The recent report in the Church Times, that a delegation headed by the leader of Changing Attitude in Nigeria is leading a campaign to prevent that country hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014, illustrates why Bishop John Gladwin will not have the confidence of many people in his diocese whilst he continues to be patron of that organisation.
The report states that Davis MacIyalla has recently been on a tour of the United States and the UK “as part of the listening process recommended by the Windsor report”. Bishop Gladwin also likes to regard his patronage as 'part of the listening process', and of course there is nothing wrong with listening. However, this latest action, irregardless of how one regards Nigeria's policy towards gay people, shows (as people have been arguing in Chelmsford since before Bishop Gladwin's arrival) that Changing Attitude is a campaigning group with a clear and specific agenda to change the Church of England's teaching.
The action MacIyalla and others are urging is clearly intended to punish Nigeria, and is also directly linked to the stance of the Church of Nigeria. Far from distancing itself from this approach and urging 'listening', it seems that Changing Attitude in Nigeria is at the forefront. And, of course, Davis MacIyalla has the full support and encouragement of Changing Attitude in England, as can be seen from their website.
Bishop Gladwin must realise, not least from the ongoing tension over the ordination of a Chelmsford candidate for the diaconate, that for his name to appear on the list of patrons of Changing Attitude simply makes it impossible for him to be regarded as himself a 'listener'. On the contrary, it sends signals that he is a supporter of campaigners. Whilst that is the case, he leads a divided diocese where he is seen as siding with those whose ideas and actions oppose precisely the teaching which not just Archbishop Akinola but the Church of England in England endorses.
A gracious acknowledgement that this patronage is an error of judgement would substantially improve confidence within the Diocese of Chelmsford that Bishop Gladwin is indeed prepared to listen. Now would be a good time, given this recent news, to take the appropriate steps.
Revd John P Richardson
10 August 2007
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