Thursday, 9 April 2009

Bishop says faith schools must tackle homophobic bullying

The Bishop of Manchester, Nigel McCulloch, has sent a message of support to the Exceeding Expectations Initiative, which is a project in Manchester aimed at tackling homophobic bullying in schools. Here is the full text of his statement:

“Bullying, of whatever kind, is always completely unacceptable. At its worst it leads to atrocities such as the Nazis’ persecution and extermination of people on the grounds of their race, religion or sexuality.

That is why faith schools must, as many do, lead the way in combating bullying – and not least the bullying of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, be they young or old.

I am very sad about the homophobic attitudes of some people. The exclusion, intolerance, prejudice, hatred and fear that homophobia feeds must be eradicated from our society – as I have strongly and publicly said on many occasions.

It is vital that the Church does as much as possible to keep dialogue going between all God’s people. That means everyone – whoever, whatever, wherever we are - including of course the gay community.

So much that goes wrong in our sad and divided world is because we do not listen or try to understand each other. Bullies never want to listen or understand – and so, in the end, damage themselves and their own quality of life.

Unfortunately, in the process, all of us who belong to a society in which bullies are allowed to flourish become sufferers. And, as projects such as Exceeding Expectations have shown, in its efforts to get rid of homophobic bullying in our schools, the children who are bullied can be deeply scarred for life.

That is why school staff should know how to challenge homophobic remarks – including the use of the word “gay” as a term of abuse. Teachers may need specific advice about this aspect of their role, because it is their job to affirm all pupils. That includes gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils, who, like everyone else, have a right to be themselves without being bullied.

One of the blessings that I frequently use at the end of worship includes the important command: “honour all people”. That is fundamental to the Christian faith. That is why Church schools – and schools of other faiths too – should always be places that encourage a climate of honour and respect.

Of course, as everyone realises, not everyone agrees about homosexuality. But that can never become an excuse for bullying.

I urge all faith schools to make sure that every pupil is fully included as part of the school community and encouraged in his or her studies. Each of us is made in God’s own image; and every one of us is precious to God. That should be the motivation of all our faith schools: to honour all people, including those who identify themselves as lesbian and gay.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 1:17pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

A very important message to be sending out. It is so needed. Then people will need support to think it through thoroughly, face their (& others) demons, and implement it. Implementation is never straightforward.

('"this kind goeth not forth save by prayer and fasting" ', Jesus)

Maybe other bishops, deans religious order heads, and the Synods will take it up too. And take into every level of our communities.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 1:54pm BST

This is the same bishop who suddenly decided to overrule all the plans for LGCM's conference worship in Manchester Cathedral five years ago ......

Ah well I'm sure we can believe all he says ....

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 2:52pm BST

It certainly does need to be said, and often. That's the meaning of the repeated official Church statements deploring the mistreatment of gay people, regardless of the theology used to understand homosexuality. This gives an indication that these are not just hollow words after all. But how useful is it? I mean, I don't think faith schools are dressing kids up in T-shirts declaring homosexuality to be "unEuropean" or some such, faith schools aren't agitating for the imprisonment of gay people, or declaring that we are not made by God, at least for the most part. So, while reducing or eliminating homophobia in schools is a good thing, might it not be better to allocate at least some resources to opposing Church leaders who have walked a good deal further down the path that "leads to atrocities" than any faith schools in England have done? And perhaps confront those conservatives in our own backyards who seem to think that the oppression of gay people in other parts of the world is culturally justified, as has been suggested by some, even here.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 3:10pm BST

Here is a current news story from the U.S. that illustrates graphically the importance of the bullying issue:

Mom says Springfield boy, 11, who committed suicide was repeatedly bullied at school

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/mom_says_springfield_boy_11_wh.html?category=Deaths&category=Education&category=Springfield

Posted by: JPM on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 6:15pm BST

"The exclusion, intolerance, prejudice, hatred and fear that homophobia feeds must be eradicated from our society – as I have strongly and publicly said on many occasions."

Great words: does the Diocese of Manchester follow non-discriminatory employment policies with regard to its clergy, then? The "don't ask, don't tell policy" which seems to currently obtain throughout the C of E serves to maintain a culture of exclusion and fear, of course...

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 6:41pm BST

Many public [tax-payer supported and open for free to students living in its school district, eg, a town, a county] high schools have student-initiated gay/straight alliances, just as they have stamp clubs etc. The purpose is to give gay students 'safe space.' In many parts of the country, this is a safe place for students who cannot talk about sexuality issues at home or at church to explore their self-understanding. If you are interested, google "gay-straight alliance."

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 7:44pm BST

Tell all that to Akinola (as a start).

Posted by: Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) on Thursday, 9 April 2009 at 9:27pm BST

But why should schools honour people who identify as lesbian and gay - when their sponsoring church refuses to honour their loving relationships and their vocations to the ordained ministry

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 10 April 2009 at 12:55am BST

The Church of England is the market leader in homophobic bullying in this country. It has institutionalised oppression of homosexuals. Why should the children in its schools not follow this lead?

Posted by: toby forward on Friday, 10 April 2009 at 9:23am BST

Bishop Nigel states a truth that needs to be heard - not least by the officials of the Church. A sea-change is need in attitudes towards the
LGBT community that actually exists within the Christian fold - hitherto anonymous and silent because of the entrenched opposition of many of the clergy. A first step might be to acknowledge the incidence of LGBT people who are actually in the ranks of the clergy - but until the Church is honest about this reality, there can be no progress amongst the laity who are ignorant on matters of human sexuality and preference. Our theological colleges need to come to terms with the world as it is - not as it was in the first century A.D.

One of the real problems is that, so far, there has been no movement towards the acceptance of the scientific discoveries that have been made to date on the issue of gender and sexuality, when compared with the archaic treatment of these matters in the Bible. Until the Church actively promotes and encourages a more up-to-date method of hermeneutical studies surrounding these very important subjects - relating them to the reality of the present day - there can be no progress, and bullying of one sort or another will continue to trouble the lives of many practicing Christian disciples. The Church needs to lead - not just to follow - in the battle against the scourges of homophobia and misogyny in the Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 10 April 2009 at 11:05am BST

I think the Catholic Church has got the balance right... we are opposed to homosexuality but love the people and belive that they should not be treated unfaitrly and unkind terms like, queer, poof etc

Interesingly as a teacher I have had homophobic remarks shouted at me as a teacher. It is quite a common experience for teachers, whatever their sexuality.

There are three things I will not tolerate in my classroom..children taking God's name in vein, homphobic and racist langauage.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 11 April 2009 at 8:55am BST

By the way the Bishop of Manchester is married to a woman priest..so I wonder how he can revise St Paul in one area and not in another.

By the way I should have said in my previous post....take the Lord's name in vain, not vein!

Sorry for the typos.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 11 April 2009 at 1:56pm BST

"I think the Catholic Church has got the balance right... we are opposed to homosexuality but love the people and belive that they should not be treated unfaitrly and unkind terms like, queer, poof etc"

So, we can be said to "get the balance right" if we come out with these high sounding pronouncements while showing by our behaviour that we don't even know what those statements mean, let alone have any understanding of the people about whom we are making them, or indeed, about sexuality in general? That's the "right balance"? Seriously? That really isn't all that different from GAFCON's "hate the sin, love the sinner" lie. Yet you seem to have poor thoughts of them, unless I misremember. Hmmm. I guess hypocrisy looks different on the other side of the Tiber.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 13 April 2009 at 5:35pm BST

I don't think Robert's stance is at all acceptable. The only acceptable position is full inclusion and affirmation.

And I do not believe religion should have any part in running education

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 14 April 2009 at 3:33am BST

"The only acceptable position is full inclusion and affirmation."

Acceptable to whom?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 14 April 2009 at 8:02pm BST

Yes I too find it vexed when/if I try to give the bishop credit where credit is due.

We know too much as modern, educated citizens and believers. A tipping point has emerged in the empirical studies published (mainly in the western democracies' peer reviewed journals) since World War II; a sufficient number of positive cultural alternatives have played out for a sufficient number of years in various countries around the world as people did something other than and more positive than the traditional negative views about queer folks.

The intellectually legitimate waffle room for citizens and believers to keep insisting, I just do not know, and to keep sitting on carefully parsed and balanced hermeneutic or discernment fences has slowly and surely narrowed, faded, crumbled.

One of the strongest vexations stems from our telling knowledge now, about the connections between various traditional negative religious views and methods and beliefs, and the deeper foundations for viewing queer folks as incompetent or inferior human beings, along with various traditional practices for intefering with them or punishing them in particular (in ways that categorically do not apply, if folks are straight).

Given the disappearing spaces for (A) pleading uncertainty and ignorance, plus (B) disavowing culpability while pledging traditional nasty religious negatives - I'd have to say in all honesty that the bishop is denying the considerable pickle in which mix and midst he de facto lives.

Either he has to allow that queer folks as are competent and equal as straight folks (based on the preponderance of available modern evidence, weighed by modern best practices of inquiry and discernment); or he believes something else, along with the whole baggage of trash talk and mistreatment that accompanies whatever else he pledges.

The bishop can still occupy his leeway to decide not to decide, to avoid studying or reading or looking or informing himself - that is his conscientious right. In such an instance, though, he can hardly claim credit from me as audience and citizen and believer for nothing but seeking to do the right and best thing. Too dodgy for awarding him that full credit.

Nor can he get much full credit from me as informed auditor, for defending the faith when he fails to weigh the flat earth aspects of the faith as it has traditionally and customarily been negatively applied to queer folks as neighbors.

Worst part about it? The bishop sounds not to have much a clue about the vexed parts. No wonder younger people just stopped listening.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 at 12:54am BST

"Acceptable to whom?"

To many of the 94% who don't go to church any longer?
To many of us who were once attracted to the message of a God who loves us, only to find that this love appears to be hugely conditional on being the right kind of person with the right kind of beliefs?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 at 9:28am BST

"To many of the 94% who don't go to church any longer?"

And they get to tell not just us, but God Himself, what's acceptable and what's not? Human beings get to say to God "Well, I can believe this, but not that, and I'm kind of dodgy on this, so I'll follow you, but only in the places where I agree with you"? The Church has to change Her teaching in response to that? All the same, I think it's more a reaction to the Church than to God. But it still seems to share some of the adolescent "You're not the boss of me" mentality. That is not to say we can't re-evaluate what we believe, just that it has to be done with great care, and with full recognition of the inappropriateness of this kind of attitude. My problem with much of the trends in the modern Church is that we are NOT taking that kind of care. In that I'm with the conservatives. I just happen to believe God knows what He's doing.

"To many of us who were once attracted to the message of a God who loves us, only to find that this love appears to be hugely conditional on being the right kind of person with the right kind of beliefs?"

Erika, I know you don't seriously believe that God's love is conditional as you describe. If, as I suspect, your experience has been that some in the Church have told you that, that's a different matter entirely. They aren't God. God loves you unconditionally, and no conservative, no Anglo-catholic, no African prelate courting peace with conservative Islamists, no-one, can honestly claim otherwise. So we are down to the issue that they DO do this. What odds? They'll stand before the Throne like you will, and make answer for that. By virtue of being clergy charged with leading the Flock, the consequences of misleading that flock are high.

"whenever the devil, or ignorant preachers, or superstitious books, make you afraid, and tempt you to fancy that God hates you, and watches to catch you tripping, take refuge in that blessed Name, and say, 'Satan, I defy thee; for the Almighty God of Heaven is my Father.'" - - Charles Kingsley"


Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 at 3:50pm BST

"And they get to tell not just us, but God Himself, what's acceptable and what's not?"

Well, the difficulty is to know what is acceptable to God. And ultimately, it's a matter of faith not of doctrine.
The RC church can have as many infallibility statements as it likes about women not being able to be priests and about homosexuals being deviants.
I just "know" as much as I know anything about God that this is wrong.
I cannot make myself believe that they're right just because they say so.
Nor can I make myself believe that the Anglican Communion is right where it takes the same stances.
You may find its discernment processes too fast, I only see people who use theology to support their human prejudices.

"Erika, I know you don't seriously believe that God's love is conditional as you describe."

Exactly.
And so people keep God in their lives but walk away from the church. If that's arrogant, so be it. It is also hugely liberating, live giving and faith focused.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 16 April 2009 at 7:47am BST

"Exactly. And so people keep God in their lives but walk away from the church" - Erika -

Dear Erika, whatever you think about the hierarchy of the Church - Anglican - Roman Catholic or other - there is no way in which you should 'walk away'. As a child of God, baptised into his Son, Jesus Christ, you ARE THE CHURCH!
Your membership of the Church is perhaps all the more important because you are different. Saint Paul tells us that 'though many, we are all one body', infused by the same Holy Spirit through our common Baptism into Jesus.

So, can you walk away from yourself? No! Christ is in you, the hope of glory (cf Paul) and Christ cannot be divided; neither, pain nor persecution, death nor life, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Persecution can be painful - even more painful when it comes from within the Body of Christ - but not more painful than that separation which Jesus suffered from most of his dsiciples at the time of his death.

Stay with us, Erika. We need you. God needs you.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 17 April 2009 at 4:40am BST

Fr Ron,
you're wonderful, thank you!

The thread started out on a more impersonal basis when I butted in on a conversation that Ford and Merseymike were having.
But you're right to perceive that it is also personal.

I suppose it all depends on how you define "church". For me, it is the community of all believers, the real body of Christ. And no, I could never walk away from that!

On the other hand, just as I have deliberately chosen not to become a Roman Catholic, or a Baptist, so I feel entitled to walk away from another denomination that is increasingly damaging to my soul.

Unlike Ford, I do not believe that the organisation that calls itself the church is particularly favoured by God or the Spirit. There may be safety in a discernment process that is undertaken by a large group of Christians together, but it's clear to me that the Spirit often blows outside the church first and is accepted by it only grudgingly much later.

I see as much corruption and "secular" values within the church that are dressed up as theology, as I see egotism outside it dressed up as human rights.
Ultimately, we each have to do our own discernment and listen to that still small voice that speaks directly to every one of us.

I intend to spend the rest of my life listening to it and following it. Getting it wrong more often than right – just as I have always done.
But I do not believe I have to be part of organised religion to do that. The body of Christ is far broader than any single denomination.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 17 April 2009 at 9:49pm BST

"I just "know" as much as I know anything about God that this is wrong.
I cannot make myself believe that they're right just because they say so."

And you are right to "know" that, Erika. I also "know" that God loves me, and that will never change, no matter how many Akinolas tell me I am not even created by God. But that doesn't mean I have the right to demand that the Church accept what I "know" as God's truth. It isn't God's Truth, it's mine. I am just trying to work out my salvation in fear and trembling like everybody else. I won't "walk away" any more. I did that when I was 20, and all because I "knew" I was right and the Church was wrong. Guess what happened. After 18 years walking away, and feeling all liberated and everything, I found I needed God more than He needed me, and I came back to Church. Back to a Church that "got it" even less than it had when I stormed out in an early post-adolescent huff because, by God, I knew better than the rest of the Children of God did. I still feel much as I did, actually, that most of our leaders, especially in the West, simply don't "get it". I just happen to think God's in His Heaven, all's right with the World and I really have to learn that I am not, wonder of wonders, the repository of Absolute Truth. It's incredibly difficult for me to believe that last point, but I try:-) I also think that the Catholic strand of Christianity has preserved the most of what Jesus actually taught. I think that is far more likely than that a bunch of European men 1500 years after the fact could understand Christianity better than those who heard it directly from Jesus or His Apostles simply from reading poor translations of what was never intended to be the exact and full exposition of the Faith in the first place. They have read the User's Manual and from it constructed something they think is a computer. It isn't. That doesn't mean I think the Church gets it right in every instance. "We see as through a glass, darkly."

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 20 April 2009 at 8:15pm BST

Ford
"But that doesn't mean I have the right to demand that the Church accept what I "know" as God's truth. It isn't God's Truth, it's mine. I am just trying to work out my salvation in fear and trembling like everybody else"

I don't understand fear and trembling. With a God of love, there is none.

Well, if any truth you know to be true is only your truth, never God's truth, then what are you doing, trying to discern God in your life?
I think that if you and I and thousands of others "know" deep in our souls that being who we are is ok, and if there is a growing number of good theologians who can support this view theologically, then we are actually entitled to claim that we whe know is at least as much God's truth as what the other side is claiming.

"The church" is made up of all of us. And "the church" is in a slow, painstaking process of beginning to understand this new truth.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 April 2009 at 6:31am BST
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