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.”