Friday, November 18, 2016

Shocking! GAFCON UK Thinks The Church Should Not Be Welcoming.

"Two trashed reputations, one love contract, zero regrets." - Jenn P Nguyen

So a few days ago, GAFCON published a document called: 'The Church of England and Lambeth 1.10'; you can read it here. This document detailed a list of ordained/licensed LGBT individuals or couples in the Church of England, who has 'violated' Lambeth 1.10. In a nutshell, GAFCON accuses these individuals and their parishes, as well as the CofE of transgression, simply by being open and welcoming to LGBT people including offering blessings for same-sex couples or even registering church halls for Civil Partnership, etc. You have to read the GAFCON document to see the extent of the trite. I mean, who blames a church for being welcoming and creating a safe space for people?

But reading the document, I couldn’t but feel more proud and empowered. In fact, the document, although meant for ‘naming’ and 'shaming', was quite good – bar the plentiful mistakes of all manners – in helping us document the brevity, sincerity, honesty, true Christ-likeness and above all, the sacrifice that many of the named individuals and couples have made to make Church look less weird.
I struggled to see GAFCON's point of shaming these brave individuals or couples, and in fact, my only regret is that the document in a way comes across as saying Church cannot be welcoming and should not be safe for ALL (emphasis mine), see the paragraph on York Minster's violation of Lambeth 1.10 which essentially include a sentence that says... "Same sex couples are invited to approach the Chapter clergy and should expect a warm welcome and affirmation.". It feels like reading an arguement to counter the work of Jesus. Shocking!

From my perspective, I think we owe the individuals and/or couples named in that publication a sea of gratitude; for the abuse they have faced in pioneering and laying claim to LGBT people's places in the Church. For standing up to oppressive, abusive and violent sanctions such as the so-called Lambeth 1.10; not least for doing it transparently, peacefully, and above all, in a discipleship approach. It goes to the heart of the matter that change requires sacrifice. And these men and woman have made various ultimate sacrifices; their career, love, relationships, safety and a whole lot other things we may not comprehend [yet]. It is beyond doubt that each of them has experienced the outcome of their step to 'disobey' the Church in different ways; some of which we may never understood the enormity and burden it has placed on them.

It is a sign of deep, sincere and wholehearted love and commitment by the couples on the list to have dragged their partners who probably were not in the limelight before these events. It must have been a very difficult decision to start with, knowing the exposure this will bring partners to, especially where such partners had not been in the public light before their marriage/civil partnership, and all such. So to you all, whether as a couple or a single individual named, I say, Thank you!

This may not be the right space or place, but I call on Changing Attitude England, and perhaps, with the LGBT Coalition, LGBTi Mission and other groups to coordinate a recognition for these individuals and couples through the following means;

  • A heart-felt congratulatory letter thanking them on behalf of all those in the Church who wants to see real Christ-like change, for taking the bold steps and moving the Church of England on, while the 'official line' is yet to be comprehensive with the pew.
  • Thank them for pushing and kicking at terribly ancient large doors of homophobia. Because what they have all done would not be recognized enough in their/our life time but I optimistically hope that history would hold them all in eternal gratitude and acknowledgement.
  • Create a recognition medal/item of some sort for each Church of England clergy or licensed person who stands up to the Church on the matters of marriage or against the so-called abstinence until such a time as when the 'official line' becomes truly welcoming.
Any of the above could be done right away while the GAFCON paper is still making the round or could be made part of LGBT History Month [in the Church]; although if done right away, it would totally expose the absence of the mission of Jesus Christ in the focus of GAFCON. Parishes/Dioceses/Bishops and other individuals in the Church who are supporting can of course officially openly endorse and partake in the recognition too.

GAFCON is fighting a losing battle. Sooner or later, the flood gates of change will open and sweep away their primitive, controlling, feudal and patriarchal religiosity. I have no doubt about that. Their ilk took this same approach on slavery, women ministry, divorce, and a whole lot of other issues claiming that the Bible supports oppression and discrimination; but change is unstoppable, “though it tarries... wait for it”.

GAFCON Bishops partake in gross mismanagements in many developing countries with many of them endorsing and celebrating corrupt governments in their provinces; Nigeria (where I grew up, is a case in point; Church of Nigeria's bishops prefer to receive gifts from known corrupt officials than speak out against looting and misappropriation of public funds. Yet many in their congregation are going hungry, high infant mortality rates due to lack of healthcare, etc. GAFCON Bishops organise services of blessings, thanksgivings and prayers for the politicians presiding over ever increasing poverty, poor education and rigged elections. And to cap it all, they deny the recommended pastoral care to LGBT persons too. All these violates Lambeth 1.10.

But in all, this GAFCON approach shows why Church is distasteful to many who'd otherwise be part of it. Yet, this documents unknowningly celebrates and shines a light on the brave few who are taking the risky steps as Jesus, Peter, James, and the many disciples who faced death or violence did those many years ago to make the Church take root. Therefore to each person or couple mentioned in that document, and to many others not mentioned who are putting their heads above the parappet to stand up against oppression and discrimination, in church or secular places, I say, Thank you for your sacrifice.

No comments:

Subscribe by Email