Fracas at London church meeting about hardline Anglican group

By staff writers
2 Jul 2008

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell says that he was "violently ejected" from a major London evangelical church after seeking to mount a protest against a hardline Anglican group.

The incident happened at All Souls Church, Langham Place, opposite the BBC, when a meeting of Church of England clergy and church wardens concerning the newly formed Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA) was picketed by the OutRage! gay rights group, including African activist Brett Lock and gay Christian campaigner, Kizza Musinguzi.

The church has also received letters of objection to its hosting of the meeting from evaneglicals and other Christians, Ekklesia has learned.

David W. Talbot has written an open letter to the Rector, declaring: "[I]t saddens me that All Souls would want to endorse this .. event."

"It is a shame that the Anglican Church and, on this occasion, All Souls in particular, continues to deny the God-given reality of homosexuality and [God's] blessing that gay Christians know in their daily lives. I have looked at the list of speakers at the conference and see no hope of a contrasting Biblical view being put forward."

"As a former worshipper at All Souls’ and as a gay Evangelical, it disappoints me that your church is willing to contribute today to the destructive persecution of gay Christians and the fragmentation of the Anglican Church worldwide," Mr Talbot concluded.

When they tried to enter the famous church, Mr Tatchell and his colleagues were forcibly removed and Mr Tatchell punched in the chest by a church steward, says OutRage!

"Archbishop Peter Akinola is backing the state-sponsored persecution of lesbians and gays in Nigeria. He is orchestrating a wicked victimisation campaign against the Nigerian gay Christian leader, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria," said Mr Tatchell.

"The Archisbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, has stirred up prejudice against gay Ugandans in a society where anti-gay hatred and violence is rife," he added.

"In 2006, he excommunicated a heterosexual bishop, Christopher Senyonjo, because he defended gay people against persecution. Jesus Christ is recorded in The Bible as condemning many sins but he never once condemned homosexuality. The anti-gay campaign of the breakaway Anglican leaders is a perversion of Christ's gospel of love and compassion. These splitters are Old Testament fundamentalists, not true followers of Jesus Christ," declared Mr Tatchell.

Kizza Musinguzi is a gay member of the Anglican Church of Uganda. He has witnessed first hand the homophobic campaign by his church leaders. Mr Musinguzi was jailed and tortured in Uganda because of his gay rights activism. He is currently seeking asylum in the UK.

"The church is supposed to be all-loving. It is not acceptable that it has one set of rights for straight Christians and a lesser set of rights for gay Christians," said Mr Musinguzi.

He added: "When Archbishop Orombi takes a stand against gay people, he signals to the population that it is okay to discriminate against gay people. He supports Uganda's vicious anti-gay laws, which stipulate life imprisonment for consenting same-sex relationships. Orombi is encouraging prejudice and hatred. His victimisation of Bishop Senyonjo is cruel and vindictive."

"Gay people in Uganda face imprisonment, torture and mob violence. Many are driven out their communities and left destitute. The government excludes gay people from its HIV programmes, leaving them to die without medication. The Church of Uganda is exacerbating this homophobia, neglect and persecution," said Mr Musinguzi.

All Souls has in the past been seen as the "cathedral church" of Anglican Evangelicalism, launching the global ministry of the Rev Dr John Stott.

In the 1960s and '70s Dr Stott opposed those evangelicals who wished to split from the Church of England, under the influence of Calvinist preacher Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones.

In recent years, evangelicals - who stress the Bible and personal conversion - have increasingly fragmented into distinct groups, sometimes distinguished as "open", "conservative" and "charismatic".

In a carefully worded statement published on the website of Fulcrum, a network that seeks to unite Anglican evangelical opinion, but is seen as more on the "open wing", Bishop of Durham Dr Tom Wright urged GAFCON and FOCA not to split the Anglican Communion.

He wrote: "if GAFCON is to join up with the great majority of faithful, joyful Anglicans around the world, rather than to invite them to leave their present allegiance and sign up to a movement which is as yet - to put it mildly - strange in form and uncertain in destination, it is not so much that GAFCON needs to invite others to sign up and join in. Bishops, clergy and congregations should think very carefully before taking such a step, which will have enormous and confusing consequences. Rather, GAFCON itself needs to bring its rich experience and gospel-driven exuberance to the larger party where the rest of us are working day and night for the same gospel."

The book Fear or Freedom? Why a warring church must change, edited by Simon Barrow, is published by Shoving Leopard / Ekklesia.

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