Equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is a “religious imperative,” according to a British bishop who visited the Cayman Islands this week.
The Right Reverend Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, spoke in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples during the “Queering Paradigms” conference, an annual international forum on LGBT issues, held this year in the Cayman Islands.
The bishop told the Cayman Compass that he believes most Christians are compassionate people who support equal rights. He said it is church leaders, rather than their congregations, who are the biggest obstacle to progress.
“The fact is, there is almost nothing in the Bible about this,” he said. “There are five verses out of 32,000. You can pick out sound bites from the Bible to validate almost any point of view. We have to learn how to read the Bible more carefully.”
He said the message of the Bible, and of Jesus’s teachings, in particular, is of tolerance and compassion, and “love they neighbor as thyself.”
Bishop Wilson, who also met with some local pastors during his visit, said evangelical Christians have been on the right side of history in almost every debate about freedom, from slavery to human trafficking.
“When it comes to LGBT liberation, evangelical Christians have often been part of the problem, not the solution. I am interested in how that can change,” he said.
As in the Cayman Islands, the church in the U.K. has been resistant to change on the issue of human rights for people of different sexual orientation.
“Many of my colleagues are very anxious about this whole area,” he said. “They think it is dangerous. They think it is explosive, and they want to play safe.”
But, he cautioned, “it is not going to go away by being angry about it.”
He said the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage is not grounded in the teachings of Jesus.
“There is a difference between religious organizations and faith. Jesus was more interested in faith than he was in religious organizations,” he said.
“The crisis is among church leaders and not among ordinary Christians who are usually patient, tolerant people, who want to love thy neighbor as they love thyself.
The “Queering Paradigms” conference, held over the weekend at the Chamber of Commerce offices, also heard from Caribbean anti-homophobia activist Maurice Tomlinson, as well as local panelists, who discussed the issues facing the Cayman Islands.
Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni, judge at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, gave a talk about the criminal prosecution of sexual orientation and its effect on the mental health of a society.
The event also featured a screening of “The Abominable Crime,” a documentary that explores the culture of homophobia in Jamaica through the eyes of gay Jamaicans who are forced to choose between their homeland and their lives after their sexual orientation is exposed.