Here’s a quick example to illustrate what institutional homophobia looks like.
Yesterday the report of the Theological Forum of the Church of Scotland to the General Assembly was published and it deals with a number of issues of interest to LGBT people. (It is well worth a read).
Amongst the “deliverances” ie proposals to go to the General Assembly from that Forum is this very clear call for an apology to LGBT people.
The General Assembly:
Invite the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better.
What could be clearer? Should the General Assembly apologise for discrimination against gay people it would be a huge and significant moment and very much to be welcomed.
However, listen to what the Principal Clerk to the General Assembly, the Very Rev John Chalmers of the Church of Scotland said on TV last night about the proposal:
“What the General Assembly is being asked to do this year is acknowledge and apologise for some of the harsh things that have been said on both sides of this debate over the last 20 to 30 years and I think the General Assembly will readily want to do that.”
This is very clearly not what the General Assembly is being asked to do.
This is a good example of institutional homophobia. In describing a call to apologise to gay people, gay people and their supporters are represented as being people making statements for 20 or 30 years which need to be apologised for.
I don’t believe that John Chalmers is a homophobe. Just the opposite. I’m quite sure that he is charming to gay people and I suspect he wants the church to accept gay people. However, put in a public position to explain a proposal to apologise for discrimination he gets it very wrong.
I have no doubt that there are huge institutional pressures on him over this issue and that is why he speaks as he does.
However, this looks to me like a very clear example of what institutional homophobia looks like. Institutional homophobia seems to come most often from people who are personally supportive of those of us who are gay.
Ironically, this is the kind of thing that needs to be apologised for.
We have it in our church too.
I find that people don’t like me pointing it out.