Church of England's partnership with Stonewall challenged

Anglican Mainstream has asked why the Church of England is partnering with an organisation that nominated one of its bishops for a 'Bigot of the Year' award.

Published 26 November 2013  |  
AP

Reports that the Church of England will be working with gay charity Stonewall against homophobic bullying in its schools has received opposition from some Anglicans.

Anglican Mainstream, a group representing the orthodox Anglican community, has challenged why this partnership was not discussed at last week's General Synod, and has encouraged its readers to write to their bishops on this matter.

They raise several specific issues of potential concern, firstly that while Stonewall is an anti-homophobia charity, the majority of bullying in schools is not specifically anti-gay.

"No Place for Bullying", a report commissioned in 2012 by Ofsted, the UK schools inspection body, concluded that the vast majority of bullying is to do with issues of appearance, with sexuality accounting for a relatively small percentage.

In a position statement, Anglican Mainstream questioned the wisdom of bringing in a narrowly focused charity to deal with an issue that is much broader.

The statement goes on to argue that Stonewall takes an unscientific position on the issue of homosexuality as a whole.

Although the issues of discrimination and marginalisation may be somewhat similar to those dealt with by ethnic minorities, Stonewall's position of homosexuality as innate and biological in the same way as race is, continues to be unsupported by scientific research.

Multiple studies have been unable to find a definitive genetic or other biological cause to homosexuality, Anglican Mainstream notes, and the group goes on to argue therefore that teaching to the contrary could have a detrimental effect on children.

While they argue that anyone should be free to identify as homosexual, many in their teens who identify as gay later shed the label. Teaching people that homosexuality is innate when evidence suggests it is not, could lead to children holding onto the identity at odds with their own feelings, creating potential for psychological harm, Anglican Mainstream contends.

Psychological issues are also a large part of Anglican Mainstream's concerns, as they argue that Stonewall's platform of teaching about acceptance of a wide variety of sexual practices and lifestyles could have unintended consequences. Specifically, they are concerned that teachers in a position of authority could accidentally influence children to attempt sexual experimentation before they should, and given the vulnerability that naturally comes with youth, they argue this is an issue to be concerned with.

"Children's lack of psychological and cognitive maturity makes them vulnerable to ideological and sexual manipulation," the position statement reads.

"We are very concerned that Stonewall's schools programme, which involves teaching children to regard different sexualities positively, may tacitly open a door to young people for sexual experimentation which is potentially unsafe."

Their fourth concern is the level of acceptance of homosexuality that will be taught in the C of E schools in questions.

"Jesus was very clear about sexual morality," Anglican Mainstream said. "He was against all forms of sex outside heterosexual marriage, and that included homosexuality."

Questions remain as to whether the Stonewall campaign will merely work against homophobic bullying, or whether it will also label the belief that homosexuality is sinful as homophobic also.

"Stonewall's raison d'etre is to promote same-sex sexual relationships and lifestyles. How can a church which claims to obey Jesus partner with Stonewall?" Anglican Mainstream said.

The position statement concludes with criticism against what the "biggotted" way in which Stonewall has attacked those it disagrees with.

It highlights the handing out of the "Bigot of the Year" award, which in 2009 featured as among its nominees former Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt.

The group asked: "Why would the Church of England wish to be publicly associated with such an organisation?"

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