Preferring me dead

The worst thing in listening to a debate about the Anglican Covenant is that there generally comes a point when I realise that there are speakers who would prefer me to be dead. Often those speakers would think of themselves as liberals rather than conservatives too.

Perhaps it would be easier on your ears if I said that there are those who would prefer me and people like me never to have existed. When you are on the receiving end of it though, the distinction between the two is not really one that’s easy to make.

Is it any easier on your ears for that to be expressed as a wish that gay people had never come out, never raised their head above the pulpit, denied their existence to themselves never mind to other Anglicans and all for the sake of the Anglican Communion?

I find it difficult to write about what it is like to listen to these debates. For there are no real words to describe what it is like to know that there are people, good people, in most other respects liberal people, who would prefer your non-existence to your existence. There are really no words to express what that is like.

I listened to the debate about the Anglican Communion on Wednesday which took place on Wednesday in the Church of England. Clearly there are very many Anglicans in England who would choose a faux church unity (a unity which doesn’t even remotely exist) rather than stand up for the well-being, the ministries, the lives, the souls of gay people in our churches. If its not done in the name of church unity and the Anglican Communion, its being done in the name of supporting the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its a simple request – support the Archbishop, he needs our support – the gays are expendable again.

Whilst I don’t like the values, morals and mores of the conservative evangelicals in all this, at least they make sense to me. At least there is a coherence. There is logic in it, however perverse. There is little logic in the apparently moderate voices who make that choice – to sacrifice gay lives, gay ministries, gay well-being, the possibility of gay role-models, often gay friends, for the fantasy of preserving a Communion that has already split.

The price was never worth the candle anyway.

The lowest point for me in the debate on Wednesday was hearing someone (I can’t remember who it was) defending the Covenant by saying that we needed to be able to throw churches out of the Communion. And he gave an example, saying that we needed a mechanism for removing any church which, for example, was complicit, so complicit in advocating racial prejudice that it was supporting state sponsored apartheid. Such a church would have to be expelled, for to do such calculated harm to people of a different race would take that church beyond the pale – they would no longer be worthy of being thought of as Anglicans.

Yet, in all this there was no mention of the churches which exist in our communion which have advocated precisely that harm to those of us who are gay. No mention of the Anglican voices from Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda which in league with others in their society would do gay people harm, would deny their existance, would prefer them to have no voice, would prefer me to be dead.

Such voices, such churches, must be kept at the table. Such voices, such churches must be included in. If their prejudice involved racial violence, they would be excluded. But its the gays instead, so we must change all our rules of how our churches function to include those churches in. The gays are expendable after all. We are apparently, a price worth paying.

I have no real words to describe what it is like to hear these debates. I have no real words to describe what this does to my well-being. I have no real words to describe what I think this does to my soul. I have no words to describe what it does to God.


  1. I’ve occasionally wondered specifically what Sheol-esque state of void people would rather have. Seems to me that the cat of reality is out the bag and accelerating, however.

    Keep up the good work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Vicky says

    I empathize with you – any pretense that benevolence is benign is clearly a lie within the heart of liberal Christianity…
    oh and have you noticed how Radio 4 covers these debates by saying the inclusion of women and homosexuals, rather than the inclusion of women, gays and lesbians. I am sure this is becuase the Church wishes to keep the term homosexual to the forefront in an effort to clinicalize and de-humanize…I wonder what listeners would say if that particular word on these particular occasions was just dropped and replaced with gay and lesbian?

  3. Yes – that is what it looks like, and I feel profoundly ashamed that we ended up with that result on Wednesday. However, please be assured that not everyone in that Chamber thought the same way – and remember also that the voting figures show the result of a loyalty test for ++Rowan, not a straw poll on inclusivity.

  4. I can only imagine what you must feel, especially when all this stuff involves you in both who you are and what you are. But I do wonder sometimes why I am a part of the Anglican church at all.

  5. Andrew Heatlie says

    “For there are no real words to describe what it is like to know that there are people, good people, in most other respects liberal people, who would prefer your non-existence to your existence.” An pardonably emotional response to what I do not doubt is extremely distressing hurt. Realist Kelvin knows, however, that God loves all without exception (and we’re called to the same witness), while politician Kelvin knows there is progressively ever more acceptance of group differences within society, and that gradual process must go only forwards. But healthy liberal democratic societies are not monolithic. Always there are fearful conservative minds clinging to supposed certainties from the past; individual people need TIME to review fresh insights and see for themselves. Patient peaceful evolution, bringing everyone along, is ultimately less damaging than divisive revolution. And we are all on that same continuous journey together.
    Patience is a virtue I could use more of, myself…
    Keep moving and play it cool, Kelvin. It may be a long haul, but there must be room on board for everyone.

    • Andrew – it is going backwards in the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion generally, not forwards. Direct discrimination against gay people is increasing and being promoted by our bishops.

  6. Oh, I expect there have been a few gay people who have also told you “to drop dead” on occasion, Father ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Well said, Father! Thank you!

  8. Andrew Heatlie says

    “Andrew รขโ‚ฌโ€œ it is going backwards in the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion generally, not forwards. Direct discrimination against gay people is increasing and being promoted by our bishops.”
    Which is all the more reason for reaffirming the case I outlined above, but it takes time for truths to be ACCEPTED and INTEGRATED into official thinking. And how the case is made — preferably quietly and reasonably where possible– is strategically important. There is opposition, indeed, but the rationales of such opposition rest upon highly questionable ground.

  9. Rosemary Hannah says

    The whole covenant thing is, to me, just utterly insane. I don’t understand the sheep-like rush into it at all. As far as I hear from friends who were there, they may well have believed that the Covenant had ceased to have anything to do with creating a nether circle of limbo for churches which have listened to the Spirit telling them of the absolute equality of gay and lesbian relationships to straight ones. They seem (afik) to have really believed that it was all about Something Else Now.

    Hugs Kelvin. There are, as always, a huge minority who never have and never will bow knee to any of the Baals of prejudice and hatred and irrationality and who will continue to be a thorn in the flesh of the respectable and and easy-agreeing over-comfortable and deeply unimaginative majority. For as long as it takes. Without giving an inch. Ever.

  10. Well said, Rosemary. As for this business of everyone’s having to remain quiet and reasonable while unspeakable things are spoken … I’m sorry. I have this whined at me more times than I can count, so that my own calm goes out the window and I want to rage, rage, and the advocates of calm sit in their dispassionate heaven and think all will be well if people just shut up for another generation. It’s an affront to any society that this discrimination is still allowed to be seen as anything other than monstrous, and we need to raise a storm of protest that will make this obvious to even the most chilly political mind.

  11. Rosemary Hannah says

    For the comfort of Kelvin, however, let me add this. The people who promote discrimination against queer folk very frequently neither want them dead not yet unborn. What they actually (though mistakenly) believe, is that gay people would be just the same if they were straight. That the person would be just the same, because who you desire is some kind of bolt-on accessory which you can pick from the shelf and have or not have, like adding an MP3 player to your car, or just having a tape deck. Now I know that is a terrible misunderstanding, but it is not actually quite as terrible as wishing that the essence of people was somehow different.

    FWIW I do remember teaching a session on this to students, having asked them to imagine what people 100 years from now would think of our attitudes, and having one student tell me that in 50 years all gay people would be ‘cured’, and my suppressing my fury then and trying to explain why I did not want my friends and relatives ‘cured’ – and all the emotion catching up with me in my room at midnight, resulting in tears and all-but lying on the floor banging my heels and screaming. I suppose it was less actionable than banging a student’s head off the wall…..

  12. Elizabeth says

    I wanted to post on this when I first read it (via Google Reader) but for some reason the internets wouldn’t let me on the site.

    It’s hard to read this difficult words, but I think it’s very important that they’re said. I have only the smallest glimmerings of imagining how difficult it must be to be be a gay or lesbian priest now and fear that all too often I am prone to ignore the wider actions of the Anglican Communion because I’ve found it too painful and aggravating. But ignoring it is my privilege and no good in the long run.
    And on this issue, as on others, I find it unhelpful to advocate a quite and slow approach. Movement is not always uni-directional and I agree with Kelvin that we seem to be moving backwards, at least, as far as the SEC College of Bishops and the Anglican Communion leadership is concerned. The softly, softly approach is not justice and is not by any stretch of the imagination the only means by which justice is reached. On this issue, as on others, the question is, if not now, when?

    And I really, really dislike gay and lesbian Anglicans being sacrificed on the altar of loyalty to the ++Rowan. This is what happened in The Episcopal Church across the pond in 2006 and thank God General Convention saw fit to reverse the decision in 2009. Loyalty tests of such kind are horrendous!

  13. Rosemary Hannah says

    And bluntly the only loyalty worth giving is loyalty to Truth and God.

  14. Revd Ross Kennedy says

    I didn’t listen or read about anything voted on at the recent C of E Synod so can’t comment.

    But frrankly I’m bored with all the obsession with sexuality – I just wish we could obey our Lord’s command to love one another.
    But let me say this to lFr Kelvin, I for one certainly don’t want you dead. Life would be so dull without you – I would miss your blog and your excellent sermons ( which I must confess I sometimes plagiarise – bless me Father for I have sinned….) Don’t agree with much of what you say on sexual ethics but accept without question your devotion to our Lord and your ministry at St Mary’s.

    Prejudice and intolerance certainly smother any real opportunity for real debate. However, I have experienced this as much from those on the theological left (including correspondents to this site) as well as those on the theological right.

    The fact is that we are just as likely to find prejudice among liberals as well as conservatives in the church. I remember Bishop Richard Holloway discussing the ordination of women on the Television in the 1990s and making the insulting claim that most of the men opposed were probably homosexuals.

    I’ve also heard many liberals express a definite wish for all those who dare to oppose the consecration of women to the Episcopacy to get out of the Church… or maybe even to drop dead.

    The fact is that lots of people experience prejudice for a variety of reasons – a friend of mine who trained as a male nurse in the 1960s experienced a great deal of prejudice from his female superiors and as a result an absolute block to any promotion.

    Others are discriminated against because they are too short or too tall or too fat , or not intelligent enough or didn’t attend the right university and even for daring to choose to be a ‘closet gay’!

    There is a whole suffering world out there to which we are called upon to bring hope and help in the name of Jesus. So let’s stop focusing on our own personal problems and obsessions and get on with preaching the Good News.

  15. >>>The fact is that we are just as likely to find prejudice among liberals as well as conservatives in the church. I remember Bishop Richard Holloway discussing the ordination of women on the Television in the 1990s and making the insulting claim that most of the men opposed were probably homosexuals.

    If +Richard was talking about Forward in Lace types then he might have had a point ;-).

    More seriously: can you cite any ‘liberal’ church that is suggesting denying the sacraments to conservatives? Or pining for an age when violence and discrimination against evangelicals was accepted as a good? These days, people have less tolerance for ‘I’m not racist,but…’ or ‘I don’t *hate* Jews, but….” or “the sexes are equal, but” rhetoric but anti-gay discrimination on religious grounds often goes unchallenged. So while it is of course important to challenge all forms of prejudice, there are no major ‘Christian’ Institute type lobbies endeavouring to defend and legitimise persecution of the fat, tall,or short.

  16. David McCarthy says

    Oh, I know that in the secret halls of the likes of Facebook, there are many who feel free to exhibit prejudice against churches and individuals who don’t fit the bill. That reveals what is truly in the hearts of people. I’d hope that no-one would permit such diatribe and speak out against it, just as I have done to those on ‘the right’ who speak and behave badly.

    As for you, dear Kelvin, there are many who disagree with you, but in our wee bit of the Church, I seriously doubt if there is anyone who would “prefer you dead”. You are a gifted minister – we’d miss you!


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