The Church and the massacre in Orlando

The following letter, signed by three members of the LGBTI Mission steering group, appeared in the Church Times on Friday 17 June.

From Ms Tracey Byrne, Mr Simon Sarmiento, and Mr Jeremy Timm
Sir, — The events in Orlando in the early hours of Sunday morning have once more left the world shocked and appalled. But the Church of England’s official responses have disappointed and dismayed many, both inside and outside the Church.

This was an attack that deliberately targeted gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. And it took place in a country whose Anglicans have recently been criticised by the Primates of the Communion for moving towards greater inclusion for LGBT people. Church leaders can no longer continue to denounce violence — and yet continue to feed it.

Every time we speak — individually or institutionally — of LGBT people as “less than” their brothers and sisters in Christ, as “less than” God’s ideal, as unfit for licensing for public ministry; every time we fail to acknowledge that the people who died in Orlando were targeted because of whom they love, we contribute, in imperceptible but, nevertheless, powerful ways, to creating the kind of world where this hatred can flourish. We do LGBT people a grave disservice, and we do the gospel a grave disservice, too.

We have worked hard to keep faith with the soon-to-be-completed Shared Conversations, but we now need something more substantial. There is an urgent need to restore the trust that has been eroded during the Shared Conversations process, and to establish a permanent mechanism that enables church leaders and central church bodies to listen and to work together with LGBT church members of all convictions. That way we can bring our insights to the Church as it seeks transformation and reconciliation and healing, and we will become part of the solution rather than the unsolved problem.

With such an arrangement in place, and with robust and trusting personal relationships, perhaps we would not have seen an official “Prayer for Orlando” which whitewashed over the victims, failing even to mention that they were killed for being LGBT, nor a day’s delay in issuing a response from the Archbishops which corrected this omission.

There can be no misunderstanding that this is the context in which the final round of Shared Conversations will take place in a few weeks’ time; the stakes, for everyone, could not possibly be higher.

TRACEY BYRNE
Chief Executive, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement

SIMON SARMIENTO
Chair, LGBTI Mission

JEREMY TIMM
National Coordinator, Changing Attitude

c/o LGCM, South Church House
25 Market Place
Newark NG25 1EA

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