Changing Attitude’s Smear Campaign

A letter to the leaders of GAFCON has been published by Changing Attitude and picked up by Simon Sarmiento (he of the Society of Archbishop Justus that controls the anglican.org domain) at Thinking Anglicans which attempts to smear GAFCON with homophobic violence. On closer inspection however the letter seems to be the same kind of nebulius wording that the recent Inclusive Church motion did.

So what’s the problem with the letter? Well have a read and see.

Dear friends in Christ,

You may know that there were several instances of actual physical violence and threats of violence and death enacted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leaders of Changing Attitude in Nigeria over the Easter Weekend 2008. The leader of a Changing Attitude group was violently beaten. Subsequently, death threats have been issued against the Directors of Changing Attitude in Nigeria and England.

Actually, I think most of the leaders of GAFCON were aware of this and I’m sure that they would condemn both the violence AND the threat of violence.

I’m sure it would also interest Changing Attitude to know that those of us on the conservative side of the issue also get some particularly nasty email and post. But that aside, let’s move on.

The discourse taking place in the Anglican Communion about the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches must be conducted in the context of Christian love and mutual respect. If it is not, then people will continue to perpetrate abuse and violence against LGBT people.

Well yes, but is there a clear connection between conservative theology and social comment AND the actual carrying out of homophobic attacks? In fact, is CA accusing Akinola or GAFCON of inciting violence against homosexuals? Yes or no? If yes, why don’t they come out and say it. If no, what is the point of this opening section?

Some Anglican Christians act in this way because they believe that the language of criticism articulated against LGBT people in general and the Episcopal Church in particular gives them permission to perpetrate violence and abuse against Christians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We know that is not your intention, but it is the reality as many experience it.

Do they now? Perhaps they would care to substantiate this claim with a touch more evidence than "they believe". Some people believe the earth is flat or that Jews should be exterminated. Do we treat that as an accurate statement simply because they believe it to be so?

Changing Attitude understands that the Anglican Communion is engaged in an extended period of debate about the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches. We are committed to engage in this debate and in the Listening Process which is integral to it and authorised by the Councils of the church.

Yes interestingly when a huge majority of the whole church agrees with the conservative position on human sexuality, a portion (amazingly this tends to be liberals) want to stop listening to them.

Conservative Anglicans will want to argue against the position which Changing Attitude represents. They will continue to question the pattern of life and identity adopted by some lesbian and gay Christians. We recognise the integrity of those who hold this position at the same time as we disagree with it. We are not resistant to engaging in the debate with those who hold radically different views.

So what’s your problem? If you want to talk about engaging in debate, why are you practically accusing conservatives of incitement to hatred and violence, but not actually coming out and saying it?

We recognise that it is extremely difficult to conduct this debate in language that does not polarise opinions or inflame tensions. Tension will grow more intense in this period immediately prior to the Lambeth Conference and the GAFCON event.

Indeed, but the proven direct link to homophobc violence is….?

Nope, still waiting for the answer.

The language we use has direct consequences on the lives of LGBT Christians. Language affects us emotionally, spiritually and physically. We ask that all of us within the Anglican Communion be mindful of the words we use and the opinions we express when talking about LGBT people. We ask that all of us actively discourage any form of threatening behaviour so that we may all engage in respectful listening and conform the pattern of our lives to the pattern of love embodied by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Right, so let’s start by banishing the use of the following words and expressions:

  • homophobic
  • bigotted
  • right-wing
  • prejudiced
  • ignorant
  • small-minded

and all the other similar language that comes out day after day from the same organisation that issued this letter and others like it, language that is intended to demean and belittle the conservative argument by force of emotion rather than argument.

None of us wishes to encourage or condone violence and none of us wishes to be responsible, indirectly, for murder or violence perpetrated on another person, whatever their sexual identity.

And neither do conservatives, but that’s what you’ve just accused of us.

So tell us Colin Coward – are GAFCON responsible, directly or indirectly, for the violence alleged in Nigeria? If yes, then say so and we’ll address it. If not, then why this letter, unless the real aim was to once again insinuate but not actually provide any evidence that the conservative position always leads to violence.

Do you think we’ll get an answer?

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10 Comments on “Changing Attitude’s Smear Campaign

  1. And this comes from an organisation which thinks that one-night stands mediate grace. They should be side-lined, and not engaged in any way.

  2. Well I didn’t want to mention it, but now you raise it…

    Yes, Changing Attitude did issue a sexual ethics paper a while back that explicitly said that one night liaisons could be instances of grace. I think that’s taking Rowan William’s argument in “The Body’s Grace” just a bit too far!

  3. Derek – I do not remember Jesus sidelining or not engaging with another human being – I thought that was the point of the Gospel.

    Peter, on the Changing Attitude statement – wouldn’t it just be better to acknowledge that there is a link between negative language on homosexuality and physical abuse, anyone who works in a school would know that straight away. As a result, a mere ‘I am sorry, we will try to ensure that we do not foster this’ would not be so difficult a statement to make, would it? It seems to me that even if there is an hint that our language might be causing violence, we should acknowledge some connection to this. If you also read the accounts of violence against Changing Attitude members in Nigeria, I think you might be more cautious to compare them to some mail a conservative leader might have got. I also do not think uncharitable,liberal Christian comments on conservative Christians have caused them to be beaten up by other Christians? You can correct me if I am wrong.

    Just to reiterate one point, Changing Attitude do not say that people should not express negative language towards homosexuality, just that they should be careful.

    At least, the Archbishop recognises this and responds charitably to the letter.

  4. Winston,

    The issue isn’t that there isn’t at least anecdotal evidence of the link, it’s the way that the CA letter seeks to, in a veiled way, plant the blame firmly at the feet of conservatives. Most conservatives deplore homophobic violence, people like Colin Coward know that, so what is the point of this letter if NOT to tar us with the brush of indirect collusion with such attacks?

  5. This is a disgraceful slur on the GAFCON leadership. I don’t believe there is a shred of evidence that any of them bears any responsibility whatsoever for the alleged attacks. It is a carefully worded letter designed to avoid being actually defamatory, at the same time as giving the distinct impression of culpability, and is merely a ploy to try to silence anyone who doesn’t dance to Changing Attitude’s tune.

    I do not believe that any of the GAFCON team would condone, or in any way provoke, violence upon ANY person.

    I am pleased to see that investigations are being made in Nigeria, and should these insinuations prove groundless I sincerely hope an apology will be forthcoming.

  6. “You may know that there were several instances of actual physical violence and threats of violence and death enacted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leaders of Changing Attitude in Nigeria over the Easter Weekend 2008.”

    By whom?

    ‘The leader of a Changing Attitude group was violently beaten.”

    By whom?

    “Subsequently, death threats have been issued against the Directors of Changing Attitude in Nigeria and England.”

    By whom?

    “The discourse taking place in the Anglican Communion about the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in our churches must be conducted in the context of Christian love and mutual respect. If it is not, then people will continue to perpetrate abuse and violence against LGBT people.”

    Who are these “people”? Details, please.

    “Some Anglican Christians act in this way because they believe that the language of criticism articulated against LGBT people in general and the Episcopal Church in particular gives them permission to perpetrate violence and abuse against Christians who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”

    What evidence do you offer for this sweeping claim? Cite your sources, please.

    “We are committed to engage in this debate and in the Listening Process which is integral to it and authorised by the Councils of the church.”

    Really? Making broad and baseless accusations against your opponent is not the usual definition of “debate”.

    “We recognise the integrity of those who hold this position at the same time as we disagree with it. We are not resistant to engaging in the debate with those who hold radically different views.”

    Please see my comment above.

    “We recognise that it is extremely difficult to conduct this debate in language that does not polarise opinions or inflame tensions.”

    Then how about exercising some self-restraint, or is that only for the other side?

    “We ask that all of us within the Anglican Communion be mindful of the words we use and the opinions we express when talking about LGBT people.”

    Or people in general, perhaps? Including conservatives?

    “None of us wishes to encourage or condone violence and none of us wishes to be responsible, indirectly, for murder or violence perpetrated on another person, whatever their sexual identity.”

    Obviously. So what’s your point, then?

  7. Winston

    You need to read 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

    This is not about outsiders coming to Jesus – this is about those bearing the name of ‘brothers’ advocating sexual immorality, and Paul was merely taking Jesus’ line from Matthew 18 – they must be put out by the community in order for them to repent.

    I’m sure you will claim that Jesus probably didn’t say that, or that pharisaical Paul misunderstood or totally distorted his words, but then that is why we are in this mess.

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