Friday, May 20, 2011

An Update From Our Colleagues Across The Pond

Snapshot of life within Inclusive Church in the UK.
The Rev’d Bob Callaghan
National Coordinator Inclusive Church

Inclusive Church emerged in the UK in 2003 at a time when an openly gay priest was being nominated to be a bishop within the Church of England. The nomination caused a furore, coming as it did in the wake of the consecration of Gene Robinson. Much of the reaction against these appointments was vocal and fierce, and mainly from the conservative wing of the church, both in the UK and abroad. Those who came from a more liberal perspective or those who were outraged at the sheer injustice of what was going on in the church were in many ways without a voice to express their concern. Inclusive Church emerged as a result of the internet – offering people the possibility of registering their concern through an on-line statement. Thousands signed up in a short space of time – and something new in British church life had emerged.

Inclusive Church, although it was born out of one incident that is related to LGB&T issues, is more than a single issue organisation. It seeks to demonstrate to both the church and society that the Church of England has a distinctive ethos which is welcoming and inclusive at its heart. The Church of England operates a parish church system that places in every community a church, a priest and a congregation – open and available to all. This is seen as distinctly Anglican and something that Inclusive Church seeks to celebrate and affirm.

But there is a ‘but’. Although the Church of England is there for all – not everyone has equal rights. Even though the UK has moved forward with anti discrimination law – the Church of England (along with other faith groups) has obtained exemption from some of these laws. Even though the state allows Civil partnership ceremonies – the Church of England is working to ensure these cannot take place in church. Even though the UK has signed up to law that bans discrimination against people based on their sexuality, the Church of England has exemption to this law.

So what is Inclusive Church involved with?

• Inclusive Church is working to support pressure groups to remove discrimination against women. Currently we are working to encourage the Church of England to bring legislation that will allow women to be consecrated as bishops. This legislation not only has to pass through church synods – but through the houses of Parliament as well. This will come to the vote in 2012.

• Inclusive Church is working within the church to remove discrimination for LGB&T people within the church. LGB&T people offering themselves as candidates for lay or ordained ministry are very likely to have to lie about their sexuality. For many these issues are no longer theological issues – but issues related to justice. Many in society outside of the church are staggered to find that the church is excluding to women and LGB&T members.

• Inclusive Church is engaging with discussions in wider society about equality legislation – to recognise gay marriage and allow gay marriages to take place within Church of England premises.

• Inclusive Church recognises that many are excluded from the life and leadership of the church for many reasons – ethnicity, poverty, and mental health issues. We are working hard to ensure that the church is there for all. And all means ALL.

Integrity USA has had a long time collaboration with the Inclusive Church in the UK. The were our powerful allies in our presence and witness at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. And the rumors are true, there are some great cooks amongst their membership!

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