|Bishop Vercoe Over the last week, two controversial opponents of lesbian and gay rights passed away in New Zealand and the United States. What can we gauge from comparative assessment of their respective lives?
First, let us turn to Whakahuihui Vercoe, who died in Rotorua aged eighty on Thursday. He was a controversial figure, for some good and some bad reasons. On the positive side, he opposed New Zealand/South African sporting links during the apartheid era, spoke out against increasing poverty and was a firm advocate of the rights of indigenous people. Unfortunately, due to his particular generational cohort, he held conservative ideas about the ordination of Anglican female bishops and role of homosexuality within western societies.
However, let's keep this in perspective. Bishop Vercoe was one voice within New Zealand Anglicanism, and Maori Anglicanism, for that matter. Hone Kaa has just as emphatically been a spokesperson for LGBT, takatapui and whakawahine inclusion within Maori Anglicanism, even taking on Brian Tamaki when the need arose. I suspect Vercoe is akin to secular African-American black nationalists in the United States in the sixties who expressed misogynist and homophobic views, angering African-American women, lesbians and gay men.
D. James Kennedy Let's contrast this with fundamentalist US Presbyterian D. James Kennedy, who also died this week. Few LGBT New Zealanders will have heard of Kennedy, who was a vitriolic opponent of LGBT inclusion within anti-discrimination laws and same sex marriage, although his book, What's Wrong With Same-Sex Marriage? materialised down here during the New Zealand Christian Right's campaign against civil unions in 2004-05. He was the worst sort of fundamentalist "court Christian" for whom the US Republican Party could do no wrong as long as it was trying to gut women's reproductive freedom and ban same-sex marriages and family formation. In return for the above, he kept quiet about mounting Republican ethical scandals in Washington, and wrote some pandering little booklets opposing climate change and acting as an apologist for Bush's hardcore New Right policies.
What can we conclude from this? Whakahuihui Vercoe was countered within his own Maori Anglican circles, as well as within New Zealand Anglicanism, almost straight after he had voiced antigay sentiments, while Kennedy was an active proponent of mendacities against LGBT rights, who thought nothing of using Paul Cameron's junk science and lies about us in his propaganda, knowing that it was deliberately deceptive, but using it in any case.
There are degrees of homophobia. We may frown at Whakahuihui Vercoe's attitudes, but he had no real power to enforce them, even within Maori Anglican circles. By contrast, Kennedy was a malignant and vitriolic antigay activist within the US Christian Right. It is possible to recall and celebrate what was otherwise good in Bishop Vercoe's life when it came to the rights of indigenous people. It is impossible to find anything similar within the mire of D. James Kennedy's life of bigotry and "court Christian" apologist for the US Republican Party. Craig Young - 14th September 2007