ANGLICAN clergy should engage in civil disobedience by officiating at same-sex blessings and marriages, the gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said this week.
Reiterating comments made in an address given in Liverpool Parish Church on Wednesday of last week, he suggested that, in opposing same-sex marriages in church, the Anglican leadership was “echoing the past opposition of some churches to interracial marriages in apartheid South Africa, and the Deep South of the United States during the segregation era.”
“The leadership of all the main religions have been the single greatest cause of LGBT+ oppression throughout the centuries,” he said. “The current Anglican leadership is active or complicit in this ongoing persecution. . . I thought the Church was supposed to be all about love, but clearly not when it involves people of the same gender.”
GAFCON, he said, “seems obsessed with the sex lives of LGBT+ people”. The demand for religious freedom was, “in fact, a call for the right of homophobic Christians to discriminate against their LGBT+ brothers and sisters.”
He continued: “It’s somewhat ironic that LGBT+ campaigners like myself consistently defend Christians who are persecuted in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but the people in GAFCON show no reciprocal concern about the persecution of LGBT+ people in the 34 Commonwealth states that still criminalise same-sex relations.”
Concluding, he suggested that, “since the Anglican leadership refuse to show compassion, the time has come for civil disobedience by Christians who want an inclusive Church.” This included conducting same-sex blessings and marriages.
Looking back on his decades of campaigning, he described the pace of change within the Church as “painfully slow and morally injustifiable”. He also repeated his belief that the Ashers Bakery should not be compelled by law to facilitate a pro-gray message on a cake, “any more than I believe that a gay baker should be forced to put an anti-gay marriage message on a cake” (News, 12 October 2018). He had defended “half a dozen” Christian street preachers over the years, he said.
The event was jointly hosted by Liverpool Parish Church, the Gender and Sexuality Research Group at Edge Hill University, and Open Table. Before the event, Mr Tatchell said that “large sections of the global Anglican Communion actively persecute LGBT+ people. The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes these bigots to the Lambeth Conference, but bans LGBT+ bishops from bringing their same-sex partners. His Church will bless dogs and warships, but refuses to bless same-sex couples. This is monstrous clerical homophobia, and I am working with good Christians to ensure that love wins.”
The Rector of Liverpool, Canon Crispin Pailing, noted that it was 21 years since Mr Tatchell had interrupted the then Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter sermon with a protest in Canterbury Cathedral.
“These issues are being debated within the Church of England, and it is with humility and wisdom that we should also listen to those outside of the Church.”
In 2014, new anti-gay laws in Nigeria prompted the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to send a letter to all the Primates reminding them of their commitment to caring for everyone, regardless of their sexuality (News, 31 January 2014).