At the moment I am reading the fascinating “Diary of a Gay Priest” by Malcolm Johnson which is a collection of his diary entries. For those who aren’t aware of him, Malcolm Johnson was the gay and partnered Rector of St Botolph’s without Aldgate during the time that the LGCM was run out of a room in the church tower. He also set up Clergy Consultation. He is considered one of the fathers of the “pro-gay” movement inside the Church of England.
The book is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is Malcolm’s candid reporting of various aspects of clergy life. But I was struck by some of the basic inconsistency in what he shares. For example, here’s an excerpt from the introduction.
Just after we agreed to part I met Robert Wilson who had been at an Albany Trust lecture in the City University where he was studying engineering. The subject of the talk was homosexuality, and he thought the lecturer, Fr Fabian Cowper, very handsome, so next day he asked Doreen Cordell, the Trust’s counsellor, if he might see him. ‘He is Roman Catholic and you are an Anglican,’ he was told, ‘so you have to go and see Malcolm Johnson.’ Thank God he did, because we have now been together 43 years. This diary is not sexually explicit, but we soon had to work out what we thought about sexual faithfulness. After a bout of faithfulness we soon realised that most male gay couples need and want sex outside their relationship, and we came to an arrangement and agreement.
After a while Robert and I laid down certain ground rules which have lasted till today. If one of us asks for details he will be told; above all there should be no involvement with someone else which might lead to an affair. … I realised that consensual sex between men is not sinful if it causes no pain or hurt to each other or other people. I would not presume to say if this applies to heterosexuals.
Fascinating, and possible a little bit hypocritical given his intervention in the 1987 General Synod debate on sexual morality.
11 October 1987. Tony Higton, the evangelical rector of Hawkwell in Essex has put down a Private Members Motion signed by 167 of the 550 members which will be discussed in the General Synod next month. The journalist Andrew Brown describes him as ‘the Church of England’s self-appointed scourge of heretics, Hindus and homosexuals.’ He asks that the Synod affirm that sexual intercourse should only take place between men and women in marriage; that ‘fornication, adultery and homosexual acts are sinful in all circumstances,’ and asks that Christian leaders should exemplary in all spheres of morality including sexual morality. ‘as a condition of being appointed to or remaining in office.’ It is obvious that the hidden agenda is gay-bashing, so I put in a wrecking amendment which asks the Synod to affirm the essentials of the biblical message that human love is a reflection of divine love and that all relationships should therefore by characterised by permanency and commitment.
Of course, it now all makes perfect sense that the Clergy Consultation publication “Sexual Ethics” (hosted on the Changing Attitude website) should have held that “brief and loving sexual engagements” were perfectly acceptable. After all, the convenor of the group admits as much to being non-monogamous.
I have a very simple question for my liberal readers. Are you comfortable with the idea that one of your key historic spokespersons for gay liberation in the Church of England admits openly that he is not monogamous? Doesn’t that make a complete mockery of the argument that what this sexuality discussion is all about is treating “gay” people the same way as “straight” people? How does a sexual lifestyle of this kind do anything to support monogamous marriage?
You can get Malcolm Johnson’s book from Amazon.