Seven members of the gay rights group OutRage! staged a silent protest “against Anglican support for antigay discrimination” during Morning Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral today at 11 a.m.. The protest was directed at 60 leading Anglican primates from around the world, who were attending the service whilst in London for a fortnight to plan the 1998 Lambeth Conference.
Ten minutes after the service began, gay campaigners walked up to the altar of the cathedral and held up placards with the words:
“Lambeth 1998 Must Support Gay Equality”,
“Drop Church Ban on Gay Parents”,
and “Stop Sacking Gay Clergy”.
They knelt down in front of the altar in silence as the Provost and Verger attempted to remonstrate with them. After five minutes, Alastair Williams of OutRage! stood up and told the congregation that it was time the Anglican Church embraced homosexual equality. All the protesters then filed slowly out of the cathedral via the central nave.
“We are appalled by Anglican endorsement of discrimination against gay people and by the bishops’ refusal to put homosexual human rights on the agenda of the 1998 Lambeth Conference”, said Mr. Williams. “We want the Church to renounce its homophobia and the Lambeth Conference to give its backing to gay equality.
“The Anglican Church speaks out against racism: but it is shamefully silent about the worldwide violation of gay civil rights. The 1998 international conference must not ignore the prejudice and discrimination that blight the lives of lesbians and gay men.
“The Church of England actively discriminates against homosexuals. Clergy in loving gay relationships live in fear of dismissal. Bishops in the House of Lords refuse to vote for an equal age of consent for gay men. And the Church of England Children’s Society bans gay foster carers”, said Mr. Williams.
The Very Rev. Colin Slee said afterwards that he was “saddened” that the protesters had felt it necessary to interrupt an act of worship. “By disturbing worship in this way they are in danger of losing the understanding and sympathy of people who might otherwise listen.”
Within a week of this protest, the organisers of the Lambeth Conference wrote to the Church Times, announcing that homosexual issues will be on next year’s agenda. — Proof that direct action works!