Changing Attitude and Homophobia

A special blog post from Changing Attitude yesterday. Really special. Writing about their experience at the House of Bishop’s committee on human sexuality, Colin Coward says,

[Sir Joseph Pilling] accused Changing Attitude and the groups who had presented ‘evidence’ on Wednesday of being incompetent because we had made so little effort to be persuasive.

He thought CA was tactically inept because in our submission we accuse our opponents (and all conservative ‘orthodox’, ‘traditional’ groups, he implied) of being homophobic.

I don’t think our submission does this, and it wasn’t our intention, but no matter, that’s what Sir Joe thinks – why? Sir Joe seems to have taken our submission personally, as if we were accusing him of being homophobic.

At this point I choked on my coffee, because the very notion of Colin being surprised that someone might be upset that he is constantly accusing conservatives of being homophobic and bigoted is just too hilarious for words.

Want some evidence? Go on then.

In the same post Colin writes,

Changing Attitude calls this a prejudiced reading of the texts and misreading of history which results in homophobia and a negative attitude towards a group of people because of their sexuality, a group which has to be listened to in a specialised way, apparently.

and then

I think what Reform has done in submitting a document from a pro-gay organisation as part of their submission is unethical and unchristian. Actually, I think it stinks – of homophobia.

On the 27th of June he wrote,

David [Holding] is Master of SSC (Society of the Holy Cross) and Forward in Faith. I don’t think he’s pro-gay – SSC and FiF are riddled with internalised homophobia.

But the killer is to read the actual submission that Changing Attitude submitted. Here’s some critical quotes,

…until the Church learns this lesson and understands how it has constructed a gospel of homophobia in place of the gospel of love and truth…

In the years since 1988, the charge of being homophobic has been laid against conservative ‘orthodox’ individual Christians, groups campaigning for Christian orthodoxy, and against the Church corporately when it has made statements perceived to be hostile to the dignity of LGB&T people. People accused of being homophobic defend themselves by claiming they are simply stating the Church’s traditional teaching.

We argue that conservative Christians ignore the changes that have taken place in social attitudes, changes parallel to the changed attitudes to race, women and contraception.

Church teaching about homosexuality based on the use of the familiar ‘clobber’ passages is now perceived to be homophobic.

These passages are used to maintain prejudice against LGB&T people and to deny that we are created in the image of God and are called to love in the pattern of Jesus Christ, in exactly the same way as the majority heterosexual population. We know the Church finds this difficult to acknowledge.

Colin Coward is absolutely entitled to his opinions. He’s certainly entitled to believe that I and others are homophobic and bigoted because we not only choose to defend but also live a traditional Christian moral. Fine. Not a problem. But to try and pretend that he isn’t constantly calling his opponents homophobic and to feign surprise that Sir Joseph might be critical of that? Come on….

7 Comments on “Changing Attitude and Homophobia

  1. Good post, Peter. Changing Attitude took the view in a paper a few years ago that casual sexual encounters could be ‘occasions of grace’, so Colin Cowards inconsistency here is not in the least bit surprising.

    • I had a great internet conversation across this blog and the CA one on this very paper a year or two back. Colin first denied it was anything to do with CA (despite them having published it AND there being almost no reference to the “Clergy Consultation” that drafted it, but then attempted to defend aspects of it, despite it apparently not being his paper. Delightful…

      • Thanks for the link to your earlier post, Peter, which I hadn’t seen at the time. I was especially struck by your point that: ‘I fear that Colin and his liberal commenters aren’t beginning from the same basis (the Scripture will tell us what we need to know) to have any reasonable part in the debate’.
        I couldn’t agree more. The approach of far too many liberal groups on sexuality is to see how they can fit scripture to actions that they define as loving. It’s reversing the correct order – it is always God’s directions that are perfect and loving.

      • I was encouraged to go back to the original paper, which is avaailable on the Changing Attitude website here: The full paragraph containing the point that I mentioned yesterday is as follows.
        ‘There is often an implicit assumption in using the words
        ‘faithfulness’ and ‘commitment’ in this discussion that we are always talking
        about sexual relationships persisting over a long period of time. And of course
        time provides the vital conditions for development, change and growth. To be committed
        is to take things seriously. It is to say ‘Tomorrow I will be here as well as
        today, which means that we have time. Time for facing up to the reality of each
        other. I am not going to run away (from
        you or myself).’ However, the biblical theme is primarily about the
        overwhelming demand to remain faithful to our covenantal relationship with God
        through the Spirit (which, as the gospels warn, may challenge conventional
        family obligations) Thus while it is clear to us as LGBTs when we survey the
        gay scene, and indeed much of contemporary social life, that casual sex can often
        be addictive and destructive, we think it is important to remain open to the
        possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in
        special circumstances can be occasions of grace. Risky, but then

        as Paul Tillich said ‘A Christian is safest
        taking risks!’’
        There are three obvious problems, just with this section, for the orthodox Christian:
        1. A false dichotomy is established whereby our commitment to our covenant relationship with God may challenge us to forsake our human relationships. The allusion, although it is not explicitly stated, is to Jesus’ direction to his disciples to forsake family ties for the sake of the Gospel. This allusion is however completely decontextualised from the original verses of the Bible. There is no attempt made to analyse scripture to determine under what conditions the faithful Christian is justified in leaving a relationship. It is simply left hanging implicitly that this may include gay Christians, who are presumably being faithful to God by being faithful to their supposed ‘gay nature’. The leaps in logic and the failure to seriously interrogate the scriptures are breathtaking!
        2. We have the appearance of ‘The Spirit’, often used in gay theology to appeal to a supposed new direction or move of God. In this respect I think that gay theology shares some characteristics with some of the more misguided charismatic theologies that have developed out of the ‘Latter Rain’ movement (see: although I’m sure gay theologians would strongly disagree. But the similarity is in the use of a decontextualised ‘Holy Spirit’ that is used to justify a change in theology, but without reference to any of the scriptures that tell us how to recognise and differentiate between true and false moves of God. The Bible consistently tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to teach us and empower us to live God’s commands – not to change them!
        3. The now-notorious passage that ‘we think it is important to
        remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between
        mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace’ is astounding in its rejection of scripture. No attempt is made to try and justify any such occasions from scripture. Indeed, there is no reference to scripture at all – the phrase is just left hanging as a ‘possibility’. Yet the idea of casual sexual relationships being ‘occasions of grace’ is nowhere present in scripture. Again, the decontextualisation is complete – the justification is to ‘loving’, and as we know, all manner of bad behaviour can be justified by reference to a ‘love’ that is left undefined.
        It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Changing Attitude are doing very little more than making it up as they go along, and justifying whatever ‘feels right’ by reference to love!

    • Did the paper not actually speculate as academic papers tend to do, on the implications of particular lines of thought, in this case whether casual sexual encounters could be occasions of grace? Similarly, the excerpts quoted above are striking for their use of qualifiers such as we argue that and is now perceived to be and the charge of being homophobic has been laid

      Coward might well go about calling conservatives homophobic, but the ignorance to nuanced language in the documents in question suggests that Coward isn’t the only one with an ideological axe to grind.

      Aside from which, here’s a point that I’ve never, ever heard a conservative respond to: why, if we’re not allowed to use the word ‘homophobic’, is the word ‘anti-semitism’ not also condemned, since it makes even less logical sense? Could it perhaps be because most people accept anti-Jewish prejudice as a bad thing, but diversionary tactics (gee, I’d love to help,but we really better replace ‘homophobic’ with a more accurate term before we do anything about LGBT persecution) can be used as anti-gay prejudice is still more socially acceptable? Aside from which, a position that amounts to “Ah, but I don’t FEAR gay people, I just don’t believe they shouldn’t have equal rights” is not perhaps the shining credential that many a conservative appears to believe it is.

  2. Thanks Peter. I think its important to point out that orthodox people don’t fear or hate gay people. We ought to love them as we love all people. We’re all sinners, we all do things which grieve God, the important thing is to recognise this and ask God for the grace to change. Orthodox people should be those who love gay people, love ALL people the most, because we recognise that we are sinners too! I’m afraid too often orthodox people do fear gay people but we need to repent of that fear. God will help them with their sin, just as he helps me with mine.

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