Justin Welby and that radio phone-in…

Justin Welby - RadioIt is now almost 2 weeks since the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby linked acceptance of same-sex relationships with the murder of Christians in Africa.

“I’ve stood by a grave side in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far far away in America, and they were attacked by other people because of that and a lot of them had been killed.  We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact” he said.

Asked about why conducting same-sex marriages in the CofE can’t be left to the conscience of individual clergy he said, “Well, why can’t we just do it now? Because, the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic.”

He then finished the interview by reiterating the threat of violence by quoting the attackers, What was said is ‘if we leave a Christian community in this area’…I’m quoting them, this is not obviously something I think…’if we leave a Christian community in this area we will all be made to become homosexual and so we’re going to kill the Christians’. The mass grave had 369 bodies in it and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul, as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”

While there was an immediate chorus of disapproval from many commentators, others found themselves stunned into silence at the enormity of the charge. Could it be that by accepting and blessing same-sex relationships, we would be condemning large numbers of Christians to death?

It was not the first time that I had heard of Justin Welby making such a connection.  I was told some days before of him making exactly the same link in an answer to children in a school visit.  Presumably the point had hit home there, and so he thought it was ready to be broadcast on a wider stage, but what played well in a school did not play well in the media.  The echoes of his statements have been reverberating around the UK and indeed the world ever since.

The effect has been felt most keenly in the United States, not least because he appeared to blame the mass grave which he visited on events ‘far, far away in America.’  During his visit there last week, he was asked to clarify his comments and asked to justify the linkage he was making, but without success.

At the bottom of the controversy there appear to be 3 issues at play:

1.   How accurate is the assessment which Justin Welby has given?

There have been many who have questioned the accuracy of the assertion he made.  This has not been helped by the Archbishop refusing to give any more information about the mass grave he was taken to.  Was it is Sudan or Nigeria or perhaps somewhere else?  Who told him that these Christians were killed because of church acceptance of sexuality, and was that true?  Unfortunately, without more information, there is no way to assess the validity of the claim.

The Episcopal Café website in the USA has noted that “secular human rights groups have documented many massacres in Sudan and Nigeria, and attributed none to the actions of gay-friendly churches”.

Similarly on this side of the Atlantic, Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow commented that , “The tone of the Archbishop’s answers seemed to be that we needed to trust him on this because he was right” and also lamented the fact that “He has also said that he won’t provide any evidence to back up what he is saying.”

The sad truth is that mass violence in many parts of Africa is commonplace.  Recent events in both South Sudan and Nigeria have demonstrated this and this month’s anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda is a grim reminder of how far such violence can go.  The reasons for violence are complex and deep rooted.  History, tribal and religious identity, as well as politics, and the actions of political leaders all have their part to play.  At the end of the day, men of violence will always find an excuse to justify their violence, but that does not mean the excuse given is the true cause.

2.   Even if it is true, should we give in to people of violence?

This is always a difficult question.  Our instinct is to protect the vulnerable whatever the cost, and if it were some abstract issue which did not affect the lives of real people, then perhaps we should take a step back, rather than expose others to unnecessary risk.

But attitudes to LGBT people and their relationships are not abstract issues, and indeed, LGBT people also suffer greatly from violence and even murder by those who like to use violence in Africa and elsewhere.  The growth of so-called ‘corrective rape’ against women accused of being lesbians also demonstrates the flimsy nature of such excuses for violence.

Yet the same African Bishops who warn of the danger to Christians if the Church of England blesses same-sex relationships are often the ones who have supported new draconian laws against LGBT people and their support groups.  By doing so, they fuel the atmosphere of suspicion, discrimination and violence against that community while doing little or nothing to challenge the ill conceived fears on sexuality in their own congregations.

The civil rights movement in the USA and elsewhere has always had to face down the threats of those bent on perpetrating violence.  While it is wrong to ignore the threat of violence, it is also wrong to simply bow to its pressure.

3.    How should the church proceed in the light of all this?

The best and most balanced analysis of what Justin Welby should have said is reproduced below.  Sadly, it may well be discounted by many simply because of who wrote it – you can find out who it is by following the link at the end.  It recognizes the dilemma which the Anglican Communion faces, while also making clear statements about the principles on which we must build.

‘So how might the Archbishop have responded differently? Perhaps something like this: “Look, the church must consider many things in discerning whether a change is warranted in our consideration of blessing the marriages of same-sex couples: what scriptures says, how the church’s historical understanding has developed, and our own experience of gay couples’ relationships. We are in the midst of that discernment right now. In addition, we must always be aware that our decisions here in England are being watched by the world’s 80 million Anglicans and their enemies; sometimes being used as an irrational and unwarranted excuse by those enemies for violence against Christians. I have seen the graves of those who have suffered because of these unjust and irrational connections between LGBT people and murder, and it breaks my heart.

Even so, we cannot give in to the violent acts of bullies and must discern and then pursue God’s will for all of God’s children. Violence and murder of Christians is deplorable, but so is violence against and murder of LGBT people. And as the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, permit me to point out, it is not helpful for some of our own Anglican archbishops, bishops and clergy to join in support of anti-gay legislation and rhetoric in their own countries, thereby fueling the hatred and violence against innocent LGBT people, who are being criminalized and murdered for who they are. These are complicated issues, and with God’s guidance, we will discern what is right to say and do.”’

For the author’s name – follow this link

Let us know your thoughts.

Benny Hazlehurst


Newsletter – April 2014

Dear Friends

New – AE Facebook page!facebook_logo

Accepting Evangelicals now has a Facebook page.


Please make sure that you visit it, ‘like’ or ‘follow’ it and share it widely. We value your comments – this provides an opportunity to hear your thoughts on news and opinions. If you would like to recommend a link for posting, please email it to benny@acceptingevangelicals.org

First same-sex couples marry in the UK

This historic law to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales was passed in July 2013 but became a reality last weekend for the first same-sex couples who celebrated their weddings on 29 March 2014.

Religious institutions are exempt from being required to officiate at marriage ceremonies and the Church of England remains protected by the ‘quadruple lock’.  However, some denominations are having internal discussions on the future possibility of supportive clergy being permitted to ‘opt in’ to hold marriage ceremonies on their premises.  The Baptist Union discussed this recently on 19 March where the Revd Stephen Keyworth shared a straw poll. People were asked for their personal position about the blessing of same-sex relationships and then to place themselves on a scale between the two extremes of: ‘no, not never, ever ‘and ‘yes, I can’t understand why we’re not doing it now’. He said there were two peaks: “No, I can’t see that I would, but accept that others do…”, and “Yes, I don’t see a problem, but accept that others think differently.” Those at either extreme were small in number. Stephen continued, ‘In my experience in this role…. this mirrors precisely the attitudes which are present in our Union.’

The Methodist Church has held a working group consultation which closed in February and further discussion will be on the agenda at the annual Methodist conference to be held at the end of June. The United Reformed Church will take the opportunity to discuss the issue at its General Assembly in July later this year.

Quakers have long supported same-sex marriage and state on their website “Quakers see God in everyone and that leads us to say that all committed loving relationships are of equal worth and so Quakers in Britain wish to celebrate them in the same way”.  Unitarians will be free to conduct same–sex marriages in their places of worship if congregations wish to do so.

Cutting Edge LetterThe Cutting Edge Consortium and the LGBTI Anglican Coalition issued a joint press release and held a press conference on Friday 28 March, the day before the first weddings were permitted to take place, to announce a statement signed by a number of religious leaders of different faiths expressing support for same-sex marriage.

“We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales. As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.”

Two of the signatories to the joint letter are Steve Chalke and the Bishop David Gillett, patrons of Accepting Evangelicals.

Accepting Evangelicals is committed to encouraging theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature and historical development of marriage – please see again our statement on same-sex marriage.

Uganda update

February saw the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014, signed into law by the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. This new measure strengthens already strict laws against gay people by imposing a life sentence for certain violations and making it a crime to not report anyone who breaks the law.  Currently, thirty-eight of fifty-three African nations criminalise homosexuality in some way and harsh legal penalties lead to a culture of physical abuse, vandalism to property, death threats and ‘correctional rape’.

Amnesty International reports that arrests of people suspected of violating anti-gay laws are arbitrary and people detained are often subjected to torture and abuse by authorities.

One writer highlights the problem here http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/02/uganda-anti-gay-bill-signed:

“Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, the nation’s primary gay rights group, reports that police are rounding up thirty to forty suspected homosexuals each week. In some cases, simply being unmarried and spending time in the company of people of the same gender is enough to arouse police suspicion. Mugisha also says that the bill’s passage has brought a surge in anti-gay vigilantism and that religious leaders in the suburbs surrounding Kampala have been calling for gays to be killed or burned over the public address systems. “The situation is extremely worrying,” Mugisha says. “We are living in fear.”’

So, in the above climate, the response of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo is an extraordinary and hugely courageous stand.

WorldVision-LogoWorld Vision USA reverses its non-discrimination policy

On Monday 24 March, World Vision U.S. (a Christian organisation which organises child sponsorship in some of the poorest areas of the world) announced it would no longer discriminate against employing Christians in same-sex marriages.

However, within two days it issued a further announcement reversing that decision after receiving an avalanche of criticism from evangelical leaders.  President Richard Stearns had hoped that the original decision would bring unity but found that too many supporters saw the policy change as inconsistent with what they felt should be World Vision’s commitment to biblical authority.  More importantly, over 2,000 of the 1.2 million children sponsored by World Vision U.S. had been dropped by sponsors.

Meanwhile, World Vision UK has issued its own statement saying “World Vision UK does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.”  Read the full statement here.

And finally – LGCM is looking for new Chief Executive

The Lesbian Gay Christian Movement  are looking for a dynamic Chief Executive to succeed Sharon Ferguson and continue the work of eradicating faith-based opposition to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in church and society. Full details can be found here.

God Bless and Keep You
Accepting Evangelicals

Cracking the Binary Code…

Anvil Theological JournalThis is a short section from a longer article by Benny Hazlehurst published this month in Anvil Theological Journal.  It is set alongside other articles on sexuality from more conservative theologians.

To read the article in full, follow this link to Anvil and click on ‘Cracking the Binary Code’.

“My teenage children love playing computer games. For that matter so do I. Among the pure action games are some which require a little more thought. There are choices to make, and as you make those choices the game unfolds, for better or worse. ‘Skyrim’ is a good example. Set in a mythical world of different powers, guilds, and warring factions you can choose your race, skills and weapons. You can be a warrior or a poet – a Stormcloak or an Imperial, an elf or a human – you can even choose your religion. Amidst the action sequences fighting off wolves, bandits, or assassins, there are also moral decisions to make: to fight or walk away, to intimidate or persuade, to follow or rebel.

But as I played Skyrim, there is one thing which bothered me. So many of the ‘choices’ boil down to a choice between two options. And I often found myself being asked to choose between two things, neither of which I wanted to choose. I found myself complaining to my kids about this. “But dad, you have to choose one or other option to progress in the game,” they say to me. Essentially the game is based on a series of binary choices: yes or no, fight or flee, be loyal or betray. Ultimately I stopped playing because in so many situations, neither option seemed the right thing to do.

As an evangelical of course, I am also accustomed to being given binary choices. At University 30 years ago, the Christian Union gave me a choice. Do I believe that the Bible isthe inspired Word of God, or just a human creation? If I said it was the Word of God then I could call myself an evangelical; if not, then I could not. For me that was no big issue: ‘Yes’ I said, ‘I do,’ but the binary choices didn’t stop there. Did I believe that Scripture is inerrant or merely infallible? Am I a premillennialist or a postmillennialist? Calvinist or Arminian?  Evangelical or Charismatic?  Was I ‘sound’ or ‘unsound’ in my understanding of the atonement?  At each point there was clearly an answer which the person asking the question wanted to hear, and one which they didn’t.

But what if we don’t want to follow either of the given options? What if I think that life and faith are a little more complicated than that? What if I don’t want to nail my colours to a particular mast, or be pigeon-holed by a particular category or label? As an evangelical Christian, Jesus Christ is at the centre of my life. He is my Lord and Saviour and I believe that I have been born again by the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Bible is inspired by God and I approach it in prayer to deepen my understanding of God, as well as to be encouraged, challenged or rebuked. But that does not mean that everything in Scripture is an open or shut case – a binary choice between right and wrong, sound or unsound.

It is this binary approach which has led us to such an impasse on evangelical responses to sexuality…

Faced with the choice of rejecting the authority of Scripture or rejecting same-sex relationships, most evangelicals have naturally chosen to uphold Scripture and reject any change on sexuality. But is this really the choice we are faced with, or a false choice based on a false binary construct?”

For the rest of the article, follow this link to Anvil and click on ‘Cracking the Binary Code’.

Celebrating Unadulterated Love with a Mixed Bunch of Christians

Unadulterated-LoveOur new patron, Bishop David Gillett shares his reflections from attending a recent event organised by Changing Attitude:

‘My Catholic friends tell me that I should always do something special and memorable on my Naming Day which, for me is March 1st, St David’s Day.  And this year I did; I attended the celebration, ‘Unadulterated Love’ arranged by Changing Attitude in London.

It was the first of their events I had attended and I went mainly because It was suggested to me that as a bishop and an evangelical who had formerly been principal of Trinity College Bristol it would show support and bring encouragement to many LGBT people. Well, I am always sceptical about how my being at something can be much of an encouragement, but events certainly proved me wrong!

I was one of two bishops there and, being soon after the House of Bishops guidelines on same sex marriage had been issued, our presence was seen as significant – even though neither of us are members of the House (me because I am retired). I was asked to facilitate a couple of group sessions where there would be opportunity for both straight and LGBT folk to share their stories and challenges etc.

Pervading the occasion was a note of celebration and mutual support, some touches of confusion and sadness, but to my surprise very little anger about how the church was handling the issue of same sex relationships. Rather I detected a sense of compassion for a church that would soon hopefully embrace a wider understanding of the all-encompassing love of our gracious and welcoming God.

There were other evangelicals there who, like me had  come to an understanding of scripture and the gospel which impels us to support those who are, by their God-given nature attracted to people of the same sex, both those who are single and those in a relationship. We exchanged some experiences of how our theological and pastoral position meant we were suspect by a number of our evangelical friends, but also how many more of them were also seeing the gospel and scripture in a more inclusive and accepting light.  My personal concern in the group sessions was to share how important it is for me to celebrate together with my LGBT friends the acceptance of God and his blessing upon all committed faithful relationships, such as my wife and myself had known throughout the whole of our married life together.

But for those who shared with me, the main talking point was how a good number of them had found it difficult as gay and lesbian Christians to be accepted and comfortable within their own evangelical churches, whether they were single or in a relationship. Some spoke of years during which members of their own fellowship ignored them and never spoke to them once they had been open about their sexuality. Others told of similar cold shouldering at evangelical theological colleges. For some there was a determination to continue in the spiritual tradition which had nurtured them, but others spoke of how they felt forced out by the coldness to look for a fellowship which would be more supportive and accepting even though that meant them leaving behind some close Christian friends and the spirituality they had long valued.

However there were indications that the tide was turning. Some were determined to stay within their fellowships and were gradually seeing a dawning of a new sense of acceptance and joy in their relationships with straight Christians in their local church. This sense of acceptance was clearly more marked in the younger age group but it was also evident that many lay folk in evangelical churches were more open than some clergy. Was this, some wondered, because the close ties within the evangelical clergy-world meant that a good number hesitated to embrace a fresh understanding because their friends and colleagues would cold shoulder them too?

But I did not leave the day despondent about the place of LGBT folk within evangelical churches. It is still clearly very hard for many, but the tide is turning and I am confident that the facilitated discussions which are being set up in the wake of the Pilling report will be one means through which many evangelicals will reevaluate their position. I believe also that Accepting Evangelicals will have an increasingly important role to play in accompanying many, particularly clergy as they take a closer look at their understanding of scripture, the gospel and our mission in a society where equal marriage will soon be seen as part of the natural landscape. I know of some evangelical clergy who already offer services of blessing for those in civil partnerships and are also looking for greater freedom to celebrate with those who enter into same sex married relationships as the law allows. Clearly we are in the midst of considerable turmoil over this issue within the Church, but I believe, to quote a phrase that several of us used during the day, ‘the dam is about to burst!’

Rt Rev David Gillett

March 2014




Newsletter – March 2014

Dear Friends

AE’s First Patrons…

We are delighted to announce our first two patrons at AE – Rev Steve Chalke and Bishop David Gillett.  During our 10th Anniversary year, we will be announcing a number of Patrons who will help us raise the profile of Accepting Evangelicals.

The Rt Rev David Gillett was Bishop of Bolton until his retirement in 2008. He hasrev_david_gillett huge experience in evangelical theological education having been Principal of Trinity Theological College in Bristol for 11 years, and the first Director of Extension Studies at St John’s Nottingham. He trained for the ministry at Oak Hill, and has also been a travelling secretary for Pathfinders and CYFA. He is now honorary assistant Bishop and interfaith advisor in the Diocese of Norwich.

David writes,

“Over the years I have come to understand that the scriptures encourage us to support, affirm and celebrate all life-long committed relationships that follow the path in life gifted by God in his creation of each of us as different individuals.  I believe that Accepting Evangelicals is one positive way of supporting same sex couples to receive the same love, blessing and support from the church which I and my wife knew so wonderfully throughout the whole of our married life.”

 You can read more of David’s reflections on the importance of supporting same-sex relationships in this Blog post from December last year – just after the publication of the Pilling Report.

Rev Steve Chalke will need little introduction.  He is a Baptist minister, Founder of OasisSteve Chalke Global & Stop The Traffik, and a United Nations Special Advisor on Community Action Against Human Trafficking.  He is Church Leader at Oasis Waterloo and was awarded the MBE in 2004 for services to social inclusion.

Steve writes,

“I am honoured to be a patron of Accepting Evangelicals which is an important movement within evangelicalism because it represents the growing shift away from old, excluding and subjective readings of isolated biblical texts towards a much needed more affirming, compassionate, rounded and thoughtful approach to the Bible, humanity and sexuality.”

We warmly welcome both Steve and David in their new role with AE.

Church of England in disarray over same-sex marriage

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same-sex Marriage‘ last month, just after St Valentine’s Day.  The first same-sex marriages are due to take place in England and Wales during March.

While they said that same-sex married couples can approach their local clergy to ask for ‘informal prayers’, the statement also banned clergy in same-sex relationships from getting married.  The guidance also states that anyone in a same-sex marriage will not be ordained in the Church of England.

This has shocked and dismayed LGB&T clergy who had been hoping to ‘upgrade’ their Civil Partnerships to marriage later this year.  Civil Partnerships are permitted among Clergy in the CofE.   Read more here.


 Uganda joins Nigeria in adopting new anti-gay laws…

After 2 years of uncertainty, Uganda’s President signed into law the infamous ant-gay bill last week.  Despite international pressure, he appears to have decided that he has more to gain than lose in signing the Bill.

While the death penalty has been dropped, the new law still contains life sentences for people who marry someone of the same-sex or even touch someone of the same gender with ‘intent to engage in a sexual act’.

A petition opposing this new law has been signed by over 300,000 people in the last 4 days and can be found at https://www.allout.org/en/actions/kill-the-bill


Change Makers Conference

We are very pleased to advertise the Change Makers Conference in Enfield London next month.

The two-day conference is around the theme of Christ centred communities and innovative models of church. It’s a really exciting programme and has wide range of fantastic speakers from around the world – particularly from the USA and Thailand. As part of the programme there will also be a stream which looks at theology, biblical interpretation and some of the themes outlined in Steve’s recent article, Restoring Confidence in the Bible, and also the article on sexuality which he published in January 2013, A Matter of Integrity.

More information and booking details can be found here.

God Bless and Keep You

Accepting Evangelicals


Bishops ban clergy from same-sex marriage

same-sex marriage 3The Church of England’s House of Bishops has issued ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same-sex Marriage‘ last weekend, just after St Valentine’s Day.  The first same-sex marriages are due to take place in England and Wales at the end of March.

While they said that same-sex married couples can approach their local clergy to ask for ‘informal prayers’, the statement also banned clergy in same-sex relationships from getting married.  The guidance also states that anyone in a same-sex marriage will not be ordained.

Paragraph 27 states:

 “The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives.”

The rationale behind this decision seems to be the promise which clergy make to “be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.”

It would follow therefore, that the House of Bishops considers that anyone who enters into marriage with someone of the same sex cannot be a wholesome example to the flock of Christ.

This ruling is in sharp contrast to the Church of England’s acceptance of Civil Partnerships.  Clergy can enter into a Civil Partnership without sanction, and indeed the church pension rights of those in Civil Partnerships are fully recognised and protected.

There has been a strong reaction to this from LGBT clergy and others.  One vicar in London had just proposed to his partner of 14 years the day before, on St Valentines Day, but then woke up to the news that his church is forbidding the marriage.

Another church nearby has gone on the record to say that they are meeting to prepare out a statement opposing the Bishop’s guidelines.

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition, of which Accepting Evangelicals is a member, has issued a strongly worded statement calling for the guidance to be withdrawn.

 “This is cruel and unjust to clergy who have faithfully served the church, hitherto with the full knowledge and support of their bishops, and it will impoverish the ministry by driving away LGB&TI ordinands. Only those who are prepared to lie will remain.

 This guidance is wrong in tone and content, and will further damage the Church’s mission, not only to LGB&TI people, but to all people of goodwill who respect justice and truth. It may seek to carry disciplinary authority, but it has no moral authority and cannot command respect. We hope and pray that it will be swiftly withdrawn.”

Particularly cruel will be the fact that gay clergy can be approached to provide informal prayers for others while being forbidden to marry their partner.

What sanctions Bishops can impose if clergy go ahead and marry are unclear, but already the Bishop of Blackburn has called all clergy in Civil Partnerships in his diocese to meet with him next month.  Legal advice is being sought and the trades union Unite (which represents many clergy and faith workers) is following events closely.

A petition has also been launched at Change.org calling on the Bishops of the Church of England “To rescind their opposition to equal marriage. To take back their recent Pastoral Guidance. To create a Church where all are welcomed.”

While Accepting Evangelicals has been careful to call for deeper theological reflection and prayerful discussion on same-sex marriage, rather than taking sides , we wholeheartedly support the LGB&T Anglican Coalition’s statement and ask the House of Bishops to withdraw this guidance without delay.

You can read the full statement here – Open letter re pastoral guidance on marriage – Feb 2014

If you would like to sign the petition, you can  find it here

Coming Out at General Synod

General Synod Feb 2014The Church of England’s General Synod met in London this week and took the next steps in dealing with two contentious issues.

The first was legislation to bring women bishops a step closer, unpicking the fiasco of November 2013 when a small number of ‘No’ votes held the church to ransom.  This week however, the vote was decisive and clear.  The next steps of legislation sailed though and actually speeded up the process.  As result we may finally see women bishops early next year.

The second was a presentation on the Pilling Report on Human Sexuality with an opportunity for Synod members to ask questions about the process by which its recommendations are to be considered and implemented.

The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to both these issues in his presidential address.  On the subject of sexuality, he talked of enabling the Church of England to ‘disagree well’ and seek the flourishing of every part of the church – progressive and conservative.  He also echoed previous statements he has made about the dangers of sticking with the current position which refuses to acknowledge or endorse same-sex relationships.

“We have received a report with disagreement in it on sexuality, through the group led by Sir Joseph Pilling.  There is great fear among some, here and round the world,  that that will lead to the betrayal of our traditions, to the denial of the authority of scripture, to apostasy, not to use too strong a word. And there is also a great fear that our decisions will lead us to the rejection of LGBT people, to irrelevance in a changing society, to behaviour that many see akin to racism. Both those fears are alive and well in this room today.

We have to find a way forward that is one of holiness and obedience to the call of God and enables us to fulfil our purposes.  This cannot be done through fear. How we go forward matters deeply, as does where we arrive.”

But the most striking contribution to that debate came in the questions on the Pilling Report, when Canon Simon Butler posed the following question:

“My question requires a little context and a large amount of honesty. I’m gay; I don’t have a vocation to celibacy and at the same time I’ve always taken my baptismal and ordination vows with serious intent and with a sincere desire to model my life on the example of Christ simul justus et peccator. Those who have selected me, ordained me and licensed me know all this. My parish know this too.

My question is this: at the end of the process of facilitated conversations will the College of Bishops tell me whether there is a place for people like me as licensed priests, deacons and bishops in the Church rather than persisting in the existing policy that encourages a massive dishonesty so corrosive to the gospel? For my personal spiritual health, for the flourishing of people like me as ministers of the gospel and for the health of the wider church I think we will all need to have a clear answer to that question.”

Simon is an evangelical vicar in South London.  Although his sexuality has been known to his friends for some time, this is the first time he has spoken in such a public way at General Synod about it.  His example is both an encouragement and a challenge to church leaders and Bishops to lift the veil of silence and speak openly and truthfully about their sexuality. 

It must have taken considerable courage to make his statement and yet this is the kind of honesty which we need, if we are to have the genuine and open conversations which will lead us all forward ‘in Spirit and in Truth’.

To read the Archbishops address in full, follow this link


Reparative Therapy rejected by the ACC

acc logoThe Association of Christian Counsellors has amended its policy on counselling for gay people.  In a statement to all its members last month, it said,

“We do not endorse Reparative or Conversion Therapy or any model that implies a predetermined direction of outcome of counselling at the outset. We recognize that such models have the potential to impose situational demands on the client at a time of vulnerability with the potential to create harm and therefore view them as incompatible within the ethos of counselling.”

Furthermore, they are requiring all their member counsellors to stop practising these controversial therapies with immediate effect.

“Members who are considering using this model of therapy should neither commence nor continue to use it and any advertising or promotional material should be replaced immediately, or at least removed  from current use. This includes the ACC “Find a counsellor” facility on our website.”

Following the closure of Exodus International in the USA last year, (see our July Newsletter) we welcome this significant step among Christian counsellors in the UK.

You can read their full statement here.

Archbishops respond to Nigerian crisis

Following the public outcry which followed sweeping new anti-Nigeria anti gay law protestgay laws in Nigeria, we are relieved to see that the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have responded with a letter to all Anglican Primates.

The letter reminds all Archbishops and Presiding Bishops in the Anglican Communion of the commitment which was made by Primates in 2005 –   to care pastorally  for  all people,  irrespective of sexual orientation and reject all action which seeks to victimise or diminish LGB&T people.

“The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.” 

The letter clearly states that this is a response to “legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction”.

This is clearly a step in the right direction and we now await a response from the Anglican Church in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Thank you to everyone who signed the petition in the previous AE Blog. You have helped to make this happen.

Let keep praying for LGB&T people in the countries affected.

Click here for the full letter from the Archbishops.



Petition against Nigeria’s new anti-gay laws

Earlier this month Nigeria Change_org_Logoenacted new legislation on homosexuality.

Homosexual acts were already illegal in Nigeria, but far from relaxing these old colonial laws, both the scope of the law and its penalties have been increased.

The Prohibition of Same-sex Marriage Bill now makes it illegal to be in a same-sex marriage in Nigeria with a prison sentence of up to 14 years.  Membership of LGB&T groups is now also illegal, both for LGB&T people and for heterosexual friends and advocates, and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, have united in calling for, and supporting these new laws.  In particular, leaders of the Anglican Church in Nigeria have vocally supported these new laws, in clear contravention of the worldwide Anglican Churches official position in the ‘Lambeth 1.10’ statement which “calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”.

Lambeth 1.10 is often held up by conservative Anglicans as a document which rejects “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture” but it also contains a call to all Anglican leaders to uphold and be proactive in promoting openness and listening to the experience of LGB&T people.

Paragraph (c) states:

“We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”

It is hard to see how the Anglican Church in Nigeria can think that imprisoning people for entering into a loving covenant relationship (even if they disagree with such relationships) can live up to the standards of Lambeth 1.10

Action has been swift since the Law was enacted, with scores of homosexuals arrested and punished.

In response to this dire situation, there is a petition on Change.org which calls on the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to challenge Nigerian Anglican leaders.   Please sign up if you are able…

Elsewhere in Africa there is some good news in Uganda where the President has refused to sign the notorious anti-gay laws which have been making their way through Parliament over the last 2 years.  The law completed the parliamentary hurdles late last year, but the final vote took place without enough MP’s present to make the vote valid.

However the President’s letter explaining his decision exposes the depth of ignorance and misunderstanding which exists, even among educated political leaders.

According to President Musenveni, “You cannot call an abnormality an alternative orientation. It could be that the Western societies, on account of random breeding, have generated many abnormal people” adding that many women are lesbians because of “sexual starvation” if they fail to find a husband.

He does not, however think that imprisonment is the answer.

“The question at the core of the debate of homosexuality is; what do we do with an abnormal person? Do we kill him/her? Do we imprison him/her? Or we do contain him/her?”

He thinks not, but the Ugandan Parliament can still force the Bill through with a two-thirds majority.

The Nigerian Petition can be found at: