It’s far from just Iris Robinson, but let’s remember what she, as Chair of the Northern Irish devolved assembly’s health committee said. After boasting that her pet ‘ex-gay’ psychiatrist could ‘fix’ gay people from being gay, saying:
“I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals – trying to turn away from what they are engaged in.”
She’s now decided she said no such thing. Apparently those words didn’t actually mean she believes that homosexuality is a mental illness which can be ‘helped’, and her words were ‘twisted’. Looks to me as though the pressure’s getting to her, not just because she’s become a liability to her First Minister husband Peter Robinson, but because her health committee was increasingly at risk with a police investigation hanging over her. Still, she has now said:
“Will the minister agree with me that there are some people who are in their teenage years sexually confused and that they could do with help in terms of practitioners assessing them with talking therapies to help them realise exactly what they are, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual?”
And in that there is a kernel of truth. Although it’s far from just people in their teenage years who sometimes need help, and teens are far more in need of acceptance and respect for who they are, than psychiatry. Having the freedom to be who you are without being told your ‘lifestyle’ (whatever that is) is an ‘abomination’ (whatever that means) is far more important. Her repositioning is welcome, although it does still appear that in her desperation to backtrack she’s still left her woeful ignorance exposed, and is more likely than not trying to disguise her genuine ‘ex-gay’ agenda as respectable when it is nothing of the sort.
Her friends in the intolerant Christian wing are continuing to obsess about ‘abomination’. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has condemned the formation of the Foundation of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA), formed at the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) in Jerusalem last week. Reverend Richard Kirker said:
“Christians should respect and show unity, despite their differences. The world has no need for more division. We should be a family; no-one can gain from such a split.”
Great swaths of Anglican provinces, including Africa, South America and Asia, are furious with their counterparts in the northern hemisphere, accusing them of being in thrall to contemporary culture, with the ordination and consecration of gay New Hampshire bishop Gene Robinson acting as a turning point. The creation of Foca is a schism in all but name.
Outraged over the “false gospel” being promoted in the west, Foca pledges a return to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, ignoring 21st-century additions and interpretations. It will train its own priests by sending them to hardline theological colleges such as Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and Oak Hill, London, and will insist on more orthodox practices in its churches.
FOCA was undermined however by a challenge to the Archbishops of Nigeria and Uganda, over the persecution of gay people in their countries. Ian Baxter from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement brought up the example of Prossy Kakooza (whose failed asylum application in the UK is the subject of a previous post) as someone who had experienced persecution for her sexual orientation. Not a single African primate spoke out against anti-gay violence. Indeed:
(Archbishop )Akinola did not condemn these acts. Neither did the other African archbishops. (Archbishop) Orombi said he had never heard of people being tortured because of their homosexuality, that when he learned about incidents – from the western media – he was at a loss to understand why he had not heard of them. He refused to accept that persecuting and torturing gay people was done openly in Uganda.
It took Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney to make a condemnation against all violence, but as Riazat Butt points out, in a clear parallel with the Iris Robinson incident:
It was clear they failed to grasp how homophobic rhetoric from the pulpit led to violence and intimidation.
“I would challenge Iris Robinson to a head to head debate on this, whether on radio or television or wherever. I would challenge her over what she’s said. If she’ll come face to face with me I’ll let her know what it’s like having to live in fear every day because of such views and people making such comments.”
“And so you and I, especially if you are in the LGBT community, you and I need to toughen up. And we need to expect suffering.”
He’s right. Homophobia is far from dead. Iris Robinson dresses it up as justified in the age of equal rights for religions, the Gafcon Bishops as ‘defending tradition’, and founding a post-colonial settlement. But make no mistake, this is the repositioning and attempted legitimisation of bigotry for a more secular and equality-driven age. And on both counts it represents a near obsession with what two men or two women do in bed, on the face of it hardly an important enough matter for dividing a religion or risking a political career. But hey that’s belief for you, which doesn’t stop this:
Some bishops and others have been presenting a different Christian gospel, expressed in disobedience to the teaching of the Bible, and continue to persecute and harass those who resist and object.
being as nonsensical as Iris Robinson’s claim to be on the receiving end of a witch-hunt.