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LGBT topics and Christian faith groups

The Church of England and LGBT topics:
Events and developments: 2009

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In this web site, the acronym LGB stands
for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual persons

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Developments concerning homosexuality from 2009:

  • 2009-JUL-04: Church of England bishop calls on gays to repent and be saved: Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester followed traditional interpretations of biblical teachings on homosexuality when he called on the Church of England to not be "rolled over by culture." His words may have been motivated by an confrontation between the Labor and Conservative parties over homosexuality during the previous week. A Labor minister accused the Conservatives of having "a deep strain of homophobia."

    Dr Nazir-Ali said:

    "We want to uphold the traditional teaching of the Bible. We believe that God has revealed his purpose about how we are made. People who depart from this don’t share the same faith. They are acting in a way that is not normative according to what God has revealed in the Bible. The Bible’s teaching shows that marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the way to express our sexual nature. ... We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed."
    Dr. Nazir-Ali appears to be reflecting a common conservative Christian belief that homosexual orientation is chosen, and changeable if the person repents of the sin of homosexuality and petitions God to have their orientation changed to heterosexual.

    The bishop continued:

    "We want to hold on to the traditional teaching of the Church. We don’t want to be rolled over by culture and trends in the Church. We want a movement for renewal. We need a reformation of the Church and the life of the Communion." 1
  • 2009-AUG-28: U.S. Bishop Gene Robinson criticizes Church of England re LGB clergy: In an interview with The Guardian, Robinson said that "I think gay clergy in the Church of England are thought of as a problem to be solved or at least lived with, rather than a gift from God. He also rejected the Archbishop of Canterbury's suggestion that if the Episcopal Church, USA continued to consecrate sexually active gay bishops or blessing the unions of loving, committed same-sex couples that the Anglican Communion might have to be reorganized into a two-tier or two-track model.

    Robinson commented:
    "I can't imagine anything that would be more abhorrent to Jesus than a two-tier church. Either we are children of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, or we aren't. There are not preferred children and second-class children. There are just children of God." He noted that the Communion is a loose agglomeration of equals. National churches or Provinces always act autonomously. Also, some Province had to make the first move on LGB clergy. He said: "We [Episcopalians] virtually led the way in terms of the ordination of women. And I believe had we not done that the ordination of women in the Church of England perhaps would not have occurred when it did. And the discussion around the ordination of women bishops would not be occurring. ... I think there's always a tension between doing the just and right thing, and being as pastorally sensitive to everyone as possible.

    The church did not get involved in the civil rights movement in the United States for quite a long time, because of fear of offending those who disagreed with them. But at some point we decided that it was more important to do the just and right thing than it was to not offend those who disagreed.

    And so we joined in the civil rights movement for people of color, and then tried to deal as pastorally as we could with those who disagreed. And I think that's the tension we face in the communion, of which Archbishop Williams would represent the long view, the gradual view, and the American church would represent, as best we can discern it, trying to do the right and just thing." 2

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  • 2009-DEC-15: Registrar refuses to perform her job for same-sex couples; Church of England priest comments: Lilian Ladele was  hired in 2002 by Islington Council in North London as a clerk to process marriage licenses. The government recently introduced civil partnerships for same-sex couples. They are similar to civil unions in the U.S. in that they give loving, committed same-sex couples who register their relationship with the government some of the same rights, protections, and privileges that are routinely give to opposite-sex married couples. Ladele refused to carry out the civil partnership ceremony because her Christian "religious conscience" told her that same-sex couples should not receive such benefits. She was threatened with loss of employment unless she went against her religious beliefs and performed the task that Reuters called incorrectly a "gay wedding."

    During 2008-JUL, an employment tribunal found that she had been unlawfully discriminated against. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) overturned that ruling and concluded that no discrimination had been established. She appealed but lost. Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, said: "The legislature has decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy ... include outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of sexual orientation, subject only to very limited exceptions." 3

    Rev. John Richardson, a Church of England priest, commented on Ladele's case in his personal blog. He wrote:
    "The news that Lillian Ladele, a Christian registrar who refused to register civil partnerships as a matter of religious conscience, has lost her appeal against dismissal suggests to me that the Ugandans, who are currently considering draconian ... legislation regarding homosexuality, might actually have a point.

    The outcome of this case, as it stands, means that traditionalist Christians could soon be excluded from all public office and employment. All that is needed is for applicants for any post to be asked their views on homosexuality —whether or not they accept it on an equal footing with heterosexuality. If the answer is ‘No’ (as it must be for the traditionalist Christian), then that may be deemed sufficient grounds for them to be unsuitable for such employment or to hold such an office." 4
    The Ugandan legislation was a genocide bill which failed to become law. It was directed against persons who engaged in same-gender sexual behavior. I was referred to in the U.S. as a "kill the gays" bill. His reference to the bill was taken out of context and reported on other blogs, one of which had the heading "Church of England Vicar backs Ugandan anti-gay Laws." That blog posting is no longer available online.

    The next day, Rev. Richardson posted a comment on his blog:

    To be absolutely clear, I do not support the proposed Ugandan anti-gay laws. Where I have said that the Ugandans might have a point, is in the fear that their own society might go the same way as they see Western society has gone. Given my own discomfort both with where we are and where we might yet wind up, that is a viewpoint with which I do indeed sympathize. 5

  • 2009-DEC-17: The Anglican Communion Covenant: The spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, recorded the following video on You Tube. He described the Anglican Communion Covenant which was drawn up after the disturbance caused by the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Those provinces that sign onto the Covenant would attempt to avoid making any reforms that would be likely to upset Anglicans in any other Province. It was sent to each of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion for consideration.  Liberals in the Church of England generally denounced the Covenant for two reasons: it would prevent all significant, needed change within the Communion because each province would could only change at a rate that would not distress the most conservative Province. It would also reduce the autonomy of each Province, including the Church of England.

One function of Covenant is to make each Province aware of the adverse effect that their policy decisions can have on other Provinces and on the unity of the Anglican Communion as a whole. A critical section of the Covenant includes sections 3.2.4 to 3.2.7:

(3.2.4)  to seek a shared mind with other Churches, through the Communion’s councils, about matters of common concern, in a way consistent with the Scriptures, the common standards of faith, and the canon laws of our churches. Each Church will undertake wide consultation with the other Churches of the Anglican Communion and with the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion.

(3.2.5)  to act with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy, which by its intensity, substance or extent could threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission.

(3.2.6)  in situations of conflict, to participate in mediated conversations, which involve face to face meetings, agreed parameters and a willingness to see such processes through.

(3.2.7) to have in mind that our bonds of affection and the love of Christ compel us always to uphold the highest degree of communion possible. 6

Section 4 deals with dispute resolution processes among the Provinces.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jonathan Wynne-Jones, "Change and repent, bishop tells gays," The Telegraph, 2009-JUL-04, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  2. Aida Edemariam, "Gay US bishop attacks treatment of gay and lesbian clergy by Church of England," The Guardian, 2009-AUG-28, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  3. "Christian registrar loses gay wedding appeal," Reuters, 2009-DEC-15, at: http://uk.reuters.com/
  4. John Richardson, "Homosexuality and the Law: Uganda might look to Britain," The Ugley Vicar blog, 2009-DEC-15, at: http://ugleyvicar.blogspot.com/
  5. John Richardson, "Draconian, as in 'pertaining to Draco'," The Ugley Vicar blog, 2009-DEC-16, at: http://ugleyvicar.blogspot.com/
  6. "The Anglican Communion Covenant," Final text, at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/

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Copyright © 2008 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2011-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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