Cyberspace Peter Linford
FEW THINGS make such easy copy as Christians confronting the problem of homosexuality. It was no surprise, then, that the Nugent-Gramick affair got such good coverage, even if it took a day or two for the secular media to pick it up.
The Vatican Information Service published an edited version of the Vatican's declaration on its site at www. vatican.valnews serviceslpr ess/vis/englinde.html#star. The Zenit news agency (www. zenit.org/) published the statement in full and issued it by e-mail.
In the meantime Fr Robert Nugent posted his lengthy response to the Vatican's decision on New Ways Ministry's gorgeous website at http:// members.aol.com/ newways/ However, neither side did much in the way of debating the doctrinal issues and anyone who did not know the background to the affair would be forgiven for thinking that the Vatican was behaving like the Inquisition and that Fr Nugent was a petulant schoolboy. It would be churlish to criticise the Vatican for its style on what is, after all, a collection of press releases, but when an AltaVista search for "homosexuality +christianitv" turns up nearly 60,000 hits a little bit of guidance on what is rot and what is not might not go amiss. In Britain there are two principle players. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has fought the gay fight within the Church of England for over 20 years and also has a solid and active Catholic caucus. Its website is at http:// members.aol.com/lgcm./. Its slightly older Roman Catholic counterpart, Quest, can be found at www. quest.dircon.co.uk/. Another Catholic group, EnCourage, does not at present have a website but is considering one, and in the meantime points to the website of its US parent organisation, Courage, at http://world.std. corn/courage/.
The difference in style between the Anglican and Catholic gay websites is marked. LGCM is full-on, forthright, unapologetic and, touchingly enough, pink. Quest, meanwhile, is a neutral cyan. Neutrality is the key, here, for Quest does not present itself as a campaigning organisation at all, whereas LGCM declares that "it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship".
Quest, much more cautiously, "provides opportunities for better understanding of faith in every dimension of sexuality and life so that lesbians and gay men may contribute more confidently and fully to the fellowship of the Church". The whole tone of Quest's website is of conciliation and even apology, with only a statement on the decision to exclude them from the Catholic Directory coming close to passion. LGCM on the other hand is vigorous, forthright and makes no concessions.
It attempts to debunk the traditional understanding of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, seeing it as condemning gang rape and poor hospitality rather than homosexuality. It offers to provide contact with clergy willing to perform services of blessing for same-sex couples and gives contact details for bishops in the House of Lords, inviting people to lobby them.
Meanwhile, Quest contents itself with efforts "in accordance with official pastoral guidelines, to increase [homosexuals'] spiritual and social well-being". It is much less combative and seeks to work with, rather than against, the Church.
Part of the reason for this may be that, in spite of its longer standing, Quest has yet to achieve the level of contention within the Catholic Church that LGCM has achieved in the Church of England.
LGCM is hardly part of the Church establishment, but it has achieved a profile and a significance that made last years' Lambeth Conference declaration a bitter disappointment to it.