RADICAL INCLUSION .CO.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'
RESPECT FOR CONSCIENCE
There have always been different views on things in the Church, and where this happens - looking back through history - people can either go down the path of persecution (religion has a terrible record on this) or they can seek to co-exist, recognising that people can be good and faithful Christians but just have different views on an issue.
Conscience is a God-given gift, through which we understand that God speaks deep in our hearts about things that are right or wrong. People can hold divergent views from each other, in each case exercising conscience.
In these situations, a mature Church does not schism, it respects. Recognising the underlying faith, and love of God, where conscientious views differ we don't have to agree with the divergent view ourselves, but we show respect for the other person's sincerity, integrity of belief, love of God, and prayerful exercise of free-will. That is maturity.
This is especially important over an issue which is so tied up with human flourishing, and people's right to self-determine their private and personal lives, who they are, and who they love. Given how susceptible such an issue is to prejudice, stigma, judgment and marginalisation, the exercise of conscience can become urgent, and in some senses a moral imperative.
In the divergent opinions people have in the Church of England about sexuality, the classic negative course of action goes down the road of sanctions and persecution. In the situation that exists today, where so many sincere Christians hold different views on whether gay sexuality is wrong - and possibly more than half church members now believe there is nothing wrong with it and so much that is good - one principle that seems absolutely vital in a mature Christian organisation is:
respect for conscience
At present, the view of just one part of the Church of England is being imposed (with threat of sanctions, or denial of ministry) on the consciences of everyone else. This domination of sincere conscience (and let's not forget, that means lifelong celibacy, and telling gay and lesbian people their intimate and dedicated lives are wrong, among other things) diminishes people's lives, and the flourishing of local church communities, who would far more radically include gay people if the Church allowed them to, in open and unashamed celebration and blessing of their relationships.
This pushes people and communities to the brink, for they are being compelled to behave in ways that they believe (most strongly in their hearts) are wrong, and harmful to others. They would reasonably argue that it also harms the Mission of the Church, and the message this gives out in their local communities, where people feel alienated by the Church of England's position on sexuality.
Because the status quo really isn't believed - in conscience - by most people any longer, and is opposed by so many, imposing it on so many people's consciences is frankly a theological affront and more or less an untenable long-term position. It's domination and sanction by just one group.
Clearly, as this disagreement over sexuality has dragged on - for over 50 years now, sapping the life and energy of the Church - and as the issue has become ever more accentuated with the changes of attitude both in society and in the Church, things have reached a stage where the 'status quo' can't keep being upheld by doing nothing doctrinally, and the running of successive processes of delay about fundamentals that are already known, just kicking the crisis further down the road.
It is absolutely clear that we have two viewpoints in the Church of England - both conscientiously held with reasons and convictions and fidelity and the love of God - that simply don't agree. These are positions of sincerity, and issues of conscience.
If conscience is to be respected, rather than trampled over, in the Church then there is really only one way forward to achieve a desperately-needed resolution:
The bishops need to recognise the consciences of both groups, and allow local priests and church communities to live according to those consciences. Instead of imposing a false uniformity, where uniformity does not exist... they need to facilitate diversity of conscience that reflects the reality of people's views and faith... the solution already initiated in Scotland and which should now - with urgency - be introduced in England.
'With urgency' - because people are being harmed right now, and the Church itself is alienating so many people... and because... conscience matters, and exists deep in our lives and faith. We need to love more and dominate less, and get on with all the other aspects of our faith which cry out for compassion, whichever view we hold on how people love each other in their personal and private lives.
Two parallel sites have been created:
radicalinclusion.co.uk - the site you are visiting right now - is the more 'in depth' version if you have time to read it
radicalinclusion.uk is the 'quick read' version if you want a shorter summary of main points
~ click on any of the links below for 'quick read' versions of these pages ~