January 2016 – The Church Of England remains in a time warp

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Anglican Primates confirm they have no intention of recognising gender or sexuality equality

The hopes of many LGBTI Christians have been brutally dashed by their leaders’ recent decision to keep their institutional homophobia.  The progressive Episcopol Churches in the USA and Canada have been censured and so the abuses around the world are officially being allowed to continue.

FFLAG fully supports gender and sexuality equality.  Below are some of the letters written to the Archbishop from FFLAG supporters.

Dear Archbishop Justin,

I write as the parent of 2 children who both identify as gay.  I have been a committed communicant member of the Anglican Church, who brought up her children in this faith. I find myself now questioning why, when so much hurt and judgement is meted out to them, and indeed me as their mother, by the church? I now feel out of communion following the recent events at the Primates’ conference. I have felt on the edge for years – balancing between the LGBT community and the rejecting church. My husband of 47 years is not a Christian and wonders why I bother to stay with it.

My dismay this week is at the decision to exclude the Episcopal Churches of America from any decision-making or discussions in the Anglican communion for three years. They have been pioneers for Christ in moving the Anglican Church forward in its journey towards less bigotry and more understanding of the love of Jesus which is for all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Your official pronouncement has side-lined these holy people who were making an obvious success of more acceptance of LGBTI people in the Anglican church – a good role model for less enlightened dioceses.  Surely this decision only strengthens those who would discriminate against and punish – violently in some countries – those of minority sexual orientations. These GAFCON bishops are still not happy with your judgment and will never compromise. Their interpretation of the Biblical passages they choose to select is flawed and they are not open or able to listen to any other interpretations. They are the leaders in the Anglican communion now, by the decision made this week. Were there any LGBT people, or any women involved in the primates’ decision?

I was, however, greatly heartened to read the Bishop of New York’s robust response to the ‘consequences’ you meted out to them: the consequences of their Dioceses offering ordination to gay men (which they have been doing since 2003, so this is a very late reaction!) and also allowing same-sex marriages to be celebrated in church. These are not behaviours for which punishment should be given.  The Right Reverend Andrew M. L. Dietsche assures and reassures the LGBT people in his diocese that he will never regret the decisions he has made to provide the fullest possible inclusion for all people in his diocese in the church’s common life: full access to the sacraments of the church – notably marriage and ordination. I wish that you as Archbishop could see how right, encouraging and Christ-like this is. Rev Andrew thanks God for the good learnings and gifts that have come to his churches as they have tried to love more expansively in a Christ-like way. He writes that he will continue firm in his convictions to embrace the full and diverse community of brothers and sisters in New York. He has seen God bless the whole church as his church sought to bless those who had been marginalised for years.

If I withdraw, as today I have considered, from the Deanery and Diocesan Synods on which I serve, it will be a parallel situation, as it is for those churches which are sanctioned. Who will be there if I don’t go, to speak up for the LGBTQI people in our midst? 

I pray you will rethink your inequitable decision. You have side-lined the positive, successful dioceses of the communion and chosen to side with the mistaken negative fundamentalists.

Yours in Christ,

Margaret Evans (Mrs)

An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Justin,

Like you, I want to do all I can to prevent more people like Leelah Alcorn from taking their own lives. She was only 14 years old in 2014 but was rejected as a transgender girl by her devoutly religious Christian parents. So she just walked out in front of an HGV. Bobby Griffiths died at the age of twenty when he let himself fall off a bridge in the path of an eighteen wheeler. Again, this was because of his mother’s fundamentalist Christian hatred of homosexuality.

Many others are continuing to suffer from depression, self-loathing, alienation and fear or they begin to self-harm or attempt suicide or get caught up in unhealthy relationships and lifestyles because they are rejected for who they are by their nuclear and church families.

I believe that questions of sexuality and gender within the Anglican Communion are becoming more and more urgent. So, before your planned special meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury beginning next week, I want to write to encourage you and to let you know that I trust that you will ultimately make wise and loving decisions that will bless your congregations and ultimately millions of others around the world.

You don’t know me personally. I have many Anglican friends but I am not an Anglican. In fact, I have pastored Pentecostal churches before resigning and leaving the denomination because I could not in good conscience support a church family that was abusive towards LGBT Christians.

You have called the primates together this January to discuss amongst other issues human sexuality. You clearly have a central desire to hold the communion of Anglicans together despite their differences in doctrinal understanding. You were quoted in the Anglican Communion News Service bulletin of September 16th 2015 as saying, “A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement.”

Why must it?

Surely you recognise that the differences in belief amongst Anglicans are fundamental to their faith! Some believe that sex outside of marriage between a man and his wife is sinful and leads to eternal damnation. To expect such sincere believers to fellowship with those who they believe abuse this law of God is not blessing them. Some others believe that God accepts LGBT and heterosexual Christians equally and that to refuse people full and equal membership and participation in the life and ministry of the church is abusive and cannot be tolerated. To expect such sincere believers to fellowship with such is like requiring a woman to stay in a relationship with a man who abuses her and her children. Now, I appreciate that you hold the traditional Anglican viewpoint but that you want each side to accept the other and focus on what they have in common rather than what separates them.

They can’t do that Justin. You will end up pleasing no-one.

The prophet Amos asked the question in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” My answer to that is “No”. But they can separate honourably, respecting one another’s sincerity and hopefully in time accepting one another as brothers who see things differently.

Are you a shepherd of God’s flock or a politician? Why would a Christian minister try to hold in communion two groups of people who hold diametrically opposing and mutually offensive beliefs? It blesses neither. Are buildings, institutions, numbers and money more important than people? The divide is not just between different countries but within congregations and even families as well.

Wouldn’t it be healthier for all concerned if there were separate congregations that people could join that were clearly inclusive or clearly not? Then there would be church families where people were neither respectively abused nor offended? You can’t just do this and pretend you are still one big happy family.

Are you aware of how many of your people in positions of leadership are afraid to speak out what they truly believe? This is a matter of great shame.

How many more youngsters must die because Christian leaders don’t stand up for the truth? Lizzie Lowe was 14 when she hanged herself in a park near her home in Didsbury, Manchester in September 2014. She was afraid to tell her parents that she was gay. They were all members of St James and Emmanuel Church. She clearly didn’t believe she would be accepted for who she was. How tragic! Her parents said afterwards that they would have accepted her. The leaders of her church said, ”We believe that we are an inclusive and welcoming church…had she felt able to talk to us, she would have found love, acceptance and all the tools at her disposal to help her on her journey.”

Was Lizzie solely to blame for her totally unnecessary death then? Did not her church leaders have the responsibility to make abundantly clear to all their people that they were fully “inclusive”, if, indeed, that was the case? Do you not personally have the responsibility to see that churches under your leadership make it very clear that they are a safe, fully accepting haven for these little ones, if, indeed they are?

I am confident that you will ultimately recognise that it is showing love to all concerned to encourage them to speak the truth in love to one another and agree to separate where necessary to avoid abuse or offence.

Why should you put the traditionalists under such duress by expecting them to embrace what they consider sin? They are simply following the historical church teachings in good conscience. Amicable separation is better than acrimonious fellowship for all parties. Proverbs 15:17 says, “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” Yes, separation will be painful but I believe that as you trust Jesus to build His church you will lead your people into a new era of peace and harmony and relevance in the 21st century.

Sincerely, your brother in Christ,

Bruce A.Kent