The estimable, hardworking Rev. Richard Kirker, the much-respected chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), says his farewells today. He's officially stepping down from his post, and marked the occasion with an interview on Radio 4's Sunday programme this morning.
It's not a reflection on Kirker's work, I'm sure, that there's still a lot of homophobia in the Church. But it comes as no surprise to those who keep an eye on such things.
Kirker has fought for acceptance of gays in the church for thirty years, and his input and influence will be missed by Christians and nonbelievers alike, since he has admirers on both sides of that divide.
According to an article by Martin Revis published in May by the Ekklesia religious think tank, Kirker "believes that if the worldwide Anglican communion separates over homosexuality, the onus of responsibility will fall upon 'those who walked away' ".
"If we are in any way held responsible for a schism," says Kirker, "then so be it. But I think the onus should be on those who choose to walk apart. We have never asked those who disagree with us to leave the church."
Kirker, who is officially to hand over the role of the movement's chief executive to the Rev. Sharon Ferguson today, said, "If there is some sort of schism or temporary separation, then it will be a healthy reflection of reality, and the truthfulness of what we have been saying will emerge without any reasonable doubt. It would only show up in stark relief the reality of what we have been saying all along, that the church is a place of much homophobia."
In a recent New Statesman interview, cited in Ekklesia's article, Kirker said, "Life for gay priests is immeasurably worse than when I started doing this job, because of the obsessive scrutiny of those who hate us. Many people have given up the fight and left the priesthood [. . .] It is now official policy to ensure that gay people who don't give a commitment to celibacy are not selected for ordination."
I've just been chatting to George Broadhead, who, as well as being a co-blogger here on Pink Triangle, is a vice-president of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association and secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust.
"I admire Richard for his trenchant criticism of his Church's ongoing homophobia," he told me, "and his sterling leadership of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, but when interviewed on Radio 4's Sunday this morning he had to acknowledge that most gay Anglican clergy remained as closeted as when LGCM was founded. This is not a sign of great progress."
With the Lambeth Conference not long behind us, one's reminded of the previous one, ten years ago, when one of the nutty African bishops tried to exorcise evil spirits from a campaigning Kirker, believing that, as a gay man, they were residing in him.
Laughable? Yes, until you stop and ponder how these fruitcakes wield a lot of influence, over governments, people, other organisations. That makes them very dangerous.
But back to LGCM. Ferguson is not exactly new to the post she takes on today, in that she's been working alongside Kirker for the past year or so. She's taking on a tough job, and we all wish her well.