on Wednesday, 4 August 2021 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Radical Christian Inclusion – a definition
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The ‘morale’ factor. Senior church staff and their support of clergy
I love what Colin has written. The UK has gay adopters, same gender marriage, rights enshrined under the equality law for lgbtq people. As an lgbtq person I am happily out at work, to friends, in my social and campaigning circles. It’s years (and decades in some cases) since I faced homophobia and biphobia in most of these places. But step into a church of England church, to practise my faith- and I am immediately at risk. I am treated as less-than, and I have yet to experience a truly safe C of E church. The C of E is… Read more »
Sadly you can never experience a ‘safe’ CofE church because the bishops actively petitioned Parliament to be exempt from huge swathes of equality legislation and were triumphal when they succeeded. So at any point in what feels like a relatively safe church, a bishop, a cleric or a lay person can say the most dreadfully homophobic things with impunity. As we’ve seen in the London diocese recently, if you call out homophobia it is likely you who will find yourself on a CDM if you’re ordained or facing censure if you’re not. Meanwhile those who indulged in homophobic tittle tattle… Read more »
In active ministry it often felt that I was being led by General Melchett, Captains Blackadder and Darling, and Lieutenant George. As Stephen Parsons outlines in parish ministry you mostly encounter bossy Lance Corporals from diocesan house stolidly advancing the diocesan line.
Radical Inclusion starts with grassroots communities and their values. Any PCC in the land could publish a statement of radical inclusion on their church website or social media pages. They could agree to vote to publicly affirm gay and lesbian marriages, even if the priest is constrained from doing so. And going on from there to the next logical step, I’d encourage about 500 church communities in the Church of England who are supportive of gay relationships: to network collectively, to set a date, and inform ABC that from a given date, their priests, their communities, everyone will join in… Read more »
I think you are on to something here, Susannah. Just as con-evo churches like St Helen’s Bishopgate have put out statements, there is nothing I can see which prevents a PCC from putting out a statement saying that they recognise and affirm same sex marriages and gender role reassignment. Priests might be under restrictions, but PCCs are not. Maybe Changing Attitudes could draft a declaration for PCCs to adopt and publish. Yes, it falls short of radical Christian inclusion, but it would be a good first step – so long as it is presented as a first step with formal… Read more »
Thanks Kate. I expect Colin and representatives of other Inclusive organisations may read this and could work on it. I see PCC public statements on local church websites and social media as a bridgehead, that should not lead to sanctions against the priest/minister. (I have compiled an email list of 500 gay-affirming Church of England churches.) I think the key thing is to operate collectively. Individuals tend to get picked off by church authorities. Hundreds of churches operating parallel actions together… may ‘focus’ the minds of bishops that they risk losing leadership control of grassroots churches, which start to act… Read more »
“If bishops object to what a PCC and community of lay people do… what are they going to do?… lock them out of their churches?”
They won’t like it but I don’t think they have a remedy – especially if multiple parishes act in concert.
Rosa Parks made her stand on her own in that bus. In this case, hundreds of churches, thousands of individuals, could make their stand together. Does that take too much courage? My priest, fully backed by PCC, celebrated our marriage regardless of sanctions… “how can we do anything else, we have to do the same for you that we do for anyone else, and besides, it is a gift for us.” He had courage, decency, conscience. His PCC too. Over 100 people attended. It was humbling to be on the receiving end of so much love and inclusion. I’m not… Read more »
Rosa Parks was part of a mass movement. She was actually chosen to make the move she did. Others had done what she did but they needed a person who was not easy to single out as a communist, mad or bad to be the face of the movement. Without a mass push behind the move for radical LGBTQ inclusion, individual communities can be singled out and picked off within a Diocese.It does need a mass push to counter the reactionary elements amongst the Bishops and the homophobic others within the institution. Anyone who has stepped out so far has… Read more »
Very true Marise, and thank you for the contextualisation of Rosa Parks. Many LGBT+ -affirming Christians berate ‘the authorities’ in the Church (and I think I understand why that may be)… But unless local church communities are prepared to act and be true to what their consciences tell them, they still deserve some accountability for things remaining unchanged. In complying with something that is wrong, the people who get betrayed are actually those in the local community – the young, the gay, and everyone else – and it’s not really good enough to say, ‘Sorry, we would affirm lesbian and… Read more »
Ref Stephen Parsons. Surely what he is talking about is some form of “Supervision” process, which is standard practise in professions such as nursing, teaching, counselling and social services, but which seems to be absent from Church of England ministry, although I understand that the Methodists have developed a scheme. See the final section this document – https://chairnsp.org/2021/07/23/taking-zoom-to-the-next-level/) “Gwyneth spoke of how the decision to introduce supervision for ministers in the Methodist Church arose out of the Church’s review of past safeguarding cases. Supervision provides space for reflection but it also pastoral, in support the minister in their work. The… Read more »
I don’t think ‘supervision’ is a very helpful name for this – it will surely put a lot of people off, especially in the current climate of fear and suspicion, especially if the supervision were being offered ‘in-house’.
Agreed, but “supervision” is the well known and accepted term used in many caring professions for a well known and well understood process of mentoring and support. It is my understanding that in some regulated professions, to be in supervision is a mandatory requirement before being allowed to practise. And yet the whole thing seems to have passed by the CofE.
From what I have seen of how supervision works in other professions, it is often the case that supervision type relationships can help to break down the climate of fear and suspicion that you are talking about.
One wonders, Simon, whether bishops in the Church are required to have the same degree of ‘supervision’? If so, one wonders how the diocese of Winchester got so far out of control.
I think that is the point, Father Ron. If the Cof E had introduced supervision a few decades ago, like many other caring professions, then the answer to your question might be yes, they would.
But I raised the question of supervision not as a method of management oversight and control, but because it can help with the sense of isolation and lack of support that Stephen Parsons described in his article.
As Peter Kettle stated, the term “supervision” can be unhelpful, and create distrust of a process that many find beneficial.
‘Supervision’ is an exact synonym for ‘episcope’. What happened to the nurturing and encouraging and guiding and monitoring of that ideal?
In the new, virtual world geography is no longer a barrier either.
In my own personal experience of supervision, in nursing and education, “nurturing and encouraging and guiding and monitoring” can often be contained within that process, which is why I raised the point here. I think it is regrettable that it was not adopted to support CofE priests years ago.
I can’t speak for episcope, but surely if supervision was adopted by the Church then a parish priest’s supervisor would rarely be his or her bishop.
I am not sure that a definition of ‘radical Christian inclusion’ is the main point of contention in the church. Rather it seems that the disagreement centers on the conditions and means of inclusion, i.e. a definition of what is sinful and the meaning of repentance.
Toby, from the point of view (and experience) of a person who is trans and lesbian, I can assure you that ‘radical Christian inclusion’ is pretty much the key thing that makes a church either toxic or life-enriching for me. I have worshipped at both kinds of church. One was utterly humiliating. The other has deepened and enriched my spiritual life and taught me much more about the actual ‘main’ point of being a Christian: people opening their hearts to love and simply affirming each person for who they are and what they bring to the community. I write that… Read more »