It’s interesting, that at a time when Stonewall has released a report which suggests that Church leaders are significantly more homophobic than their flock, it’s curious to see that the Rt Rev Daniel Deng – Archbishop of Sudan – has demanded at the Lambeth Conference that Bishop Gene Robinson resign for the sake of the Anglican Church:
“The people who consecrated him should confess to the conference because they created an outcry in the whole Anglican world. God is not making a mistake creating Adam and Eve – he would have created two Adams if he wanted. If he was a real Christian he would resign.”
If you’re reading this and gay, this argument will likely be one you’ve had thrown at you at least once before. A variation on Adam and Steve, eh? Such a tedious stereotype, which you’d expect of a child, or a young person, without any experience of self-reflection, not a so-called man of God. He’s actually demanding that Robinson collude in the bigotry of others – the arrogance is breathtaking. However:
Ben Summerskill, the Stonewall chief executive, said: “Witnessing the tragic divisions in the Church of England demonstrated at this week’s Lambeth Conference, it’s telling that so many people of faith say they actually live, work and socialise with lesbian and gay people, and that significantly reduces negative ideas about difference.”
Proof, albeit not necessarily definitive, that people are not as stupid as their representatives, either political or those of faith. In this country at least, it suggests that equality legislation has proven Gene Robinson’s approach right, in demonstrating to his ‘moveable middle’ of the religious community, that with full civil rights for us the world doesn’t come to an end – plagues don’t come down, social order doesn’t break down. Nutters like Deng can’t speak for them, because Stonewall’s side of social change is having an effect, in increasing our visibility through normalising everyone’s treatment before the law. The same approach is needed within the established Church, and Gene Robinson must stay put at all conceivable costs. In a society governed by the rule of law, to exclude religion from the need for equality really must be out of the question, partly on humane grounds, partly on those of diversity – just look how much better society operates when we all are free to take part equally within it!
I can’t help but be reminded by this of the fight in 2004 over same-sex marriage in the US (which of course persists). The persistent argument was that same-sex marriage on equal terms to heterosexuals would undermine heterosexual marriage – somehow if we were granted equal rights, it would be at the expense of those who already had them. It was homophobic nonsense when articulated by George W Bush, it is homophobic nonsense uttered now by Archbishop Deng.
Perhaps most alarmingly from the Archbishop:
Deng said there are no gay or lesbian people in Sudan.
Like Iran eh? Uganda? Nigeria? This claim, if not countered, is the most dangerous of all because it doesn’t allow for a difference of opinion, for shades of grey, or any scrutiny at all. He could say Robinson should resign because it’s politically necessary at this time in the Church’s history. My opinion in response would be to disagree – the opposite is politically necessary – but instead he’s playing up to homophobic superstitions, no doubt shoring up a cheap power base, which only encourages those who would dehumanise us. In Iran Ahmadinejad’s identical claim legitimises the torture and execution of gay people; for a man of God to offer the same argument is beyond shameful.