Stonewall and the Church of England: A match made in heaven?


One of the principle criticisms of many religious groups is the image that they work as 'lone wolves' against the many ills and injustices that exist in the world around us. Secular groups often seem to have ostensibly similar goals, at least in a material sense, to the churches around them, and yet churches and other religious bodies tend to prefer to work alone. Those of an unkind mind view this as some kind of hogging of the moral credit, and so are very pleased with stories like the recent education related partnership between the pro-gay charity Stonewall and the Church of England. But many Anglicans, especially those represented by do not feel that this group in particular is up for the job, and have many concerns (not least of which, the lack of official press releases from either Stonewall or the C of E on this). Is Stonewall and the C of E really a match made in heaven, or is it more of a Solomon's many wives situation?

Stonewall's work in C of E schools will be aimed at the eradication of bullying. A big part of this aim, at least in Stonewall's eyes, is the idea that children should be better educated, and by extension more accepting, of homosexuals. The use of 'gay' as a slang term for 'bad' ultimately extends into the classroom. This ends up meaning that anyone who actually comes out as gay will receive the full force of the social and physical exclusion the classroom can create. But Stonewall's contention that this is the primary cause of bullying is something Anglican-Mainstream disputes. They point to Ofsted's 2012 report "No Place for Bullying" which found that most school bullying was centred around appearance, rather than sexuality which only made up a very small percentage. This suggest that Stonewall's focus, while noble, will not solve much of the problem.

This conflation of bullying based on outward appearance with bullying based on sexuality is another of Anglican Mainstream's central concerns with letting Stonewall take the lead on anti-bullying policy in C of E schools. Stonewall is often on record as treating homosexuality similar to physical appearance, as something you're innately born with. The reality however is more complex, as study after study consistently fails to find a genetic or other kind of biological identifier that confirms a person as 'being' gay.

Famous studies that have claimed to have found a link have later been discredited, for example the 1991 Simon LeVay study which claimed that homosexuality was linked to the size of the anterior hypothalamus (largest in heterosexual men and smaller in homosexual men and women) has been targeted as having too small a sample size (41 participents), as well as too many anomalies, like the fact that the second largest anterior hypothalamus in the study belonged to a gay man. Other studies had non random sampling methods (Bailey and Pillard's 1991 study collected study volunteers from adverts in gay magazines) and there were some, such as the famous Xq28 gene studies by Dean Hamer in 1993 and 1995, that were overhyped by the media. Later studies on Xq28 have found slight correlation, but not the definitive causation claimed by the likes of Time Magazine and others who announced the finding of the 'gay gene'. Although in general, studies repeatedly show a correlation in the cases of twins (in a slight majority of cases, where one identical twin is gay, the other is also) this can only prove a genetic factor, not genetic cause. Since identical twins share 100% of their DNA, if homosexuality was 100% genetic, both twins should be gay 100% of the time.

It is because of this, that is very concerned. Allowing an organisation into C of E schools that teaches children something which is fundamentally unproven would be bad enough by itself, but Stonewall uses its unproven assertion to attack something very central to the Church. The primary objection of Anglican Mainstream is one that is being voiced by more and more Christians in more and more circumstances. Specifically, it is the misunderstanding of groups like Stonewall and many others who share their worldview, that believing homosexuality to be sinful is not the same thing as homophobia.

The Bible only contains six admonishments against homosexuality, and none of them are about "being" a homosexual. They are all concerned with the physical act. But at no point does the Bible encourage individual Christians to take up arms against those who commit this sin, or to socially ostracise them, or to politically marginalise them, or in any way treat them as anything other than as you would wish to be treated yourself. Jesus famously said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" to the crowd wanting to execute the adulterous woman, but he also said to her "go out and sin no more". We are called, as Christians, to admonish sin while embracing sinners. After all, we're all sinners.

What we're not taught is to lie about what is and is not a sin. Jesus didn't let the adulterous woman off the hook. He was clear that what she was doing was wrong. Thus, it's understandable that Anglican Mainstream, as well as many other Christians are concerned by the presence of an organisation like Stonewall, entering schools and contradicting Biblical teaching. Christians can oppose bullying of gay students very well by teaching the example of Jesus when he encountered the adulterous woman. We don't need to twist the word when it comes to fighting evil.