LLF – That Video, Those Principles & a Call for a Public Inquiry

by Jayne Ozanne, Editor of ViaMedia, Member of General Synod and Director of the Ozanne Foundation

I made myself sit down and watch the Church of England’s Evangelical Council’s “Beautiful Story” video yesterday, which, like reading the massive tome Living in Love and Faith, I have been steeling myself to do as I knew it would need both a high level of resilience and courage.

The opening notes of synthesised music immediately acted as a trigger – taking me back to those large packed worship spaces, where we are all carried along on a wave of professional modern music that lulls us into believing that we are safe, we are loved and that we are in God’s presence.  

It was a world I was so utterly familiar with – a world where I had, to use Rosie Harper’s term from her recent Via Media blog, been “groomed” as a young impressionable Christian.

It was a world where I believed without question that those “up front” are always right, for they are our ordained leaders “appointed by God” (oh yes, and bishops) to lead us into all truth and righteousness.

Their teachings – like the interviews in The Video – sound so reasonable, so plausible.  Indeed, to think otherwise would be to question Truth itself. 

I couldn’t help thinking of the parallels with the many Trump supporters who are currently living under what the rest of the world believes to be a false sense of reality, fervently believing that the election has been rigged and that Trump is indeed the True President.  What’s more, no matter how much you try and tell them otherwise, they are so “sure of their truth” that anyone challenging them “must be working for the other side” – that is, for the devil himself!

Many friends have asked me: “Why don’t you just switch the film off, walk away from this mess, stop putting yourself in a place that hurts and wounds you so much?”  The answer is because I am committed, I’d even say called, to work for a world where not one more young LGBT+ person will go through what I had to suffer.  I do not want another LGBT+ Christian to have to sit under this “oh so reasonable sounding teaching” and contemplate killing themself, because they can see no other way out.

So, at long last we have a 30-minute piece of evidence that clearly sets out the harmful teaching to which many evangelical churches are subjecting their congregations – including their LGBT+ congregants – to.  Please just stop and think for a minute what it must feel like to be a young LGBT+ teenager growing up in these churches, wondering who they can trust with the knowledge that they are “different”, that they are, heaven forbid, gay or bisexual or trans and being asked to watch this.  Here are leaders you have been brought up to revere, that everyone around you admires and respects, telling you that being in an intimate relationship with someone you love is wrong and sinful.  Here are “role models” clearly stating that it’s absolutely fine and normal to be single and celibate for your whole life, as that is what Jesus did and what he calls those of us who are not heterosexual to do. (Editor’s note – we are not Jesus!).

The pressure this sort of teaching puts people under is enormous.  It comes from those in authority at the front, with no hint that there may be other senior Christian leaders – even evangelicals – who think differently. They just say “this is The Truth”.  End of. Full stop.

Make no mistake about it, Church of England, this sort of teaching is wrong, harmful, dangerous and must be stopped.  What is it going to take?  Another young person deciding to take their life? Another set of statistics and reports that tell you what you already know but refuse to admit, that you cannot try and appease all sides in this debate?

Seriously, I have absolutely no idea why church leaders, including bishops, do not see what their inability to act is doing to the vulnerable in their care.  This constitutes gross negligence, which future generations will look upon with disgust and ask how we let it all go on, on our watch, for so long without anyone blowing the whistle or anyone caring enough to intervene.

That is why I believe the time has finally come to call for an independent inquiry into the harmful practices and rhetoric that LGBT+ people are being subjected to in our society, and by certain religious groups in particular.  It needs to be led by a QC who can hear the evidence of the trauma that people have gone through, and continue to go through, by those in positions of influence and authority over them.

The Church of England seems to believe that it has dealt with this by creating a set of six Pastoral Principles.  My personal view is that that process, just like the Living in Love & Faith (LLF) process, was highly flawed in its conception, its objectives and in its membership.  Despite repeated interventions on the floor of Synod, calling out the fact that there were a lamentable number of LGBT+ people with the right experience engaged with the process, the Church of England proceeded – deaf to any of this input, and arrogant in its assumption that “it knew best”.  The project is now in the court of public opinion – and the verdict is deafening.  They should have listened!  But that is not, sadly, a skill that many in the central structures seem to have.  

I mean, who would put a group together that was primarily tasked with providing safeguarding proposals, which had a membership weighted towards those perpetrating the very harm we were trying to protect people from?  No wonder they didn’t want to come up with anything other than “principles” or “guidelines”, to do otherwise would risk a whole plethora of Clergy Discipline Measurers against their friends and colleagues!  We needed something that had teeth, that would hold people to account, with clear consequences for when they crossed the line.  Instead we got “guidelines”, which can be interpreted in any number of ways and so does not set a clear safeguarding standard.

However, the sad fact is that these principles are all that we now have for now.  So perhaps we should try and measure “The Beautiful Story” video against them?

Prejudice – from its opening words to its close, the film shows a deep-seated prejudice towards LGBT+ people, particularly LGBT+ Christians, and indeed to anyone who holds a different view.

Silence – the video says absolutely nothing about what other faithful Christians believe, particularly LGBT+ Christians, even though many fronting the film have been part of the LLF process and are more than aware of what other Christians believe and teach.

Ignorance – it shows absolutely no understanding of the harm they are creating, nor of the mental health consequences of the teachings they are commending.

Fear – the whole teaching is wrapped in a fear of admitting that they might be wrong

Hypocrisy – goodness, there is so much I could write here, but perhaps the starting point is how can someone who has been an active member of the LLF co-ordinating group, and who is tasked with rolling it out in his diocese, be the front person of this film? How can bishops who are tasked with ensuring the roll-out across their dioceses of the LLF resource be seen to say “this is the only way of reading Scripture”?

Power – I don’t think these church leaders have an inkling of the power they hold over younger people in their care.  There is sadly an air of “assumed privilege” from most of the speakers, which comes from a deep internal belief that they are the only ones to take Scripture and Christ seriously.

So where do we go from here?

Well the Church of England has proved itself completely incapable of protecting the most vulnerable – one just needs to look at the recent IICSA or Adi Cooper reports to recognise this.  That is why we must look to another more senior source of power – which is why an independent inquiry is needed.

Meanwhile, like Trump supporters living in their alternative reality, many in churches that revere the “Beautiful Story” will continue to believe that the secular world is “the enemy”, that only they “have the truth” and that Jesus is coming soon.

It is clear that these people cannot and will not change their minds, so it is high time that the bishops stepped up to the plate and laid out clear safeguarding rules and regulations to protect those in their care.

The key question, to which we need an answer, is why don’t they?

This entry was posted in Human Sexuality, IICSA, Jayne Ozanne, Living in Love & Faith, Mental Health, Safeguarding, Spiritual Abuse. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to LLF – That Video, Those Principles & a Call for a Public Inquiry

  1. braddersmk2 says:

    Wow!….. So well said, Jayne!

  2. Jon Krepps says:

    Arguments between people of faith are always very intense. It is because both sides believe that there is a fundamental truth and that there are consequences for not recognising that truth, perhaps even eternal consequences. So, one side bases its argument on principle A and does not acknowledge the relevance of principle B and the other side does the opposite, with the result that they can’t actually debate without going straight for the endgame of “I must win and you must lose”.

    The Anglican debate on human sexuality is one such argument. As I understand the objectives in the minds of those who commissioned and ran LLF (which I haven’t read – and it is dauntingly long!), it was partly to find a way to work through that problem and create an environment in which each side could express their belief to the other in a way which does not jump straight to the endgame.

    Let us imagine a conflict resolution expert asking you and those on the other side of the argument to say or do something as an opening offer to the other as a gesture of goodwill and of willingness to talk, what would you offer and what would you hope the other side offered? In both cases, put the emphasis on “opening”, ie not going for the endgame. It is a very difficult thing to do because of the principle A and principle B problem and the deeply engrained suspicions which that creates, but it would be really helpful if you could respond, and if any from the other side of the argument who read this could do so as well.

    Jon

  3. Kate says:

    Jon, before we get to the question of competing ideas, surely the urgent priority is to ensure that vulnerable LGBTI+ Christians are no longer put at risk?

    • Jon says:

      Thanks Kate. That might indeed be the second part of the answer to my question (ie what you would hope they would offer to you at the start of a discussion). What would that look like to you in practical terms? Again, without going for the endgame, what would the evangelical camp need to say/do that would address your concern on that point so that you would be willing to talk further?

      • Kate says:

        In a word, recognition.

        Recognise that same sex marriages are marriages; recognise that trans women are women etc.

        Recognition is the first step.

      • Margaret says:

        Jon, you are evidently a very good person and I only wish that conversation were possible. But you need to realise that what Ms Ozanne and like-minded companions want is revenge. By seeking to take the ‘debate’ out of the C of E into the sphere of the law she wants to see members of the evangelical wing prosecuted and punished. Her loathing and contempt for them are indicated by the insulting comparison with followers of Trump which invites us to view them as imbeciles. I am reminded of a sonnet by the great advocate of freedom of conscience John Milton who in 1646 denounced those he described as the ‘new forcers of conscience’ who were seeking to impose by law a set of beliefs and who thus resembled those they attacked. Today’s ‘new forcers of conscience’ are the ‘progressive’ liberals who seek to force on each and everyone their system of beliefs and silence those who think differently. Like Milton’s forcers of consience they thus exemplify what they attack in others: dogmatic, exclusive, intolerant.

  4. Paul Strickland says:

    Well put! A small typo – “Christiands”

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  7. I confess to having once been one of those celibacy for life evangelicals. It was over 30 years ago and I was pretty messed up about my own heterosexual singleness. I am really sad that over the years the lines seem to have been hardened but maybe my own story shows that people can change.

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  11. Michael Petek says:

    You’re a heretic, Jayne.

    • Anne Eyre says:

      How extraordinary. I do not know what gives you the right to judge Jayne so categorically. The tone of your comment is destructive, and merciless. Is this your vision of God’s judgement? Heaven have mercy on us all

  12. olip74 says:

    Have you ever considered atheism?

    • olip74 says:

      To expound a little Jayne, you sound like far too inclusive and reasonable a person to be a member of the CoE. I found it ironic that you mention deluded Republicans when to cleave to the church is similarly quixotic. We accept that literal interpretation of scripture is dogma, tired and outmoded but the revisions and apologism of the CoE is but a form of cognitive dissonance. Your empathy with those who are ‘different’ and your frustration with the wilful ignorance of your leaders shines through. Don’t subject LGBT people to the doubt and guilt of religious superstition. Embrace the ‘good news’ of knowledge and reason, become the master of your own destiny and use your altruism to help others to be true to themselves.

  13. Simon Wimble says:

    Thank you for articulating this so well, Jayne. Isn’t it strange how a person can say whatever fallacy they like over ambient music and somehow it becomes ‘acceptable’? These people have chosen to never fully understand the implications of their argument upon the lives of so many.

    The truly great ‘Beautiful Story’ is an inclusive one

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  15. Daniel says:

    I feel that I am quite respectful of other opinions and tolerant to peoples views and how they wish to live their own lives, not pushing my opinion and telling everyone they must change theirs, this is of course meant to be a free society for speech and choice for ourselves. But I continue to read countless articles and comments such as this article that are full of hypocrisy telling people that have a different view that they must change, people like Jayne preach equality and freedom but do not offer the same in return to those that disagree with their opinion/choice. I have a suggestion Jayne, why don’t you choose to join an different church instead of forcing your opinions on the existing people to change.

  16. Pete M says:

    Why rail against the Bishop of Blackburn? He’s merely repeating the teaching of the Bible. Attack him and you’re attacking the very foundations of the Church. Scapegoating doesn’t look good.

  17. James says:

    Jayne, you request inclusion and free speech but seem to demonstrate no free speech or inclusion to those that you disagree with. You can’t have it both ways. Also, the church DOES rightly need to repent of not caring for LGBT+ people, but caring does not mean abandoning what the bible teaches. Tough love is always to teach truth but doing it with gentleness and respect, and I totally admit that the church hasn’t always got that right in the past

  18. Jon says:

    The WordPress template doesn’t seem to allow long threads, so this is a reply to Kate, albeit out of order. I think what you say is a big problem for the LLF process because, to use my previous terminology, you start with the endgame. I know it is very hard to do, but LLF tries to find ground on which the two sides can meet to talk. If one side says that it will only talk if the other side surrenders unconditionally first, then nothing can happen. We will find ourselves in a fight to see who can force whom out of the Church the fastest. Jayne, I’d be very interested in your thoughts on this also.

  19. Simon Ingram says:

    The LLF video is a call to the C of E to recognise that Christians are people who adhere to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Clearly you don’t like this. As your editor’s note points out, we may not be Christ, but Christianity is, or should be, an attempt to be Christlike. It is clear from this blog that you, Jayne, consider the teaching of Christ to be ‘wrong, harmful and dangerous’ to LGBT people and that there are ‘other ways of reading scripture’. If you are seriously going to suggest that Jesus and the Apostles really approved of homosexuality or that it doesn’t matter, it becomes obvious that you don’t take the faith seriously. You cast yourself as a defender of the vulnerable, but what do you offer them? If the C of E really does take your advice; condone sin and welcome the unrepentant, to whom was Paul speaking in 1 Corinthians 5:11 ?
    ‘But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.’
    Why did Paul say this? Because he hated the swindler? No! Because the first step in healing the swindler, is the swindler accepting that his sin is wrong. This is the entry qualification for joining the church. This you fail to do. You justify sin instead.
    Do not imagine that Christians who quote such verses are legalistic homophobes. That would be a slander. A Christian is called to love the sinner and hate the sin.
    The fact that God loves us all does not mean that He is willing to accept our sin. It is easy to fall into a trap here and believe that homosexuality is not a choice; that we are born with our inclinations and that the church should provide a ‘safe space’ to ‘vulnerable’ homosexuals who are traumatised by the idea that they should repent.
    Please don’t imagine that the enormity of the demand is lost on us. When the bible says that we should love the LORD our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, it is obvious that He is asking the impossible. God often asks the impossible because what is impossible with men, is possible with God. God gives grace. If He demands something, he is not untouched by the difficulty of the ask. It is at this very point that God starts His work in a person’s life.
    The homosexual offender is not without hope. God will not leave him alone to endure a loveless life. But the entry qualification for the Holy Spirit’s operation is repentance. You may think that expecting a gay person to renounce sex for life is utterly outrageous. This is worldly thinking. I put it to you that God is quite prepared to demand this and very much more. Christianity is founded on a history of martyrdom. It is a radical religion. One has to carry a cross. What do you think this means? Cynical as you are to the very concept of ‘Truth’, the Apostles had no qualms in declaring that the gospel is ‘the Truth’ and none of them were Trump supporters.
    The whole tone of your blog suggests that obedience to God plays an insignificant role in your motivation or why else are you so impressed by the ‘court of public opinion’? A worldly church is one that Christ will spit out. I appeal to you, Jayne, to realise that God really does have a solution for homosexuality, but this solution does not lie in justifying it. It lies in renouncing it and discovering that important as sex may be, there is an abundant, joyous life available to all who will pay the price.

  20. Robert Ellis says:

    Jayne please do not take any notice of the silly, rude commenmts above….they will hurt I know…..but have confidence in yourself and your views…..you are doing a great work…thank you and I am sorry for the hurt you are having to endure.

  21. Adam says:

    Are you familiar with the writings of Sam Allberry and Vaughan Roberts? They are two men who identify as same sex attracted but have chosen to remain faithful to scripture in the way they live.

  22. chris russell says:

    Jayne Ozanne is mistaken in saying that it is “harmful” to tell LGBT people that being in an intimate relationship with someone of the same sex was “wrong and sinful”, but no one in the church is telling anyone that being in an intimate relationship with someone of the same sex is wrong and sinful. This is a silly thing for her to say.

    Certainly it is church teaching that sexual immorality includes sexual acts between men and sexual acts between women, but Ms Ozanne appears concerned that people will commit suicide if they hear this. This, also, is very silly. I do not believe that it is true at all. However, if I am wrong, and, in fact, it is true, this suggests a serious mental health issue. In the circumstances, it would be understandable that Ms Ozanne would want to do something about it, but she needs to get on top of the problem.

  23. Fr Patrick Davies says:

    Wow, as an old stuffy traditionalist I must say I am shocked by some of the statements I personally could not conduct a same sex marriage but I equally recognise my thinking could be limited and wrong.
    Why don’t some Christians get just as passionate about the evils of poverty, destruction of our environment or the voting of political parties which support the rich and exploit the oppressed?

  24. Jon says:

    This is a very tardy reply to Margaret, for which I apologise. I must admit I had hoped for for greater willingness from Jayne and others to get involved in dialogue. It worries me greatly that that hasn’t happened here. I think LLF is dead in the water already.

    Jon

  25. Margaret says:

    This is a reply to Patrick and Jon as well as to the two members of the gay community who contributed posts arguing that the reluctance to accept homosexuality is motivated by fear. Patrick, I couldn’t agree more that poverty should be a priority — as it is for those wonderful men of God doing His work today on the streets of towns and cities where children and adults are going hungry (cf. the recent BBC report ). They don’t have time to worry about what to think about homosexuality, which is a luxury of the comfortable classes.
    Jon, don’t be discouraged – keep thinking and standing up for what you believe is right and good.

    One of the two gay authors who insisted that the reluctance to accept homosexuality was just down to fear cited the biblical injunction, ‘Perfect love casts out fear’. This resonated disturbingly with the hideous practice of ‘conversion therapy’ that seeks to ‘cast out’ homosexual desire (as Jayne and others have documented). There may well be fear, but there are also deeply held beliefs as the video ‘The Beautiful Story’ made clear. Are the holders of these beliefs to be forced to ‘convert’ to the dogma of the liberal agenda that dominates the culture outside the church? (though it is worth recalling that devout Muslims have as much difficulty with homosexuality as evangelical Christians; the recent conflict between Muslim parents and a school in Birmingham that taught a liberal sexual curriculum is one of the impasses that identity liberalism inexorably leads to).

    In times past the C of E embraced the ‘high’ ‘smells and bells’ and ‘low’ ‘happy clappy’ churches. They were as different as they could be – and there were some serious doctrinal differences but there was no split (though perhaps there were bitter disputes – I don’t know). Why is such accommodation no longer possible? What has happened? One reason is ‘identity politics’ with its fixation on essentialised racial, sexual and gender identities, another the social media which polarises people into ‘us’ and ‘them’ communities.

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