|I have just returned from two glorious weeks on the Isle of Mull with Mike, following our marriage at the end of September.
I find myself returning to a question I have been asked, and one which, indeed, I ask myself too; now that I find myself outside the institution of the church, is it possible to continue to campaign for change in the church?
It is always difficult to predict how you are going to feel in certain circumstances until they arise, but I have a deep sense of pride to stand alongside all those hundreds of faithful men and women who have left the church because they feel they have no place within it, or have been deeply wounded by their treatment in the church.
Many may simply have had enough and would never contemplate a return, but for those who like me, feel a deep connection still to the church which has been a part of a journey of faith for so long, CA will continue to fight the hypocrisy and homophobia we see on a daily basis.
Yes, I now sit on the outside of the church door but it is with a real sense of exile.
My journey for the time being is in the context of a different Christian community, but still there is a yearning for the “homeland” which I would like to think I can return to before too long. Who knows what debates and questions are going to be considered in the new General Synod, with its fresh faces, and inclusive voices, following the end of the Shared Conversation process.
I remember Kathy Galloway once saying as she was leader of the Iona Community, that, the margins were a liberating place to be; you are not beholden at any authority, and able to speak out clearly and critically, which together with the trustees I hope to continue to do, but perhaps with renewed energy and potency.
The margins are beginning to feel like a good place to be at this moment in time.
Thus, to be “in exile” outside the church in the company of so many others feels a strangely appropriate place to be and to campaign from, as we work for the day of homecoming and full inclusion at all levels of church life and ministry.
At the beginning of November, I will be meeting with the trustees to consider our strategic aims, and more importantly actions for CA.
As supporters of the organisation your input and thoughts into this process are of course welcome so feel free to e mail me directly at email@example.com any comments you wish to share.
Trans News with Tina.
‘All about trans’ certainly sums up the high profile of trans people in the media at the moment, with Channel 4’s well-researched ‘Born in the Wrong Body’ season, and trans actors playing trans characters on television.
Riley Carter Millington has just been cast as EastEnders’ first trans character, Rebecca Root has played Judy in the first trans themed tv sitcom series, Boy Meets Girl, which ended last week, and Bethany Black, who describes herself as a trans lesbian, is about to star as a (cis gender) character in Dr Who.
Change like this just doesn’t happen, and you can read about the impact of the organisation ALL ABOUT TRANS on the media here.
Without a doubt there is a transgender momentum just now, including considerable and growing interest in transgender people of faith.
Look out for the latest edition of the journal Theology & Sexuality which contains Rachel Mann’s article ‘“Queering” Spiritual Practice: Towards a Trans* Literary Practice’:
Look out too – and book your place – for the Sibyls Reflective Day, “My Body was Made for the Love of God”, led by the Revd Simon Buckley, Rector of St Anne’s, Soho, at the Sisters of St Andrew’s house in Lewisham, on Saturday 24th October, 10:00-17:00.
And look out for little old me at Lancaster Priory, on Tuesday 20th October at 19.30.
On Monday 26th October at 18:00 at the Divinity School, St John’s College, All Saints Passage, Cambridge, when I’ll be discussing Rebellious Bodies, faithful minds? Religion and gender identity with Surat-Shaan Knan, founder of the Twilight People oral history project and the Revd Duncan Dormor will keep us in order.
Knowing ourselves – faith and gender, a day conference on trans people and faith on Saturday 31 October, 10:00 – 16.30 at the Quaker Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester, with Surat, Jenny-Anne Bishop, Helen Belcher and Jenny Barnsley.
General Synod Elections Update.
The counts have not all been announced, but it seems we can get a general picture of the make-up of the new General Synod now.
There are the usual reactionary conservatives like Andrea Minichiello Williams and Ian Paul, but there are also many new and exciting Inclusive Church candidates who have made it onto Synod from across the dioceses.
For those who for whatever reason may have missed out on hearing about the Inclusive Church Synod Campaign, find out more here.
The campaign has been expertly coordinated by Rev Stephen France, and the policy of putting forward as many Inclusive Church candidates as want to stand in each diocese (which I was at first worried about, due to thinking it might split the ‘inclusive’ vote) has proved to be the right strategy, as some dioceses have returned as many as five Inclusive Church candidates!
Although I don’t know enough about all of the candidates in every diocese to say how many people are supportive of Changing Attitude’s goals and how many are against them at this stage, I can give an idea of the make-up of the new Synod on a couple of important points: the number of official Inclusive Church candidates elected to Synod from each diocese and the ratio of women to men in both the house of clergy and the house of laity.
So far, just over one in four people on the new General Synod are women. Women are clearly underrepresented, which may be due to less women putting themselves forward, but it is a problem for the Church and one which may in the future have to be addressed through positive discrimination or campaigns encouraging women to stand.
In terms of inclusive representation, I think we have cause to be positive about the new Synod. Of the 150+ standing, 82 have been elected (including many Changing Attitude members and CA trustee Lucy Gorman!), with results still to come from the universities. Many more people elected to Synod will be supportive, even if they did not stand on an official IC ticket.
To find out who has been elected from your diocese, or to check on the results still coming in, just go to Peter Owen’s blog page here.
Here’s to the next five years and to (hopefully) a new Synod which is more inclusive and more supportive of LGBTI people!
Please give a warm welcome to our newest trustee Dan…
Name: Dan Grayson
Manchester and York
Denomination: Church of England
What made you want to get involved in Changing Attitude?
I am angry with the way the Church of England behaves and its attitudes towards human sexuality. I am committed to helping the Church of England move forward, and so getting involved in Changing Attitude is a way of actively engaging in the movement.
What do you enjoy in your spare time?
I am an avid video-gamer. I play MMOs and RPGs like RuneScape and the Fable series. I co-lead a 400-member multinational group of gamers.
Fast forward 5 years time. Where would you like the CofE to be?
I would like the Church to be a completely open, welcoming, living Church dedicated to furthering the causes of the Kingdom without discriminating against any of God’s children.
The October Newsletter of the U.K. organisation ‘Changing Attitude’, offers news about the activities of this important catalyst that aims to bring before the Churches in the U.K. the problems of homophobia and sexism that still exist within the Church community.
National Coordinator, Jeremy Timm, is currently outside of the Church of England, which he left on account of what he saw as the ongoing inability of the Church to come to terms with the realities of gender and sexuality situations affecting many people in the Church. His editorial, from the standpoint, now, of an outsider, yet gives hope of the possibility that he – and many others in his situation who have left the Church of England because of its equivocation on these matters, which assume an importance beyond the experience of some who oppose the movement towards inclusivity in the Church – may yet be encouraged to return ‘to the fold’.
My hope is that Jeremy, and others like him, might be encouraged by the determination of the Church to free itself from institutional homophobia and sexism – and all other discriminatory policies that prevent the marginalised in our communities from enjoying the full fellowship of the Body of Christ – to work within the Church to bring the Good News of God’s love for ALL people back to the missional agenda.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand