I got into a lot of hot water the last time I mentioned the "H" word (Homophobia). I even created work for that hard-working cleric, the bishop's chaplain - sorry about that! But as it is back in the news, I can't stop myself from adding a further thought or two.
The Bishop of Gloucester - the only diocesan bishop who is a member of the "Pilling Group" has spoken in advance of the publication of the group's report, and has said "homosexuals must realise that the Church is not homophobic." Despite his welcome admission that "the Church has not treated the gay, lesbian, and transgender community well," his assertion still has a very hollow, false ring to it.
Let me try a different question.
Is the Church racist?
Honestly, I would have difficulty answering that question. I am white British, so I'm not the person to ask. If I wanted to know the answer to that question, I would need to ask one of the many ethnic minority members of our church. And if they tell me the church is not racist, I would be wise to believe them. But if they told me that the church is racist, I would need to find out what we can do to stamp out the racism in our church.
So, when I hear significant numbers of the LGBT minority within the Church of England state categorically that the church is not homophobic I will begin to believe it is true. When Jeffrey John says the church is not homophobic, I will believe him. But I don't believe the Bishop of Gloucester, however often he may say it.
I'm sorry, Bishop Michael, but have you really heard what people have been saying to you? (And if not, what on earth was the point of the exercise?) While people are excluded from their church because they have a same sex partner; while the ministry of openly LGBT clergy is not permitted in certain dioceses, and while people are denied positions of seniority within the church because of their sexuality - the church will remain homophobic.
If (and I really hope this might happen in my lifetime) the church wishes to be really serious about caring for its LGBT members, its archbishops and bishops need to ask us the question, "What can we do to stamp out the homophobia you see in the church?"
I hope we would have the courage to tell them "the truth in love."
Perhaps then we might get somewhere.