RADICAL INCLUSION .UK

 

please do not erase our lives, our love, and precious parts of who we are

 

 
 

 

'Life shrinks or expands, in proportion to one's courage'

 

REASONS FOR NO CHANGE

 

 

 

In preparation for my Church House meeting to participate in 'Living in Love and Faith', I reflected on the reasons that church leaders had for repeatedly delaying doctrinal change on human sexuality. I believe, based on corresponcence with over 50 bishops, the main reasons include:

1. Personal theological views on what the Bible teaches about sex and marriage. A diversity of opinion certainly exists among bishops. However the Archbishop of Canterbury appears to tend towards socially conservative (or at least very hesitant) views on sexuality. A 'collective' position from the bishops, and top-down process, has managed to maintain the conservative 'status quo' view.

2. Hesitation to change doctrine held by the Church for nearly 2000 years, and still held by many other churches today, just to align with cultural changes in society. Change may seem to require long and slow reflection, but as with other issues of social justice and discrimination the Church has had to deal with - slavery, race, the role of women - church tradition in the past has often reflected social and cultural assumptions, and oppressions, until social consciousness changed. It has changed in many countries and cultures today, over human sexuality. As this perception and realisation has deepened into principle and conscience, urgency is not about chasing a cultural fad, but about the recognition that here, today, now... people are being harmed, marginalised, shamed for their love.

3. Fear of schism in the Church of England. There is a large central group in church who are not activists on sexuality at all, but whose views on sexuality have evolved in line with society's, and who just want to get on with all the rest of church life and service to their community. They don't want schism. The threat of schism tends to be voiced by a group of conservative leaders in the Church who have a disproportionate influence over leaders like Justin from a similar tradition. In the end, though, they do not have the right to dominate other people's consciences. The only way to avoid schism is to allow local priests and church communities to have right of conscience to act on what they deeply believe is right. If church leaders change nothing... to appease conservative opinion... then the (false) uniformity they impose crushes conscience of others in many churches who must reasonably feel: you do your thing if you choose, but in our communities we will live by our consciences and we will radically include gay and lesbian people (and, of course, the many other people of diversity who bring gift to our church communities).

4. Fear of schism in the Anglican Communion. The threat of schism in the wider Communion is not a casual issue, and it really matters because we all lose when we break relationships, and that hurts those most desperate and vulnerable, but it is not something that justifies appeasement. Some church leaders weaponise the sexuality issue, and politicise it, and threaten to break apart, province from province, when we so desperately need to support each other. But gay and lesbian people in our church communities are not pawns in a world power game. They are friends. They are Church. And beyond sexuality altogether, though it's integral to who they are, and beautifully so, they are so much else as well: neighbours who help the elderly, friends at work, people just living their decent lives, here in England, in an English context, in their local communities. The threat of schism by big power players does not give 'free pass' to church leaders in England to lock gay people in restrictive doctrine indefinitely into the future. Rather, church communities need empowerment to flourish, and that in turn involves exercise of conscience, opening up to love, and expanding welcome where we live.

5. Bishops need to be a focus of unity in their diocese, and supporting or allowing the blessing of gay relationships would be divisive and fracture fellowship, harming relations with a significant number of churches. Bishops often do have strong pastoral instincts, and in correspondence I have picked up the sensitivity of some over the harm that may be caused to their pastoral relations with socially conservative churches, if they advocate change on human sexuality. While the bishops are not unintelligent people, this heart-felt concern probably does act as a brake on the actions of some of them. It does take courage for a bishop to speak out, if you fear the harm it may cause in your diocese. However, as I hope 'Living in Love and Faith' makes clear, very serious harm is already being done. Unity, that the bishops are understandably concerned about, is not the same thing as uniformity. They really need to get their heads round that. The Church has allowed diverse conscience before. The Scottish Anglicans have shown it is possible on human sexuality too. Unity based on one group dominating another group's conscience is no recipe for flourishing. Unity goes deeper than having uniform views on sexuality: it is found as we open our lives and community to the love of Jesus Christ, and in the great work many churches do, with justice, mercy, service and compassion. Unity is not all being the same. It is active conscience-driven love and compassion we can open to, when we open our hearts to God.

 

 

 

Two parallel sites have been created:

radicalinclusion.uk - the site you are visiting right now - is the 'quick read' version if you are in a hurry

radicalinclusion.co.uk is the in-depth site for reading more deeply on any section and to reflect further

 

~ click on any of the links below for more detailed versions of the pages available here in quick-read form:

Home - Radical Inclusion Project A - The Survey Questions - What Inclusion Means - The Harm Being Done - If Nothing Changes After LLF -

Oppressive Assault on Conscience - Top Down Control of the Agenda - Reasons for No Change - Change at Local Church Level -

Radical Inclusion Project B - Affirming the Church of England - Respect for Conscience - Rectors and Vicars Being Surveyed - Links - Lizzie Lowe