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'
THE HARM BEING DONE
Imposing a conservative 'status quo' on the whole Church of England is not just a matter of theological debate: it is people's lives.
The theological vilification of gay and lesbian sexuality - for that is what it is - is causing grave harm now, today, and every day: to individuals, to the Church, and to people outside the Church who become alienated from the gospel.
The harm being done includes the following:
-> Telling gay and lesbian couples (and indeed, straight couples in devoted long-term relationships outside marriage) that they should live in celibacy all their lives... defining their tender, faithful, costly relationships as bad... not only prescribing an unnatural life-long repression, but surrounding what is so precious and intimate, and given and personal, with shame.
-> Many gay and lesbian Christians (but especially the young) will be thrown into psychological conflict, unable to reconcile who they are and how they naturally feel, with what the Church tells them is God's disapproving view of their sexuality. Worse still, in a familiar pattern, a significant number will experience internalised shame, which may manifest in self-harm, self-hatred, low self-esteem, depression, and in tragic cases suicidal ideation.
-> The Church's imposed status quo on human sexuality, while not always homophobic in conscious intent, is homophobic in effect: both through how it feels to be on the receiving end of it, and additionally because it offers religious mandate to homophobes on the street, a sense of judgment in too many churches, and a kind of marginalisation.
-> Gay and lesbian partnerships frequently don't get the open, public affirmation given to heterosexual ones. When each month banns get read out, that is lovely of course, but gay and lesbian couples are excluded and don't get that loveliness and recognition in the church service. Up and down the land, and in almost all your churches, weddings and celebration of weddings are out of bounds, and that feels really excluding, and devalues something incredibly precious - your intimate covenant with your life partner - reduced perhaps to hidden, almost furtive blessings, when really your church should be unashamed to 'come out' and openly affirm your love before everyone and, of course, before God.
-> In some churches gay and lesbian people may be questioned about their private lives in the context of baptisms, communion, or involvement in church tasks (such as youth leadership).
-> In the Church as a whole, any gay or lesbian ordinand or priest who does not 'hide' their private lives, and is open about their sexual intimacy, may face sanction. This can implicate people in pretence, or frustration, or distress.
-> For people beyond the Church (and indeed for many and increasing numbers in the pews) and especially the young: the condemnation of gay and lesbian sexuality just seems prejudiced and disgusting. As diverse sexual orientation becomes normal and known and open among their relatives, friends, work colleagues - people they know, love and respect - the teaching of the Church alienates people from opening to the Gospel.
-> Even Inclusive Churches, and inclusive priests, are embroiled in a kind of collusion, for fear of sanctions and harm to their wider ministries. This is very understandable, but it still does harm, it still (unwillingly) colludes, it still diminshes people by excluding them from the open affirmation offered to the relationships of heterosexual couples. In conforming to practice which they deeply believe is wrong - in surrendering conscience, and not doing the right thing for gay and lesbian people - they allow their God-given consciences to be dominated by the views of only part of the Church, but the part that has control. This compromises local witness, making people complicit in hiddenness, and the half-light of discreet, unpublicised blessings, and this simply falls short of open unashamed celebration of covenant and love. So even the inclusive churches are diminished.
-> Gay and lesbian people face abuse in their wider lives, that can flare up on the street, just because you are holding the hand of the person you trust and love. And the doctrine of the Church says 'Yes, that is perverted.' We live with socialised shaming of who we are - a young person grows up in fear of it - so we defend ourselves psychologically against it. In that context, compromised message and practices in the Church can impact on people with unpredictable sensitivity, sometimes causing a visceral drawing away, because even compromise is the beginning of shame. Inclusion is not just 'being nice'... goodwill and welcome being extended on the Church's own terms... the actual practice of a church matters very much. When a local church falls short of the best, and suspends its own conscience, that sends out its own message: it says 'you are different' and there is a problem for our church, and it sets you apart. In a sense, your complete and radical inclusion is put on hold... for the sake of the priest, for the sake of the church, for the sake of everyone... but you and your partner take the hit. It really is a huge issue of conscience and courage, which perhaps a whole church and its PCC needs to take responsibility for (not just the priest), so that churches decide they can no longer just do nothing, just ignore conscience, when they are part of a Church that is doing harm.
-> A final harm is what a local church community misses out on itself, because it is denied the opportunity: to open up, to grow, to expand experience and inclusion, to live it out. How good that feels when a church community dares to do that! I've seen what radical inclusion does to a church. The community itself finds pride in owning it, of not being ashamed, and grows more open to the flow of the love of God, and God's love for all. It's really difficult, when an individual priest knows they might get targetted and sanctioned, but in the end if so much harm (detailed on this page) is being done, there needs to be a time when priests, and PCCs, and church communities decide collectively to be the churches they know they have to be, to grow, to repudiate harm, and to do what they deeply recognise is right.
In all this, grace, love, and mercy.
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 ~