory of 30+ years ago always had a variety of churches, some suited my theological preferences/worship style, some didn’t. Let’s move away from this… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon L
6 months ago

If asserting that same sex relationships are sinful is free speech then surely observing that such teaching is unsafe for some people is equally free speech.

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Simon L
6 months ago

Simon L objects to the report labelling those take a more traditional approach on LGBTQIA+ matters as ‘unsafe’. He says it’s about ‘consumer’ choice. That gives the game away. Churches holding a conservative stance on LGBTQIA+ people nevertheless want to position themselves in today’s market place economy as having the most attractive Christian “product”. Once they’ve got you through the door, they are going to sell you a God providing a life-time guarantee of satisfaction, so nothing can be allowed to tarnish the image of the product. Once you’ve joined, as gay person, and discover the reality of the product,… Read more »

Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
6 months ago

Hard pass from this gay priest. If you discover that your church is homophobic, just leave. These are university students we’re talking about, not vulnerable children. Meanwhile, if you do not toe the trans and ‘queer’ orthodoxy that organisations like Inclusive Church now advocate for, they will be just as abusive. At least Vaughan Roberts is upfront about his views, and gay.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
6 months ago

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no-one has been subject to an attempted exorcism for being transphobic (whereas LGBT people absolutely have, as many survivors’ accounts attest) so no, I don’t think your “just as abusive” claim stands up. Additionally, while most university students are not children, many are away from home for the first time, many LGBT students may be out for the first time, and are indeed vulnerable. Conservative evangelical groups have a long track record of preying on the vulnerability of freshers, trying to lure them into a cult like bubble where… Read more »

Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Reply to  Jo B
6 months ago

No, but they will write to your PCC, Archdeacon, Bishop without even letting you know who complained about your social media accounts. It’s retract, apologise publicly or else… I’ve removed my parish from Inclusive Church. Some activists have even tried to have me defrocked and sent death threats.

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
6 months ago

Nobody should be subject to death threats. I’m sorry that has been your experience, whatever the alleged justification.

Lodging formal complaints about abhorrent conduct is, on the other hand, an entirely reasonable response. I can fully understand, based on a look at your posts on twitter, why some people might feel compelled to take that step. Your attitude to trans people and your propagation of every anti-trans scare story and talking point going (to the point that it makes up well over half your posts) is, I would suggest, unbecoming of a priest.

Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Reply to  Jo B
6 months ago

Isn’t it easy for you to complain about my ‘abhorrent conduct … unbecoming of a priest’ anonymously? That is exactly how Inclusive Church behaved. I tweet under my own name and, yes, this issue makes up over half my feed because I consider it to be the medical scandal of our time. The fact that the CofE and its Board of Education take for granted the existence of ‘trans’ children, in need of experimental hormonal treatments and barbaric surgeries, is to me horrifying. I see it as another attempt to revive the medicalisation of homosexuality. If that makes you ‘feel… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
6 months ago

You would help your case if you got your facts right: gender surgery is not performed in this country on under 18s. Nor are ‘experimental’ hormone treatments given. This isn’t the place for that argument however. What should matter to you as a priest is the impact of what you are saying on children who are already marginalised because they have gender dysphoria. Have you taken the time to sit down and talk to people with strong gender dysphoria? With people who are bullied because of their gender identity? With children who think life is hopeless because they will never… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
6 months ago

Nobody is proposing gender affirming surgeries, barbaric or otherwise, for children, and the use of puberty blockers in children is far from experimental.

If I did feel it necessary to make a formal complaint I would do so under my own name, though I can quite understand why others might need to do so anonymously given how untrustworthy the CofE’s systems can be.

Supporting trans people has nothing to do with the “medicalisation of homosexuality”, because trans people can be straight, gay, bi, pan, ace, or whatever else regardless of the gender.

On Andon
On Andon
Reply to  Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
6 months ago

‘Just leave the church’ — yes that is what many have been doing, and even more are not joining in the first place

John T
John T
6 months ago

The question of whether a non-affirming church is unsafe is worth exploring. Reading the Oxford Safe Churches report there is this quote from a gay student: “At St Aldate’s, I met a group of celibate gay Christians, who shook up my view of what homophobic people were like. … For the first time, I was encountering kind homophobic people. Sitting in their living room, I felt both loved and hated, blessed and cursed.” This is where such environments become psychologically unsafe for gay Christians. If a church just outright condemns you on first contact, you will walk away. It’s those… Read more »

Simon L
Simon L
Reply to  John T
6 months ago

Worth exploring for sure but I fear it links to a deeper issue, namely a wider trend in our culture to avoid or even cancel views and opinions we have not encountered before. What is fundamentally wrong or unhealthy about a gay Christian encountering those who are SSA but opt for celibacy. Given the complexity and a degree of fluidity around sexual orientation, encountering different viewpoints is part of growing up and developing one’s own position. To be clear, we are not talking here about cults/JWs who lure you in and brainwash you and make it almost impossible to leave.… Read more »

John T
John T
Reply to  Simon L
6 months ago

The problem is that conservative churches do not allow exposure to a wide range of views, they are very much at the forefront of cancel culture in that regard. You will not hear teaching that there are a variety of views worth exploring, that there is genuine disagreement, neither will you have a sympathetic presentation of affirming theology. This creates a climate of either hostility or silence around LGBTQIA+ identity. You then have individuals being put in the situation of cognitive dissonance where they feel both accepted and rejected at the same time, and this is where real psychological harm… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Simon L
6 months ago

I fail to see how a Labour supporter meeting a Tory is comparable to a LGBTQ person being told their very being is unacceptable. Being gay is not a matter of opinion or a political debate. We wouldn’t object if a report cited churches known for inherent racism and warned ethnic minorities to stay away. Being black is not fluid, where people can broaden their horizons by meeting people who hate them .Perhaps conservative churches are attracting more people than liberal ones is because, like in Trump’s America, people are attracted to hatred and a false certainty. Liberal Churches may… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  John T
6 months ago

John T, I agree Encountering kind homophobic people who communicate feelings of both love and hate, blessing and curse is psychologically not just unsafe for gay Christians but dangerous and potentially damaging, simultaneously drawing you in, making you welcome and yet also condemning you. Simon L, you think those behind the report are fearful of losing some of their flock to the other side and use the language of mental health and well-being to mask it, begging the wider question of why liberal inclusive churches not enjoying a thriving student ministry but the more conservative ones are. It might be that… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
6 months ago

A number of following up issues related to Oxford … I note that the study relates to Oxford Churches, and not to Colleges, nor to Oxford Brookes University, which appears to have a LGBTQI+ multi-fath chaplain:https://www.brookes.ac.uk/students/chaplaincy/about-us/team Do Colleges get beyond being ‘warm and welcoming’ on their websites? I’m sure all would wish to be clear regarding potentially misleading marketing material. Regarding the individual reports, I imagine personal observations are valid in much the same way as e.g. Trustpilot- I note the openness to other observations. I also note that an earlier thread (2007?) discussed a report on Wycliffe Hall in… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
6 months ago

Since there has been a lot here about churches where people feel unsafe, I thought I would share a positive example of a church going out of its way to confirm that it is safe and welcoming

https://twitter.com/stjohnscardiff/status/1706290723786551537?t=TRbCFNqPhFTHysC7NMgC6A&s=19

The Church is St Johns Cardiff. All credit to them.

Neil J
Neil J
6 months ago

Having read the Oxford safe churches report now, it seems clear that a lot of it is really about one church, St Aldates. The other conservative churches Chrissie mentions all seem pretty clear and transparent in their teaching. You may not encounter it on day one, but the report seems to indicate there is no attempt to hide the reality of their teaching. Being a regular for a few weeks or months is likely to leave one in little doubt. Certainly the comment below that “many anti LGBTQ churches are hiding their doctrines” is not true. In Oxford it seems… Read more »

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