Outlines concerns on ‘Living in Love and Faith’ sexuality project
Jayne Ozanne, founder director of the Ozanne Foundation, is an evangelical Christian who came out as gay in 2009. She was a founding member of the Archbishops’ Council for the Church of England (1999-2004). Her foundation works with religious organisations to end discrimination based on sexuality or gender. Jayne has been appointed to the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel, a board of 12 to advise on the government’s LGBT action plan.
Two years ago, I helped lead the revolt against the bishops’ report on sexuality, which resulted in the archbishops announcing that there needed to be a new form of “radical Christian inclusion”. They then instigated the project Living in Love and Faith: Christian teaching about human identity, sexuality and marriage.
I have grave concerns about this process, given the poor representation of open LGBTI people involved, and the unconscious bias that is clearly at work. As a lesbian, I see no one within the process with whom I can publicly identify, nor is there any bisexual or intersex representative.
What is more, I am deeply concerned that input is being sought to try to provide “a balanced view” of LGBTI+ experience. There is no such “balance”. What may be the experience of a small handful of individuals cannot counteract the experience of the vast majority within the LGBTI community.
This input from carefully selected individuals is being posed in the form of four questions:
The first regards the kind of resources that we need to assist our learning about issues around sexuality. My candid response is that to pretend that we, the LGBTI community, require resources to help us address these types of questions is absurd. These are our lives, our lived experiences, and it is my sincere belief that it is the College of Bishops who need to learn from us.
Second, “What are the questions that we have about relationships, and issues around sexuality in the context of our church and culture today?” A preliminary question surely must be: “Are we all equal in the sight of God?” This has to be at the heart of all our discussions, for to believe otherwise is to introduce a hierarchy in which some can prosper and thrive, while others are condemned to suffer.
Third, “Would we be willing to share something of our faith journeys and experiences?” Many of us in the LGBTI community have been sharing our stories, our pain and our suffering for decades. This has not been easy and has proved incredibly costly, particularly for those who have followed their calling to ordination and have suffered the severe consequences that the bishops have imposed.
Not all, however, have felt able to be so open – as LGBTI members of the hierarchy who are hidden still prove. So I would like to ask: “When will you be willing to share something of your ‘real life experiences’ with us? What will it take for you, our leaders to model being open and honest about your own lives?”
Fourth, “What issues remain unresolved and painful?” This can only be really dealt with properly in a truth and reconciliation process. However, if there is one area of critical concern, it is the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable LGBTI youth in churches that teach them to abhor themselves for who they are.
To conclude, there have been numerous reports produced by the Church over the past 50 years that have all gone unheeded. My concern is that this risks being yet another.
For further information on ‘Living in Love and Faith’ see our factsheet