Church of England still homophobic, says bishop
Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson praises ‘courage and determination’ shown by gay members of clergy
- The Guardian, Wednesday 24 December 2014 12.09 GMT
The Church of England is still guilty of “serious institutional homophobia” and has yet to overcome “inertia and ignorance” towards same-sex couples, an Anglican bishop has claimed.
Alan Wilson, the bishop of Buckingham, praised gay members of the clergy for showing “considerable courage and determination” as they fight deeply ingrained prejudices to marry.
“In very few years people will wonder what the fuss was all about,” the bishop says in a Christmas sermon for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community recorded for Pink News. He adds: “But for now it’s a path that calls for considerable courage and determination. So please spare a thought this Christmas for them.”
Wilson’s intervention comes days after Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said he was seeking to heal divisions between opponents and supporters of gay marriage.
In an appearance on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4, the archbishop declined to say whether he had dropped his own opposition to gay marriage as he said of the two sides in the debate: “If you love them you have to listen to them very, very carefully.”
Richard Chartres, the traditionally minded bishop of London who is close to the Prince of Wales, is an opponent of same sex marriage. But Chartres, who led the funeral service for Lady Thatcher, praised Welby on BBC London 94.9 for authorising “properly disciplined conversations” to allow the church to deal with its differences on the issue.
In his Christmas sermon, the bishop of Buckingham complains that the Church of England and other churches have a “funny way” of showing Christian love towards gay people.
“Christians believe God is love and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them,” he says. ”But, you may say, churches have a funny way of showing that sometimes. We still have a legacy of serious institutional homophobia, inertia and ignorance to overcome. The fact is, however, where people dare to think things could be different, think things through without prejudice, there is hope.”
The bishop said there was hope, but also danger in some parts of the world, for gay people. He said: “There is hope – I notice a new generation of evangelical Christians rethinking the implications of their faith in a far more truthful, just and generous way. At the same time, around the world, there are many places that are anything but safe for gay people.
“A Ugandan member of parliament is promising to bring back the notorious anti-gay bill that fell over this autumn. He calls it his Christmas gift to Ugandans – very much the sort of present you can do without. Wouldn’t peace on earth and goodwill to everybody be far more appropriate? But Christmas is Christmas. Love came down at Christmas, and the nativity story takes us back to the heart of everything. The miracle. The beauty of every human life is a gift of God deserving total respect full of hope. Happy Christmas.”
The bishop earlier this year criticised the Church of England for preaching a 1950s “Janet and John” view of human relationships even though many bishops have been and are gay.
In a blog about his book on same sex marriage in September, he wrote: “In the book I articulated the drearily obvious and well-known fact that a fair number of bishops in the past and present have been, in fact, gay … What matters to me is the fact that bishops have a range of sexual orientations including gay, not which bishops have what. Which particular bishops are Sagittarian, left-handed or red-haired? I know not in detail, neither do I care. I can, however, understand that curiosity about this is greater than it would be for a group of people who did not set themselves up as professionally straight while behaving in discriminatory ways towards gay people.”
• This article was amended on 24 December 2014 to give Alan Wilson his correct name in the picture caption.
Bishop Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham in the Church of England, is the only prelate in that Church to openly declare his unconditional acceptance of the LGBT community in the Church. In open defiance of the official stance of the Church against Marriage for monogamous, faithful Same Sex Couples, Bishop Alan is reported in the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, to have preached a Christmas Sermon in which he accuses the Church of retaining its history of entrenched homophobia – despite recent efforts to rid the Church of attitudes that have held it back from open acknowledgement of the presence of homosexual clergy and bishops in leadership in the Church.
Bishop Alan acknowledges the danger of endemic hypocrisy on the particular issue, which does nothing for public confidence in the National Church as spiritual guide and mentor of Christian attitudes to a growing number of young people educated in the medical, moral and psychological reality – of differences in sexual-orientation, as part and parcel of the life of every single human being. Every human being, created in the divine Image and Likeness is worthy of respect and acceptance of their in-built sexual nature.
At the time when the Church is contemplating the awesome reality of God becoming human at the Incarnation, we need to be reminded of the fact that we are all different – male, female or intersex – but all redeemed in the humanity shared by the historical Jesus! Deo gratias!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand