Wednesday, November 14, 2007

EQUALITIES AND EVANGELICALS

The appointment of Joel Edwards (pictured), head of the Evangelical Alliance, to the new Equalities and Human Rights Commission has not exactly thrilled many in the civic arena, because of EA's well-known stances against full public equality for lesbian and gay people - which it sees as undermining the moral position of the majority in its member churches. However, things are not so simple, in my view. I have just written this article (Keep the EHRC door open to promote change) for Pink News online. The background is here, and the full Ekklesia statement is here.

See also: Anti-gay stance distances church from the young (by Tim Nafziger, an Anabaptist evangelical), Who would Jesus discriminate against? ask pro-gay evangelicals, Evangelicals thinking again about sexuality, Faith groups need to embrace equality with enthusiasm, Welcome for evangelical voice on equality commission, Pink News, 9th November 2007, Communities minister fuels debate about churches and public service provision, Bishop designated 'bigot of the year' by gay rights campaign.

I should add that I know Joel a little, from informal senior staff meets between EA and CTBI during my time working for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. I have great personal regard for him, even on the points over which we disagree, and I think it is very sad that he has pretty instantly been dubbed a fundamentalist and a bigot by those who don't know him - and who may have less than clear ideas about fundamentalism, incidentally. That said, I also fully appreciate the concern of my LGBT friends, both inside and outside the Christian community, who are worried that the EHRC agenda for comprehensive equalities should not be 'watered down'. I'm fully with them on that, but I think there are more creative possibilities around than a simple 'for' or 'against' way of looking at things suggests.

The Gospel message is a about a new creation, not a mere repositioning of our existing conflictual instincts.

(Incidentally, my own contribution to the wider church-and-sexuality debate, a booklet called Towards Communion, is still available online. It will be revised and appear as part of a book sometime next year, I hope.)

3 comments:

tilmeeth said...

I have to admit, Joel Edwards' appointment came as something of a shock to me to. But after some reflection, perhaps it will turn out to be a good thing after all.

I can't help but think of the sermon on the mount, and Jesus' call for us to love our enemies, which it seems to me, would make our previous enemies our friends, if only in our own hearts. And isn't that the message of Christ, the message of God? Swords into ploughshares, enemies into friends?

I also keep in mind that, whilst the EA has indeed persisted in it's attempts to alter the political discourse surrounding full equality for gay and trans people, it is also a strong and prominent voice in what Jim Wallis calls the politics of God. A voice that has had benefits for the disadvantaged. This should not be overlooked.

As for charges of fundamentalism, Karen Armstrong's writings regarding the historical rise of fundamentalism make sense to myself; it is an attempt to cushion the body blows of radical change, that leave many feeling abandoned and disenfranchised from their conceptions of morality.

Fundamentalism should not be attacked as wrong, but supported, as it will eventually give way to a stronger and clearer faith, ready to meet the demands of the post-modern world on its own terms. It's happened before, it will happen again.

I still have my worries, as a member of the LGBT community, about Joel Edwards' appointment, but like yourself, I do see it more in terms of possibility and hope rather than as a slap in the face. And he does have a warm and likeable smile.

Merseymike said...

I think the point is that he has not been appointed to change the law. He, and the other commissioners, will be working within the legal framework which exists

I am sure he realises this - but I am equally sure that his evangelical constituency, or at least many of them, expect far more. I think they are bound for disappointment.

Simon Barrow said...

You are right about the framework, Mike. That's key. And I think people have been missing that point in commenting on the appointment. The EA constituency will either have to be disappointed or to reappraise. It is the latter I'm pushing for.