Church of Ireland Gazette: Bishops’ Listening Process and Hard Gospel Project challenged by ‘Changing Attitude’ official

By Revd Mervyn Kingston

A co-founder and the Secretary of Changing Attitude Ireland, the Revd Mervyn Kingston, has expressed trenchant criticisms of the bishops’ Listening Process regarding gay and lesbian people in the Church, and has voiced similar criticisms of the Hard Gospel Project’s dealing with the subject. Changing Attitude Ireland describes itself as “a network of people, gay and straight, lay and ordained, working for the full affirmation of lesbian and gay Christians within the Church of Ireland and the wider Anglican Communion”. The organisation also says that it is “working for change in the official teaching and attitude of the Church of Ireland” and welcomes “everyone seeking change in the Church’s understanding of human sexuality”.

Mr Kingston welcomes the bishops’ Listening Process, but says it has not offered sufficient assurances to gay clergy that they would not be disciplined by making themselves known. He notes that the results of the bishops’ consultation have not been published and suggests that gay and lesbian clergy and laity have not been adequately involved.

Speaking to the Gazette and while acknowledging positive initiatives taken by some individual bishops, Mr Kingston accused the bishops more generally of paying “lip service” to the process and of “tip toeing around the issue very carefully”. He said there had not been a real process of engagement.

Mr Kingston went on to tell us that he had been looking for a lead in the area from the Hard Gospel Project (HGP). He said the HGP’s “limited material” on human sexuality was “not balanced, being negative to gay and lesbian people throughout”.

The Gazette invited the HGP’s director, the Revd Earl Storey, to comment. Mr Storey issued a statement to us in which

he expressed surprise at Mr Kingston’s “unease” and commented on the HGP’s handling of the subject: “I have no reservations with the approach taken.”

The bishops reserved comment until after publication of Mr Kingston’s article. The Gazette has informed the bishops that a response will be welcomed in due course.