A leading consultant with Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England’s conservative and traditionalist wing, has called for a boycott of the UK’s Christian version of Woodstock, the mega Greenbelt arts festival, which takes place in August.
Dr Lisa Nolland, apparently speaking on behalf of Anglican Mainstream, is calling on Christians to stay away in protest at the decision by the festival organisers to host a speech by gay-rights and human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Last year, Anglican Mainstream demanded a boycott of Greenbelt, which takes place in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, after it invited the gay US bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as a guest speaker.
According to the Church of England Newspaper, Ms Nolland says that inviting Tatchell will put more children at risk of sexual abuse.
“The suggestion that my guest lecture at Greenbelt will leave children vulnerable to sexual abuse is a sordid slur, unworthy of a Christian,” said Tatchell, who has previously spoken at Greenbelt and, he says, has received an overwhelmingly “warm and positive reception” from the packed out religious audience.
“My Greenbelt talk is not about teen sexuality, sex education or the age of consent. It is about the persecution of gay people in Africa, much of which is being orchestrated by Christian evangelicals who share Anglican Mainstream’s fundamentalist interpretation of scripture.
“I will be highlighting rising homophobic victimisation and praising the inspiring defence of gay human rights by African Christian leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Christopher Senyonjo of Uganda, who has been hounded and cast out by the Anglican Church of Uganda.
“Dr Nolland is bearing false witness. Her claims are partial, selective and distorted. Anglican Mainstream is colluding with her misrepresentations by giving them a platform on its website.
“Does she want me censored and banned by Greenbelt? It seems like an attack on freedom of speech. I am happy to debate with anyone from Anglican Mainstream. I await their invitation.
“Her account of my beliefs and campaigns is one-sided, biased and unbalanced.
“She has ignored totally my human rights work on global poverty, disarmament and anti-racism, and my support for the democratic struggles in Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, Russia, Balochistan and Uganda. She doesn’t mention a word about how I have condemned the persecution of Christians in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and opposed the prosecution of homophobic street preachers like Harry Hammond, Shawn Holes and Dale McApline.
“Lisa Nolland presents a selective and distorted account of my essay on sex education. She has neglected to mention my advocacy of a sexual moral framework of mutual consent, respect and fulfilment, and my proposals to help protect young people against sex abuse.”
Tatchell says the comments from Christian Mainstream are not all bad news: “I would like to thank Anglican Mainstream for helping stir extra interest in Greenbelt; resulting in more people now planning to attend this year’s festival because of the controversy over my invitation.”
Nolland’s posting on the Anglican Mainstream website, reiterates her opposition to Tatchell’s being an invited speaker at Greenbelt and concludes with this comment: “Would a committed racist, pimp or Moslem with four wives and twenty-one children be put in the 2010 Greenbelt line-up if their poetry or art was unexcelled or their science was solving the problem of world hunger?”