Last month's Primates Conference saw 38 leaders of the Anglican Church travel to Canterbury to discuss the status of LGBT people within the Anglican Communion. Canterbury is the focal point of the Anglican Communion's 85 million worshippers. The site has been a place of Christian worship for 1400 years. Three months ago I made my own pilgrimage to Canterbury. I wanted to experience England's holiest site.
The cathedral soars above the red tiled roofs of Canterbury, an arching crown of perpendicular spires. I walked through ancient meandering streets, up towards the cathedral close. A medieval gate stood in front of me. Gnarled sandstone melted away in the dappled December sunlight. Reticulated with pitted iron, rivulets of light trace the ridges of oak on the gate house doors. A jigsaw of worn flagstones and cobbles paves the way towards the cathedral's entrance. Countless pilgrims have made this journey before. Vast buttresses allow for bays of soaring windows. Corniced vaults sit on stained glass wings, the sunlight giving movement to their ascent. Sculptures project out above the entrance. A choir of filigree sandstone saints, dignified on their hexagonal pedestals are framed in recessed niches. Gilded iron trickles underneath this waterfall of stone. The cathedral inspires awe in the viewer, a Christian pyramid. It represents solidity, age and permanence, the heart of the Anglican Communion.
In the past LGBT people have been discriminated against within Christianity, including by the Church of England and the other Protestant Churches comprising the Anglican Communion. This makes me angry. Lives have been shattered by the prejudice of misinterpreted religious teaching. The shadow of hatred and repression has fallen on many LGBT worshippers. This cannot continue.
Jesus' message is one of love and the Church of England has a responsibility to advance, not hinder, the inclusion of LGBT people. Despite my Christianity, I sometimes struggle to see any good in those Christians who seek to criticise and exclude LGBT worshippers. It is hard not to resent them for their homophobia. I have to remind myself that God's love extends to every Christian, even the most vehement homophobe.
The conference culminated in the decision to formally penalise the Episcopal Church for its decision to sanction same-sex marriages in church. The Episcopal Church has been barred from many aspects of the Anglican decision making process for three years. I was shocked and upset by this collective criticism of the Episcopal Church. The criticism seems regressive, a step backwards which reinforces prejudice. As an LGBT member of the Church of England I am a little envious of my US Episcopal counterparts because of the Episcopal Church's viewpoint on same-sex marriage. I did not find it difficult to reconcile Christianity with my sexuality. As a gay man, who was until a few years ago an atheist or an agnostic, I feel more empowered than ever with Christianity in my life. My faith drives me forward, reinforcing my identity. Celebrating my love for another man in church through a marriage ceremony is important to me. Despite the remarks in John Sentamu's recent letter to the Daily Telegraph, confirming the two archbishops' traditional viewpoint on same-sex marriage, I am hopeful that, with time, same-sex marriage will be endorsed by the Church of England. The YouGov poll following the conference showed that the majority of Church of England Christians now approve of same-sex marriage. We will continue to fight for this important change.
It was an emotional moment when I made my pilgrimage to Canterbury. I was awed by the beauty of Canterbury and overwhelmed with a sense of faith and purpose. I am at home within the Church of England. I want all LGBT people to feel the same.