Why I can’t sign the Changing Attitude Letter

SigningChanging Attitude have published the letter that they circulated around various groups in the past week, especially Anglican Mainstream, Fulcrum and Reform. There are parts of the letter that are very good, succinct and powerful, but other aspects which mean that Evangelicals and traditional Anglo-Catholics should not sign it in its present form.

Here’s the text:

A bill has been introduced into the Ugandan parliament that consolidates previous legislation relating to homosexuality and introduces several new measures. According to the text of the bill introduced in the Ugandan Parliament last week, the new law would:

  • Reaffirm the lifetime sentence currently provided upon conviction of homosexuality, and extends the definition from sexual activity to merely “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
  • Create a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” which provides for the death penalty for “repeat offenders” and for cases where the individual is HIV-positive.
  • Criminalizes all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
  • Criminalizes the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
  • Adds a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
  • Adds extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.

Anglican bishops in this country have long-standing relationships with the Bishops of the Church of Uganda. They have participated in Lambeth Conferences where the bishops committed themselves to speak out against capital punishment (Lambeth 1988 33:3b), and to condemn the irrational fear of homosexuals (Lambeth 1998 1:10d).

While it is well known that, as organisations, we stand on opposing sides over the controversies about homosexuality and the Church, on this occasion we set aside our differences and call on the Church of Uganda to make her voice heard in protest at this draconian legislation and in defence of the civil liberties and dignity of an oppressed minority of the population of Uganda. We further call on our Primates and the English bishops of the three dioceses linked with the Church of Uganda to use their friendship with the Primate and bishops to urge them to publicly oppose the bill.

I’ve highlighted the section that makes it impossible to sign the letter. Let me explain why.

It is entirely disingenuous for Changing Attitude to demand that conservative groups sign a letter (and to imply that those who don’t are somehow bigoted and uncaring) which contains a reference to Lambeth 1998 1:10, when it and other revisionist groups seem to want to pick and choose which clauses of that resolution to accept. If we need reminding, other clauses of that resolution include:

b. in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;

d. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;

e. cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;

Indeed, the very clause that the letter refers to includes a clear rejection of homosexual activity as utterly incompatible with Scripture. Changing Attitude seem to want to completely ignore that section, but insist that other organisations publicly affirm the portions of the text that don’t conflict with the revisionist agenda. That is an utterly unacceptable position to maintain and it shows a highly derogatory view of the institutions and processes that underlie the Lambeth resolution in question.

Can I propose an edit of the letter? Strike everything onwards from (and including) the sentence beginning, “They have participated…” and replace it with the following:

We remind the Church of Uganda that its bishops signed Lambeth Resolution 1998 1:10 and we call on them and commit ourselves to implementing Lambeth 1998 1:10 in its entirety across the whole Communion, including, but not limited to, the need to “condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”.

We further call on our Primates and the English bishops of the three dioceses linked with the Church of Uganda to use their friendship with the Primate and bishops to urge them to publicly oppose the bill.

Now that’s a letter that I’d be happy to sign. Changing Attitude over to you, but to be honest if you’re not able to sign my version (which calls on the Church of Uganda to oppose this Bill) why should I feel under any pressure to sign yours?

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