A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By Dr. Mike Homfray
I have never thought very much of institutionalised religion - to me the Church of England is simply a human organisation with all its faults and problems. I have precisely no emotional attachment to it at all - if it does a job for me then I am happy to attend a CofE church, if I think its worth working for change within it then I will (and have) given time and effort to move it forward.
However - I think that those of you who have opted to stay within the CofE have some hard choices to make.
First, it is clear enough that the chances of changing the mind of the Anglican Communion as currently constituted are nil.
Second, there is a strong possibility that those who agree with CA [Changing Attitude, a ministry of lbgts in the Church of England] are likely to be thrown out of the Communion altogether - the chances of the Americans accepting a fringe second-tier position are pretty much nil. Then, you will have to make up your mind if you wish to stay within an institution which has clearly no space for your perspective.
Third, if Akinola and the hardliners get their way, gay people in partnerships will be prevented from being communicant members of the church in any case. It won't be a case of you or any of us being on the edge of the institution - but told that either we toe the line or get out altogether.
But the real issue is, quite simply, that the number of young gay people who go to church has reached absolute rock bottom. The number of young people attending church has dropped to an all time low in any case, but those attending tend to be attracted to the evangelical churches who are largely anti-gay. Out and proud young gay people just don't want to know about the church. The days when the furtive 'girls clubs' of Anglo-Catholicism held any appeal to young gay people are dead and buried - and look at the lack of young gay men going forward for training into the priesthood these days.
Basically, the fact that society is so much more open means that gay people look at the church and think ' what is there in this institution for me?' other than, at worst, hostility, and at best, a patronising inequality. Its just not acceptable any more, and I think that those currently outside the church - and many who have left - just look at the situation and think, quite rationally, ' why should I associate myself with an organisation which is organisationally and institutionally homophobic?' The fact that it is led by a spineless, hypocritical coward who betrays his gay friends (really, the Judas model couldn't have been better designed than for Williams!) doesn't help.
Your reality is that you are part of a dying institution that has precisely no chance of attracting young gay and lesbian people. It has become the laager for the prejudiced and superstitious who fear the contemporary world. And I came to the conclusion that much of the problem is the traditional theology of the Church. Many in ECUSA such as Jack Spong, have realised this. So, if there is a split, then a church which is heading in that direction would be one which has something relevant to say, which has ditched the outdated and culture-bound theologies which clearly teach gay and lesbian oppression as part of 'God's word', might be one which gay and lesbian people may find speaks to them.
But otherwise, I see no future for gay people in an institution which cannot accept them, and I think other than for those people who do have that emotional attachment to the institution, the chances of bringing them into the fold are pretty much nil.
I've returned to the Quaker meeting which I was part of for 10 years or so before joining an Anglican church. I hope that those who really do want to see change , when they are faced with the stark option before them, will have the courage to walk apart from the institutionally homophobic Anglican Communion.
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