Friday, February 29, 2008

St. Deiniol's Postcard #2

by John Clinton Bradley

The Rebuilding Communion Course continued this morning.

Richard Kirker, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement presented the 2nd paper, "Paying the Price--a British Perspective." He made the following key points...
  • He is retiring after the Lambeth Conference.
  • He is only one of thousands who have made a contribution to the struggle for LGBT equality in the Church of England. As a result of this witness, the Anglican Communion is moving in a more homo-positive direction.
  • Slavery and women's ordination have had to face the same barriers as LGBT equality in the Church of England .
  • The Church of England's avoidance of LGBT equality has embarrassed the church and inhibited evangelism.
  • The struggle for equality has polarized friends and colleagues. All manner of ungodly behavior has taken place in the name of preventing LGBT equality in the church.
During the question and answer period, Michael Hopkins, past-president, of Integrity said that many Americans believe that Rowan Williams' primary motivation on LGBT issues since he became Archbishop of Canterbury has been to prevent a split within the Church of England. He asked Richard to comment on this perspective. Richard responded that his view is too simplistic and the threat of internal schism is not as severe as Evangelicals would have us believe. Hopkins added that he thought the schism belief enabled some Americans to distance themselves from the debate and pretend it is not really about them.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Village, Lecturer in Practical and Empirical Theology at York St. John University, presented the 3rd paper, "Staring Into The Chasm: Attitude Toward Homosexual Among Anglicans in England." He made the following key points...
  • Attitudes toward homosexuality are changing in Western societies. British surveys show acceptance among the general population has greatly increased over recent decades.
  • It is now illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the England.
  • Vigorous debate continues in the Church of England. Who takes part in the debate? Where does the majority opinion lie? What do ordinary churchgoers think and how do they act?
  • In 2001 a survey was conducted by The Church Times on a wide variety of issues--not just homosexuality. 8000 readers responded, 5000 of whom were lay people.
  • Four questions on homosexuality were asked: 1) It is wrong for people of the same gender to have sex together? 2) Should homosexual couples have the right to marry one another? 3) Are you in favor of the ordination of practicing homosexuals as priests? 4) Are you in favor of the ordination of practicing homosexuals as bishops? All questions were answered overwhelming homo-negative. Only 10% of respondents were completely homo-positive in their responses, while 46% of respondents were completely homo-negative in their responses.
  • Older people are more homo-negative than younger people. Younger people are more homo-positive than older people.
  • Men were more slightly more homo-negative than women.
  • Rural respondents were more homo-negative than urban respondents.
  • Respondents who rated themselves as liberal in theology were more homo-positive than others, but not as homo-positive as one might expect.
  • Respondents who rated their church tradition as Anglo-Catholic or Broad Catholic were a bit more homo-positive that others. Evangelicals were the most homo-negative.
  • Statistical analysis suggested that the most homo-negative respondents more homo-negative than allowed by the survey questions.
  • In the Anglo-Catholic tradition, respondents are becoming increasing less homo-negative as time goes on. This is NOT true for Evangelicals.
  • Conclusions: 1) Lay people in the Church of England in 2001 were generally strongly against changes to traditional teaching on homosexuality. 2) Sociodemographic factors explained some of the variation in attitudes in ways similar to the general population. 3) Theological orientation explained much more of the differences. 4) The age distribution of attitudes among different church traditions suggest an every-increasing gap in attitudes towards homosexuality. 5) The basis of the gap is almost entirely related to theology and not to sociodemography.

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