I have just received in the post a copy of Outspoken - Coming out in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand by Liz Lightfoot. It was recommended in a discussion on Liturgy and at the time Rev Bosco Peters said he had a copy but had not yet read it. Liz interviewed 11 people, I think in late 2009. I have only read 4 so far. Names are disguised which is okay but it is a bit frustrating that locations in New Zealand are also disguised. So far none are like me. One man and the two women (a couple) were married and have children. The other man, James, is only in his 30's. However I find his interview most interesting. At one stage he went to a cathedral (I would love to know which one) and asked to speak with the bishop as he wanted to be sure his sexuality was acceptable to God. The man he spoke to said the bishop was not available but would a canon do. Fortunately the canon was a sensible man and James describes the meeting as a positive experience and he left feeling God still loved him and he was able to serve God.
Unfortunately he moved to Sydney (a real named place) and the experience was very different. He made an appointment with someone at the cathedral (yes the thought of him doing that makes me shudder). In his words:- "I think he couldn't wait to get me out of his office. His opinion was along the lines of, 'It's really wrong: don't do it and don't expect any acceptance here if you do.' So that was fine, I walked out of there. "
He dropped out of church attendance and lived a precarious life while in Sydney and attempted suicide.
This to me is an obvious result of the Jensenist attitude.
Interestingly he feels that the average congregation in Sydney is more accepting than in New Zealand while the clergy tend to be the other way. Of course most New Zealand clergy have not been brainwashed at Moore College and are allowed to think for themselves. However I have noted a tendency for those in charge in New Zealand to be afraid that if homosexuals are more fully accepted in the church it may turn others away. In the words of Caiaphas, it is necessary that some will suffer for the good of the whole.
The other part of James' interview that I found interesting was that his mother gave him the name of 3 psychiatrists. The first told him that being gay was not a problem and he did not need a psychiatrist. Unfortunately that was not the view when I visited psychiatrists in the 60's, things have improved greatly. The 2nd was in the Baptist church and told him he could be changed and sent him along to a group meeting. Fortunately a rather promiscuous friend went with him and the result was laugh out loud material. The friend recognised many of the members from the local beats and went up and greeted them by name. The third was a psychotherapist who asked if he really wanted to change and told him that apples might become oranges but they are not really very good oranges. A bit strange analogy but it showed him that he might be a rather pathetic straight guy or a successful gay guy.
James is now back in New Zealand and a member of an accepting Anglican congregation. He is walking the tightrope of being an out gay in the church and an out Christian in the gay community.
Liz points out that it is very lucky that he went first to the canon in the NZ cathedral rather than the person in the Sydney Cathedral. Unfortunately young gay people in Sydney do not have that chance unless they find one of the few welcoming churches in the city such as St James, King Street and Christchurch St Laurence.
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