MARCUS ROBINSON predicts that the Ozanne Foundation, named after JAYNE OZANNE, above, an LGBT member of the C of E’s ruling General Synod,
will widen the rift between progressive and conservative members of an already fragmented church.
THE Ozanne Foundation, launched in April 2018 says the Church of England should lose its protections under the Equalities Act that allow it to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexuality. This can only serve to increase hostility between the pro-equality factions inside the church, and “repulsive” that oppose LGBT rights, such as Christian Concern.
The charity is being supported by Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, and David Ison, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, both of whom backed Jeremy Pemberton, a gay priest who was blocked from being a hospital chaplain after marrying his partner, Laurence Cunnington.
The C of E is exempt from equality laws meaning it can discriminate on the basis of religion, requiring candidates for certain roles to be Christian. However it can also discriminate over sex, sexuality, marital history and gender identity. Said Bayes: “We want to ask the churches to answer the question – if we mean what we say about opposing homophobia, if we believe what we say about wanting to include everyone, if we believe that God made every one as they are, then what does that imply for our public polices?
“We will advocate for a greater openness and the implication of that is we may have to re-examine the prohibitions that are there in law at the moment.
He added it was “unfortunate” Pemberton had been forced to step down. “I hope for a future whereby people like Jeremy can feel that their ministry can be exercised and that they can love the person they love freely. I don’t think we should just ignore what the government has done and I certainly don’t think the government should tell the Church what to do.
“But I do think we should continue to advocate for greater freedom and in the end who knows what that will mean? It may mean that one day it will be possible for people in a same-sex relationship to have that relationship affirmed in a way that is now illegal and in that case we would have to change the law.”
Ison, when asked whether he thought the Church should hold onto its protections in the Equalities Act, said: “No. We’ve have to come to terms with the reality of the world we’re in and we’re not doing that. That is why we’re becoming disconnected from society. My view is that if there is a price to be paid for what you believe in conscience then you should pay that; you should not make other people pay the price for your conscience. That applies to abortion, to issues of sexuality and gender and right across the piste. If it is legal, decent and honest but you don’t believe it is right, then you have to deal with it.”
The new foundation said it would “look to create opportunities for meaningful encounters with LGBTI people of faith with those of a more conservative mindset.”
Ozanne said the Church’s equalities exemptions were “wrong” and needed changing.
“A growing number of people recognise that. It is part of that whole welcome and support that the archbishop talks about. We need to look at how we discriminate. That is a very form which has caused a lot of upset and heartache to a lot of LGBT people like myself.
“I believe the Church should take the initiative, to see the error of our ways. We should be going to the government and saying we wish it to be changed.”
Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, agreed that the Church must lose its exemptions to stamp out “deep structures of abuse, homophobia and sexism.”
But the charity is bound to infuriate groups like Anglican Mainstream which, having miserably failed to stop moves within the Church towards a greater tolerance of LGBT Christians, has now switched to demonising transsexuals. AM realised it was backing the wrong horse as far back as 2012, when a conference with a distinctly homophobic agenda attracted just 30 people.
At the time, writing for the Guardian, Andrew Brown said: “The danger with pretending to be persecuted, misunderstood and all alone is that you might wake up and find that it is true. Something like this seems to have happened over the weekend to Anglican Mainstream, an organisation devoted to keeping gay people out of the Church of England. Only 30 people turned up for an Anglican Mainstream conference on gay people in Westminster this weekend, and to make the fiasco worse, four of these happy few were gay Christians come to see what was being said about them.
“One of them put up a long blogpost afterwards describing the occasion. This, in turn, was picked up by Peter Ould, a sexually conservative vicar.
“Ould, who, remember, is on the organisers’ side, thinks that Anglican Mainstream has become repulsive even to its natural allies: ‘There are tens of thousands of Christians in the UK longing to be able to witness effectively in this field . . . but if all they are presented with is out-of-date and blinkered dogmatism, they simply won’t be interested.’
“Two more small straws in this wind came in the form of letters: Lord ‘Hallelujah’ Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, signed along with Michael Nazir Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, and Wallace Benn, the suffragan Bishop of Lewes, a letter defending a psychotherapist who tries to ‘cure’ gay men. That’s two has-beens and a never-was lining up on the anti side. Meanwhile 100 serving clergy in the diocese of London signed a letter asking to bless civil partnerships in their churches. Which represents the future?
“Anglican Mainstream is a thoroughly mean-spirited grouping that deserves this humiliation.”
The C of E then gave Anglican Mainstream and other bigots something fresh over which to work themselves into a lather: a report called Valuing All God’s Children, published in October 2017. It was an updated version of its guidance on tackling bullying in church schools.
According to Martin Davie, writing for the Reflections of An Anglican Theologian blog, “this report generated a media firestorm, which concentrated on the issue of what little boys should be allowed to wear in school. Thus the headline in the Daily Telegraph said ‘Let boys wear tutus and high heels if they want to, Church of England says’, the Mail online went with ‘Let little boys wear tiaras’ and the Metro’s headline was ‘Boys should be able to wear tutus, tiaras and heels if they want, says Church of England.’
“These headlines, and others like them, all distort one very small part of what the report has to say. What the report actually says in one paragraph on page 20 is the following: ‘In the early years’ context and throughout primary school, play should be a hallmark of creative exploration. Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing up box). Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision.
For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the firefighter’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment. Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining.’
“Contrary to the impression given by the headlines this paragraph does not say anything at all about what boys in particular should wear and it says nothing at all about what any child should be allowed to normally wear to school. All it says is that children should be allow to choose what they like from the dressing up box.
“Presumably the headlines were motivated by the fact that no one would be interested in a story headed ‘Children should have free choice from the dressing up box’ but what they succeeded in doing was missing the point of the report as whole, which can be more accurately summed up as ‘Church of England gives guidance to schools on combatting ‘homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying’.”
A N Wilson, pandering to conservative Daily Mail readers, complained about “the rolling tide of transgender propaganda” and said that “those of us who have a love–hate relationship with the Church of England, admiring its fundamental principles of Christian worship, but increasingly despairing at its innate absurdity and collective intellectual cowardice, knew it would not be long before it yielded to the current fad.
“Sure enough, it has now ruled that in its 4,700 C of E schools new guidelines must be followed on cross-dressing and ‘transgender’ questions.
“School uniform is seen to create potential difficulties for ‘trans pupils’ and should, if necessary, be abolished. Boys as young as five should be encouraged, if they wish, to come to school wearing tiaras, tutus and high heels.”
Meanwhile anti-LGBT campaign group Christian Concern complained that the Church was “perpetuating fundamental theological errors such as blasphemy, rebellion against God as Creator, dishonouring parents, and renaming God”.
It said: “The transgender pathway is shown to be a counterfeit of the Christian gospel. This will affect people’s trust in the clergy as well as the integrity of theological training. Repentance for colluding with transgender ideology is the Church of England’s only hope before God.”
It added: “For the Church of England clergy at any level of the church hierarchy to allow the crafting of liturgy that affirms and celebrates gender reassignment means that the Church endorses gender reassignment as if God approves it.
“This is collusion with the blasphemous notion that someone can be ‘born in the wrong body’. It is blasphemous because it claims that God gave a person ‘the wrong body’, when the bodies of people suffering with gender dysphoria are usually perfectly healthy. Rather it is their minds and souls that are the site of suffering and confusion.
“It is also collusion with hatred and resentment of the male or female body, something that goes directly against what God said when he created everything, namely that it was ‘very good’.
“It is therefore an attack on the triune God as Creator of all things. The Christian faith makes no sense at all without the history of creation and fall.”