One of the most intrusive aspects of this Lambeth Conference has been the presence of gay activists. Integrity, USA is the umbrella organization, but six gay/lesbian organizations have come here, run a daily newspaper called the Lambeth Witness of Gay and Lesbian Christians, rented about 1/3 of the spaces in the Marketplace and provided speakers for many self-select groups for bishops and their wives. Additionally, these folks have sponsored about half of the evening fringe events.
They use all the advertising and promotional techniques that money can buy. They are better funded than any other organization here. Gene Robinson is also here, has been for almost a month now. He is seen daily walking on the campus and interacting with bishops that will talk with him. Of course, the TEC bishops are only too happy to do so and there are a few from a couple of other places that are also always happy to see him, like Michael Ingham from Vancouver, Canada. Remarkably, as the conference continued, there is less and less press about Gene. The gay newspaper keeps him on their front page; none other.
What does it do to morale in general? It is detrimental.
With 1/3 to ½ of the press identified with gay organizations, they are unhappy when they are not called on at press conferences. Of course, back in the states, they are usually among the first to be called on and given repeated questions. It has not been so here and there have been angry outbursts.
My second trip to the Marketplace was disrupted. The first booth on the corner by the door is the Integrity booth. They are handing out rainbow ribbons and increasingly these are showing up on TEC bishops, some wives and the gay press. When you walk into the marketplace, a watcher at that booth, akin to a Carnival barker, starts shouting about your rainbow ribbon. If you don’t have one, you are admonished to come and get one. If you are leaving the marketplace and still don’t have a rainbow ribbon, you are again told to get one. Dangerous? No. It is simply annoying.
At lunch break for the bishops on Thursday, there was a gay demonstration on the lawns outside the big blue tent and their closest lunch cafeteria. Gene was there at the beginning, but when they started kissing and acting out, he left. So did the bishops, hurrying their wives away.
They let you know they are from America and share almost unparalleled freedom to be gay. New protections in England mean their activities cannot be restrained. They let you know that by most standards, they are wealthy. They are staying in hotels and rented houses, not dorms. It is also clear that countries that repress homosexual activity, especially Moslem countries, are uneducated, unsophisticated and barbaric. They assure you that homosexuality is coming to all of these countries within the next decade.
So, what is the result? I believe the homosexual activists here have had a profound effect on the conference. Bishops and their wives who are not normally exposed to gay behavior have been offended by these antics. They uniformly complain about being shouted at when they wear purple shirts by gays who want to chat. If they do stop, the insistence is that homosexuality is an inborn trait, genetically controlled. Although that may be the present view in the US, it is far from an agreed upon norm in most other countries. Bishops have expressed disdain for the gay daily newspaper, which is at the door of every building on campus. There is avoidance of the gay fringe events and self-select groups (actually, there is avoidance of most fringe events as that is the only free time of the day.)
Every bishop I have spoken with, who is not from the USA, says that departure from the norm, or new development of the faith is not the issue here. The issue is the Scriptural teaching that Christians do no indulge in the culture, but live apart from it. Homosexual orientation or proclivity does not require indulgence. We are called to chastity, higher standards in moral and ethical teachings and encouraged to live holy lives. This applies equally to men and women of any persuasion. The Biblical and Christian norm is for sex to be confined within the boundary of the marriage of a man and a woman – there perfect freedom is found.
The effort to convert the Anglican world at this Lambeth has been the usual American extravaganza. And I believe it has failed.
Cherie Wetzel reporting from Canterbury, England