Parliament under pressure over Anglican Church's actions on homophobia

Ministers are coming under pressure over the Anglican church's attitude towards gay people after sanctions were imposed on the Scottish Episcopal Church for permitting clergy to marry same-sex couples.

Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter who is gay and a Christian, tabled a series of written questions to Dame Caroline Spelman, the Church's representative in Parliament.

Ben Bradshaw asked a series of written questions to Dame Caroline Spelman, Second Church Estates

The senior Labour backbencher asked Spelman, in her role as Second Church Estates Commissioner, for concrete steps the Church of England was taking on 'homophobic prejudice and violence and the rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people'. He also asked what the CofE was doing 'to prevent the imposition of (a) the death penalty and (b) other criminal sanctions on LGBT people on account of their sexuality'.

It comes after leaders from different Anglican provinces around the world issued a comminique last year that 'condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation'. The statement, which was reaffirmed by the primates at their meeting last week in Canterbury, also called for the 'rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people'.

But several governments, particularly in the typically more conservative global south, still hold homosexual acts to be a criminal offence and Bradshaw pressed for what actions were being taken to combat these laws.

Responding, Spelman said: 'In the House of Lords bishops have recently raised concerns about persecution and detention of LGBT citizens in Chechnya and have supported the need to appoint an LGBT advocate at the UN.'

She added the Church was updating advice for CofE schools to combat homophobic bullying to include support for trans-sexual and bisexual students and emphasised that synod members had passed a motion calling for a ban on gay conversion therapy.

Jayne Ozanne, a leading member of the CofE's general synod, said she was glad the primates recommitted to tackling homophobia but added 'words are simply not enough'. 

She told Christian Today: 'Eighteen months have passed since the initial communique yet we have seen little action that seeks to speak out against criminalization or capital punishment. Homophobic violence continues - even in Western societies such as the Diocese of Sydney.

'For these statements to have any credibility they need to be followed through by all the Primates concerned.'