Bishop supports gay rights

“There is almost nothing in the Bible about this.”

Bishop Alan Wilson

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.

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  1. As the article reports, the conference was mostly an academic exercise relevant to exceptions to heterosexual lifestyles. The format was an excellent one because it allowed several speakers to present papers on similar topics, and then the audience to respond, challenge or ask questions about the presented positions.

    Sadly, though invited by conference organizers, church and government leaders chose to stay away from the conference. Once wonders why the refusal to listen, challenge, comment, and perhaps, maybe learn something. After all these same individuals claim to be the most learned in our community.

    One individual purporting to be an employee of the Immigration Department rose to state while having no problem with gay people per se , he would never support changing the Cayman Constitution or any laws to provide privileges to gay individuals. This was in apparent reference to a legal issue recently in the news relating to acknowledging same sex marriage in Cayman. Unfortunately, his apparent lack of knowledge caused him to misunderstand the nature of the case he referred to. That case, relates administering existing laws of the Cayman Islands equally, and does request extending special privilege to any one class (gay and lesbian people in this instance) much the say way current law does not exclude red headed people, or people over traditional child bearing age from marriage.

    I do believe the conference was worthy of attendance, as even I as a gay man who came of age during the 60’s and 70’s learned a lot about human sexuality and its complexities. It was also interesting to learn more about the Caymanian culture, and perceptions of the church both on the island, in the Caribbean in general. However, I think the most telling thing I learned was religious teaching can and do have unintended consequences. The unfortunate massacre in Orlando over the weekend was a prime example of how hate taught by church and family can cause the weak, and mentally unstable to over-react when confronted by feelings and desires that they have been taught to repel and fear in order to stave off the wrath of God.

  2. It is sad that no more people showed up, indeed. Everyday we were 20+ people in the hall, at any time, but not the same every time. That means that attendees were free to listen to some of the presentations, without having to commit in attending the whole length of the conference.

    I went without any particular expectation, just curiosity and eagerness to learn what could be presented. The meeting exceeded my expectations, and I tip my hat to the organisers. It was intellectually challenging, due to the academic rigor of the presentations; and strenuous, due to the fact that on both Saturday and Sunday it went from 0900 to 1700 hours.

    Of particular interest was the presence as attendee of a local lady, Caymanian, profoundly religious, who made a very sound statement in regards of why, if the message of Jesus is a message of love, groups and churches can misinterpret it as an excuse for hatred of those who are different. I took a video of one of her vivid, warm and personable interventions, and I should render and upload it to my Youtube channel soon. There is a picture of her in my blog.

    On this latter topic, if anybody wants to read the notes I took during the symposium, I made them available in my blog, (if the link gets corrupted, just Google my name and the name of my blog, “On chance and necessity”, and you’ll find them).

    I must state that no bullying, harassment, picketing or any other unwanted attention was placed on the conference itself or on the attendees and presenters. Safety, thus, was never a concern. You can say anything about how conservative the Cayman Islands are, but never that intolerance is a societal attitude.

  3. Mr. Barnett
    I’ve noted your kind comments on my views on the PR/CS issues and I thank you for them.
    You are an intelligent and articulate apologist for your chosen lifestyle but that does not necessarily convince those who do not agree with you, that you are right.

    And, in this case, I am one of them.

    Leaving out the fact that I am as ‘straight’ a heterosexual male as you will ever encounter, I believe your reasoning that the immigration case under consideration and which led to this conference is just ‘applying the existing rules in place equally’ is wrong.
    The 2009 Constitutional debate , in which I had considerable published input, was a very contentious one, in which the human rights and religious cultures of the Cayman Islands was seriously challenged and re-defined, against the wishes of some of the more ‘traditionalits’ amongst us.

    The compromise that was reached was that as Cayman was forced to accept all the statutes of the ECHR, the definition of marriage would remain the traditional one of that between a man and woman…this compromise was not reached easily or frivously.

    It was also a clear indication of the intelligence and foresight of the local leaders who reached this compromise in anticipation and preparation for the on-slaught of forcing change on this society to accept a change in our culture and laws that would seek to re-define the meaning of marriage in our country.
    As you can clearly see, they were correct.

    In seeking to apply the immigration law on work permits to include same-sex partners, what is being attempted is to sneak same-sex unions into the Cayman Islands through the ‘back-door’ and set precedent for legal challenges to that Constitutional law defining marriage.
    Don’t for a second believe that anyone is stupid enough to not see that.
    Or weak enough to not dig in their heels and fight sternly for what they believe in.

  4. Mr Tatum, I laughed at this phrase of yours: “Leaving out the fact that I am as ‘straight’ a heterosexual male as you will ever encounter”. It’s funny because you attempt to make it a throwaway phrase in your argument by preceding the assertion with “leaving out the fact” even though you didn’t leave it out. It’s even more humorous because it’s usually those who actually aren’t as straight as they would like us to believe who make such strong assertions to the contrary. I don’t know you and don’t really care to but just thought your choice of wording was interesting. Good day.

  5. Mr. Walser

    I was responding to Mr. Barnett…a self-admitted gay or homosexual man who’s not ashamed of his sexuality or lifestyle…and neither should he be; we all need to be comfortable with ourselves and our choices

    I simply put the statement in my comments to show pride in my own chosen way of life but to make it clear that that is not the basis of my comments.

    Neither is the religious position the basis of my comments either.

    This entire argument hinges on a legal issue and regardless of how many educational and debate forums are held in Cayman on the subject…any challenges to the law must come in a legal context.

    There is no discrimmination against homosexual people in Cayman; they enjoy the same rights and privileges as everyone else.

    And no one is going around here ‘gay-bashing’ or worse, as happens regularly in some other countries that are reputed to be more liberal.

    The people of the Cayman Islands have a right to keep their views and laws on marriage as they would like them to be…and the people of alternative lifestyles should respect that as well.

  6. It appears to me as though this series of comments has veered off-course from the subject of the article. The Right Reverend Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, speech in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples during the recent “Queering Paradigms” conference, held here this past weekend.

    In my final words about this article, I will digress as well with apologies to the article’s author.

    This comment is more of a response to previous comments (above) and is to all of those who have been reading this interesting dialog. And, I mean everyone who considers GLBT to be a lifestyle or choice.

    It most certainly is NOT a choice! It is no more a choice to be gay (as in my case) than it is a choice of others to be straight. It is no more a choice to be gay than it is a choice to be born Russian, British, Greek, Caymanian, Jamaican or whatever. It is what it is. It’s rather insulting actually. One would never consider another person has chosen to be blind or have only one leg, for example, to have chosen the “lifestyle” of a disabled person.

    Do you actually think that people wake up one day and say, “Gee, I think I’d like to spend my life as a gay person”? Do you really think that anyone would chose to be ostracized from many in society including their parents, siblings, peripheral family, co-workers and neighbors? Do you think anyone would choose to have their homes vandalized, their cars set on fire, Christmas decorations destroyed and painted with homophobic grafitti, or fear losing their job due to homophobia? Well, I am here to tell you they would not. I am very comfortable with who I am, have had an incredible life and a loving husband whom I would not trade for anything.

    I simply encourage those who are informed, understanding, and accepting in general of LGBT people consider, and then accept the premise that God has made us all in his image. To accept we are all part of his grand design and honor his plan; embrace it and all its parts, peoples, and yes, even challenges. If you do, we will all be better off as a society.