Don’t like wooden horses, Gavin? How about sounding brass and clanging cymbals?

by Vic Tanner Davy, CEO of Liberate

Another week, another rant by Gavin Ashenden against the LGBT+ community in the Jersey Evening Post. It is becoming predictable, tedious and just a little bit weird. Why is he so obsessed with a part of community that constitutes 10-12% (on a good day) of the population? Coincidentally, this is about the same percentage of people in Jersey who adhere to the Anglican faith (13%: Jersey Annual Social Survey 2015).

You may be surprised to learn that the persecution of both these minorities (any minority, in fact) concerns me. Nobody should feel that they cannot be themselves; that their views are in some way secondary to those of others. I know that some people who have a faith feel they cannot be open about it at work and that is unacceptable; just as some people who are LGBT+ also are not open about this identity for the same reasons. We have more in common than we have differences.

However, unlike Dr Ashenden, I do not see persecution and prejudice as the province of any one group against another. Persecutors, bigots, radicals, fundamentalists – call them what you will – come in all shapes, forms, races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages and abilities. The LGBT+ community has the same number of keyboard warriors, who will be swift to advocate draconian measures against those who they see as limiting their freedoms, as the faith community.

It is a mistake to see one’s own group as holding the moral and ethical high ground against the marauding hoards who are “not like us”; for that way lies supremacy. Dr Ashenden paints the LGBT+ community as the architects of society’s moral decline and everyone else as brain-washed victims stumbling like zombies into a pit of sin. Only the Church (correction: the type of Church led by him) can save humanity from the furnace! (See what I mean about supremacy?)

At this juncture, I would remind Dr Ashenden of 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” On this over-crowded planet, we all need to find ways to live together – to love thy neighbour. We cannot see things the same way as those around us all the time and that means agreeing to disagree sometimes.

It is a shame that Dr Ashenden seems unable to admit this alternative way of being. Instead, he has now made it his mission to tear apart the Church of England unless it accedes to his world view. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph in July this year, he placed the Archbishop of Canterbury “under notice that unless he leads the Church in a way that remains consistent with the values and authority of the bible as opposed to progressive secularism, he will risk some kind of revolt in the form of an independence movement.” Going on to say that, “there will be a significant number who will secede and reconstitute an Anglican church to keep faith with authentic Anglican Christianity.”

If a split in the Church of England were to happen, it would be more catastrophic for our country than any apocalyptic vision Dr Ashenden thinks the LGBT+ community might be responsible for.

Constitutionally in Britain the Church and State are one in the personage of the monarch. If you bring down the Church of England, it is a direct attack on the monarch and would hit right at the heart of what it means to be British and to live in our democracy. (No wonder Dr Ashenden had to resign as a Queen’s Chaplain in January!)

You may not like the Royal family, you may think that government is overly-bureaucratic, you may view the Church an irrelevance, but they are all interlinked in a centuries-old system of checks and balances that enables debate to happen and the oldest modern democracy in the world to survive. It’s not perfect, but look around at some of the alternative ways of being governed and I know where I prefer to live.

The most dangerous people to the British way of life are not amorphous groups, like the LGBT+ community, but those fringe fundamentalists who are so blinded by their hate of others that they will not talk, will not debate, will not conciliate and, crucially, will not listen to others.

Dr Ashenden’s latest rant is nothing new, as a member of the LGBT+ community, I’ve heard it all before, but please do not be taken in by his posture as defender of our country’s values.

I want to reassure those who still adhere to the Christian principle of agape (the highest form of love – charity) that the LGBT+ community know that the majority of you do not agree with Dr Ashenden’s extreme views. I also want to reassure the LGBT+ community that Dr Ashenden is in no way representative of the majority of Christians that I have met or, for that matter, people of other faiths.

In an ironic twist, the history of the Church of England’s support for the LGBT+ community is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is as old as Dr Ashenden, so he knew the score when he was ordained as a CofE minister. The Wolfenden committee was set up in 1954 (the year Dr Ashenden was born) with the participation and backing of many in the Church who were concerned at the injustice and inhumane treatment of gay men at that time.

Fifty years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality that started with the Wolfenden committee, I would like to let the Church of England community know that, at a time when your existence is threatened by those that would do you harm, I stand with you as do many, many members of the LGBT+ community.

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