Can homophobia be so ingrained into an institution (or a society/culture) that most folks can’t/don’t even detect it happening?
Jayne Ozanne, an Evangelical Anglican in the Church of England (CoE), tackles the topic as she experiences it in the CoE. Jayne has been active in leadership positions in the CoE for a few decades. She was a founding member of the Archbishops’ Council on which she served from 1999 until 2004. She came out as a lesbian in FEB 2015 after trying to “pray away the gay” for a number of years, including two attempts to end her own life. Today she is again a member of the CoE General Synod and one of the chief campaigners for LGBTQ rights/rites in the CoE.
Jayne has penned an article for ViaMedia News, an online publication that she founded and edits. She quotes (emphasis is her’s) the definition of institutionalized racism provided by Lord William Macpherson during a Metropolitan Police investigation into the death of a Black man in the UK, Stephen Lawrence;
The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racial stereotyping.
Borrowing from that, Jayne believes that is also the precise definition of institutionalized homophobia;
The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their sexuality. It can be detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and stereotyping.
Using that definition, Jayne made an inquiry in the FEB 2017 meeting of the CoE General Synod as to why no LGBTQ folks were part of the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Human Sexuality. She asked the chair of the group, the Rt Revd Graham James, “Was it unwitting prejudice, ignorance or thoughtlessness that led to no co-opted LGBT member on the bishops’ working party?”
She believes the same question can be asked of the Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales, regarding the dismissal of Jeffrey John as the possible next Bishop of Llandaff, “Was it unwitting prejudice, ignorance or thoughtlessness that left unchecked the reported homophobic comments of the perceived negative impact of appointing Jeffrey John as the next Bishop of Llandaff?”
Institutionalized homophobia appears to be so ingrained in the institutions of the Church, whether the CoE, the Episcopal Church or every other sect and denomination in the world, that the leadership and rank and file membership are still deaf & blind to its existence. Jayne unequivocally states (emphasis mine), “So let me be crystal clear – any teaching that undermines the intrinsic equal worth of LGBTI people is homophobic. Any theology that teaches that LGBTI couples in committed same-sex relationships are immoral is homophobic. Any practice that bars LGBTI Christians from serving in their church is homophobic.”