Letter in Today’s Church of England Newspaper

Sir,

Church England LogoColin Coward’s letter last week conveniently demonstrates for us the hypocrisy of some of the liberalisers in the Church of England. It is no longer about revisionists being able to hold their integrity in the Church alongside conservatives. No, the very orthodox teaching of Scripture on marriage, fidelity and chastity is apparently homophobic in and of itself.

It is, we are told, a distortion of the Gospel and that implies it (the Orthodox position) is no Gospel at all. The next time a liberal tells you that all we need to do is get along together and agree to differ, point them to Colin Coward’s letter and then to the experience of conservatives in the The Episcopal Church in the USA who just wanted to be able to teach what they believed in their corner of the field but instead got inhibited and expelled from the Church.

Of course, the truth is that the Scriptural message is not bullying or prejudiced but rather a source of liberation for those in bondage to sin and brokenness, the power of Christ to change anyone. As those of us who have walked away from a gay identity can testify, Colin Coward does not speak for all LGB christians (or clergy for that matter) in the Church of England.

Furthermore, our Archbishop Justin Welby is to be commended and supported by Conservatives for not only speaking up against real homophobia (which every Christian should abhor) but also his willingness to defend the orthodox Christian doctrine of marriage, both in Parliament and beyond the Palace of Westminster.

Rev Peter Ould
Canterbury

12 Comments on “Letter in Today’s Church of England Newspaper

  1. Well said, Peter. I looked up CC’s letter to which you refer, and thought it might be helpful to post it here:

    Sir,

    Andrew Symes offered definitions of homophobia in his letter last week. His first was the nasty, vindictive bullying people who bully those with “same-sex attraction” or “practising homosexuals”. Andrew had already stepped beyond acceptable language for those of us who are lesbian or gay. I do not accept the label “same-sex attraction’ or “practising homosexual”. Both phrases come from someone who is homophobic.

    Andrew offers a second possible definition of homophobia: a sense of being uncomfortable with difference that is not fully understood. Emotional discomfort is certainly an element of what can make people homophobic. Christians who exhibit this tendency may nevertheless do their best to display love and lack of discrimination towards gay people. Indeed some do, and I often feel patronized by them.

    Andrew offers a third possibility. What about those who through settled, rational, thought-out decision, after reflection on Scripture and after listening without prejudice to the experiences of gay people, decide that the traditional interpretation of the church is correct: God’s intention for human flourishing as sexual beings is either celibate singleness in community of friendship, or monogamous heterosexual marriage?

    Does holding this opinion constitute homophobia, asks Andrew? Yes, it does, and yes, it is what we in Changing Attitude would like the Church to apologise for. We recognize the integrity of the Biblical faith held by those who hold to their own traditional interpretation of scripture but the result is a prejudiced attitude to those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. It is homophobic.

    Their attitude is alienating the majority of Christians in the West who do not share their prejudice or their reading of scripture, one that has never been a universal interpretation. The homophobic prejudice of the vast majority of Christians worldwide are against LGB&T people (if they are the majority), is to be deplored. It is one of the major causes of hatred and violence against gay people and has to be confronted. It is a shocking distortion of the Gospel of love, truth and justice proclaimed by Jesus the Christ. The majority has been wrong about other major issues and it is wrong about God’s attitude to LGB&T people. It is a tragedy that the vast majority of Christians are homophobic and a shocking scar on the face of Christ’s Church.

    Prejudice, bullying and harassment throughout society of LGB&T people will only stop when all teaching that reinforces homophobic attitudes is overcome.

    The Rev Colin Coward,
    Director of Changing Attitude
    England

      • I suspect that they will go on chip, chip, chipping away until the church grows weary and gives in. The tail will eventually wag the dog, as it has in the US. Reading one of CC’s latest blog posts I see that he is suspicious of the Pilling Report and already planning how to react if it is not favourable to LGBTs. One cannot help but feel some sympathy with them, but CC’s misrepresentation of the orthodox ‘side’ is breathtaking!

        http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/7455#comments

        But God is still in charge, and who knows what will happen? It may mean the end of Anglicanism, but perhaps that will be a good thing in the long run.

        • Well, that certainly couldn’t be clearer. If he’s right that the younger generation of evangelical anglicans no longer agree with their leaders then Christian teaching on marriage could go the way of contraception. But if that’s true, what’s he so worried about? Won’t the older generation retire in the next 20 years?

        • Indeed, who knows where it will all end? It is unlikely to mean the end of Anglicanism, but it could well mean that in the Church of England a negative attitude to gay relationships will become a rather quaint, marginal and evanescent fringe phenomenon. Or am I being unduly optimistic?

          • The problem is that, in my experience, the conservative churches tend to be a lot bigger and growing in comparison with the liberal/LGBTQ welcome churches. Not quite sure why this is, but it does tend to undermine CCs claim that this is so small a sect within the CofE that it doesn’t even deserve recognition. Unless you take seriously his claim that people are turning up on a Sunday for the guitars and the children’s craft activities and ignoring the teaching on sexual morality. But how would you go about proving such a thing? There have been cases in America where people have gone round interviewing church goers on the street and asking them what they think, but seriously, if someone sticks a camera and a microphone in your face and asks you ‘so what do you think of gay people?’ are you really going to say ‘I think they’re all sinners.’?

    • ‘We recognize the integrity of the Biblical faith held by those who hold to their own traditional interpretation of scripture but the result is a prejudiced attitude to those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.’

      This is the central and informing paragraph. In other words, Colin Coward is s applying the law of negligence. He holds that we owe a legal duty higher than commitment to the traditional reading of scripture that is to prevent even unintended harm caused by prejudice.

      By the law of negiglence, those who knowingly expose homosexuals to a substantial risk of harassment, breach that duty. Those who fail to realize the substantial risk of harassment caused by a traditional biblical interpretation, which he believes any reasonable person [objective] in the same situation would clearly have realized, he also deems to breach that duty.

      What he misses in his polemic is that negiglence requires proof of factual causation. It must be shown that the particular acts or omissions were the cause of the harm sustained. It is not enough to identify traditional interpretation as a concomitant factor in some cases; it must be causal. The test is whether homophobia occurs without any resort to the traditional interpretation of the biblical position on human sexuality. And, of course, it does.

      In the absence of any proof that traditonal interpretation is causally linked to homophobia, he can only repeat victim-speak in the hope that it arouse misplaced guilt.
      To persist in his strained logic, he might as well relinquish his British Citizenship on the grounds that, whatever integrity it stands for, the result is a prejudiced attitude to those of us who are foreign.

      To even call his datribe ‘inane’ would be faint praise!

      • I find a lot of CC stuff to be like that. As well as a lot of so-called ‘discussions’ on gay marriage. It reminds me of maths lessons when my teacher would do steps in his head instead of writing it out on the board and I’d have to say ‘er, could you go back a few steps, I missed a link here’. I suppose that to LGBT groups their position seems so obviously right and just that they can just assert that people’s beliefs are prejudiced and harmful without having to go through the logical steps.

        • But if the basic assumption is an article of faith, then the use of logic to resolve the difference is automatically precluded by the nature of the premise. It’s why it is so difficult to have a rational debate on these topics, as to do so requires all parties to consider it possible that they may be mistaken.
          In which spirit I second your comments on Guglielmo’s continuing engagement.

            • I think the point holds true as a general statement. In the case of same sex marriage it would mean either starting from a position that marriage either can only be between a man and a woman, or that the sex of the partners is irrelevant. Both alternatives, if held as an article of faith, make persuasion to an alternative view through logic and reason impossible. Whereas there was a perfectly respectable logical debate to be had (and which, to be fair, was raised, but was largely ignored by most supporters of same sex marriage) about the relative social utility of the various options over the long term.
              Similarly, if one holds that someone who believes that anyone who is actiively gay can’t be a priest is ipso facto hompohobic regardless of how they actually behave, then I don’t think we can be in the territory of reasoned debate there either. Although, in a strict sense of the word it is correct to say that those who hold to the traditional teachings of the Church in this respect are prejudiced – i.e. they have reached a prior judgment. But then so clearly have many on the other side of the argument. It’s just that they appear to think their prejudice is self-evidently right and acceptable and their opponents equally self-evidently wrong and unacceptable, which is why I think this is an ‘article of faith’ discussion, as many of the participants are not prepared to consider the possiblity that they may be mistaken – an attitude that seems particularly strong among the reviosnist camp.
              Or if you want a third, unrelated example, listening to or reading many of the militant atheist tendency one does not get the impression that they are open to the possiblity there may be a God, which leaves precious little open ground to argue over. The irony that they cannot, in pure logic, prove the non-existence of God any more than anyone else can, in pure logic, prove the existence of God, and that therefore their argument is equally at core about what they believe to be true not what they can prove to be true, is amusingly beyond them.
              Which leaves me, as a poor Christian, falling back on the grace of God in such circumstances, because it seems to me that in the absence of proof through human reason, only by the workings of divine grace are we going to be able to discern the right answer, and that in the absence of such clarity then the application of a good dose of humility and charity in one’s arguments and actions is appropriate. But that’s an argument that is almost impossible to explain to most people in today’s largely post-religious secular culture.
              Which is rather a long answer to a short question, I’m afraid!

              • I think you might be on to something with the ‘faith’ idea. I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel like I used to be able to have conversations about morality without getting burnt. At first I thought this very aggressive personal attack on motivations, feelings, character, thoughts that can’t be proved was a diversion tactic – it seemed so manipulative. But I’ve realised that people are sincere. They really believe that they’re in a battle against good and evil in which ideas are just rhetoric used to gain power over people and so must not be engaged with. ‘The Church says that unborn life has value? Don’t fall for it. They don’t believe it themselves – they just want to control your body.’ ‘Christians say they believe that marriage is about children. Don’t believe them! They just hate gay people and they made that up to try to hide their real motivations.’ I’ve known people go almost into fits of anger against the Church for seeking to control people’s sexual behaviour (heterosexual we’re talking about here) ‘through their conscience’. It’s like making someone feel guilty is a terrible crime, whereas sleeping with someone and dumping them the next day is just fine.

                It’s why someone like Tom (who I actually think is a nice guy) can come on here, call people fascists, think a wind up like Ryan is a ‘knight in shining armour’, wonder why they don’t get an entirely sympathetic hearing and then go off thinking ‘that’s what happens when you stand up for yourself’.

                It’s a very worrying development. There are an increasing number of moral issues that cannot be discussed or debated even in the mildest language because people’s ‘evil control’ antennae are up.

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