By Dr Phil Edwards-Anyone listening to the BBC Radio 4 “PM” programme on Saturday (January 5th) at 5.20 pm would have had a rare treat during a live and uncensored debate about homosexuals in the Church, and a glimpse of the farcical nature of the debate.
In one corner was lefty vicar, the Reverend Giles Fraser, parish priest at St Mary's, Newington, Elephant and Castle, London, Guardian writer and supporter of “Occupy London’s” presence at St Paul’s cathedral (and half Jewish by birth), and in the other, the divine Lynette Burrows, a British journalist, Broadcaster and family campaigner.
It all started off quietly with presenter Paddy O’Connell’s question “is the Church obsessed with sex – are Church leaders bewitched by the bedroom?” with reference to homosexual bishops and whether they would be acceptable were they to be celibate.
Fraser started the ball rolling by claiming that “we are probably all obsessed with sex” including bishops – mainly down to advertising and using sex to sell things!
Lynne Burrows countered with a very sensible point - “..it seems to me to be crazy to say that you can have homosexual bishops but they’ve got to be celibate, why are they called homosexuals then, why not drop the whole thing?” Then she went on “Since homosexuality, whether you like it or not, still scandalises people…I mean, you are talking about a human instinct, and there are two human instincts, the one homosexuals say they feel - an uncontrollable instinct with same sex attraction - and the instinct that people like me have, which is of revulsion to the whole subject of homosexuality – and you have got to take both into account”.
Paddy O’Connell immediately asked Lynne if her own instinct was uncontrollable which evinced the reply “No, it’s not uncontrollable in the sense that if someone says to me “I’m a homosexual” I immediately hit him upon the head-“
Paddy: “No, your straight, heterosexual inclination is that an uncontrollable instinct?”
Seeming to misunderstand the question Lynne gave the following, and no doubt unwelcome, reply: “Oh yes, I think so, I was surprised when I went to New York and you do see men kissing in bars, and it just turned my stomach-“
Paddy: “No, your attraction to men, is that uncontrollable?”
Lynne: “No, of course not, people have to have self restraint, there are an awful lot of terribly attractive men around, and you have to admire them, and like them, but of course you have to control your sexual instincts.”
By this time you could sense that Giles Fraser was getting worked up - “I don’t know where to begin with this…the word “revulsion”…I’m afraid you have to listen to yourself …that’s extremely awful language, and why do you think of sex all the time, this is part of the sex obsession, this is the way people love each other, this is the way people care for each other, it is about physical intimacy, and one of the things that you do with all that language of revulsion, which I think is down right immoral (all that language), you pathologies the way in which people love each other, and that’s what the Church has done, and that’s why what the Church is doing here is down right wicked-“ he gabbled.
Paddy: “This IS about sex, Giles Fraser, because it seemed to be implied that providing you don’t have it, you can be a bishop - so is the Church in the state, in the position, of policing the bedroom?”
Giles Fraser: “It’s absolute nonsense – how would you do it – I mean the Church’s line is crazy, you can be a “gay” bishop as long as you are not really “gay”, how will they ever tell, are they going to put CCTV in the bedroom, are they going to ask bishops to wear chastity belts, it’s completely nonsense, and the other nonsense is actually what constitutes “sex” here, I mean there’s a range of activity…I’d love to see the church of England coming out with a list of activities which are proscribed and are not, you know, is passionate kissing allowed?.... this is absolute nonsense…the Church has dug itself a hole because it can’t accept that actually this really is about love..”
Paddy: “Lynette, I feel you will agree with Giles Fraser but you are coming at it from a different position”
Lynette: “Well I do agree that it’s an absolute nonsense, that either the Church holds the line about it, and scripturally, actually, “revulsion” is quite a mild word compared to the “abomination” in the Bible, and I’m sure he doesn’t like it because he has put overtones on it, but that is the instinct I’m describing, and that’s the one that the homosexual lobby should be very careful of trying too hard to do away with because it will slap back and hit them in the ear I’m afraid”
Paddy: “In closing can I ask you to predict what’s going to happen?”
Lynne: “This issue will continue to fester….it will be terribly bad for homosexuals because every time one is invited to contemplate them, it’s in the context of controversy which can’t be good for their peace of mind or for anyone else”
Giles Fraser concluded by saying that of course, bishops WILL have sex, and they should lie about it! “If they are asked, I think they should lie, the whole situation is so unjust – if they are asked, it is perfectly morally justified for them to lie about it because it’s a form of resistance to oppression”.
Lynne: “I think that’s a perfect example of the kind of immorality we are talking about, the lying doesn’t matter, joining something you cannot possibly subscribe to or adhere to because you don’t hold that belief – go and start your own homosexual church if that’s what you feel about it – you are trying to subvert a whole institution with a couple of thousand years of history behind it simply because in the last ten minutes you have simply discovered something which you think is very wrong”
Giles Fraser, now almost apoplectic: “Well I’ve no idea what you’ve just said there…it’s so wrong, so egregious that people have a duty, a moral duty, to resist it”
Lynne: “The Christian church has a standard about it, if you become a priest or a bishop you should stick to it or leave”.
Back in 2006, Lynette Burrows contacted me when I was then the BNP National Press Officer, asking specifically for details about the truth or otherwise of claims in a rather poisonous article by one David Pryce-Jones accusing – quite wrongly - the BNP of violence in the riots in 2001.
I was grateful for putting the matter straight and her excellent article in the Human Rights Review of 2006 is well worth reading: