Saturday, 5 April 2014

Rebel Rev lives up to her name

It’s with a mixture of emotions that I write this blog. I am happy that I am me and able to vocalise what many feel but are too afraid to say. I am sad and I am angry. What has led me to such a place?

It’s been a strange week. I was on a course and minding my own business when I had a call from BBC Radio Kent. They asked if I was prepared to make a comment about the Equal Marriage Bill that was coming into being that weekend. Many same sex couples were getting married at midnight Fri/Sat. Of course I was happy to make my views known. I made it clear that it was incomprehensible to me that I could bless an inanimate object, I could bless an animal, I could even bless a tank going off to war if asked but I couldn’t bless the union of a loving same sex couple. I think this is outrageous and not in keeping with my reading of the bible.

Just the previous Sunday we had the gospel reading that gives us the story of Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. This is the longest conversation recorded in the Gospels. In every aspect of it, Jesus is pushing boundaries and crossing cultural divides. He doesn’t condemn the woman and debates theology with her. He breaks many taboos of the day. Isn’t that something to emulate?

After my interview on the breakfast show I was then contacted by BBC Southeast and asked if I would do an interview for the news. I of course did this too. Any opportunity to push for change has to be taken. Any opportunity to challenge oppression and marginalisation has to be taken. Any opportunity to point out the inconsistency with the God of love and the church’s position has to be taken. I was also asked to do an interview for a local paper. All of the presenters and journalists I spoke to thought my position refreshing and there needs to be more priests like me. My stock answer to this is there are more priests like me. The problem is it’s often the anti voice that shouts the loudest. I’m also very aware that many of my colleagues who may agree with me are afraid of speaking out in case they lose their jobs.

Over the course of the next week I was reminded of my duty to uphold the churches current teachings. I also had people refuse to meet me because of my outspokenness. What a shame. Their loss, but I respect their right to a different opinion.

Next I discovered that Archbishop Justin Welby would be taking calls on LBC with one of my favourite presenters James O’Brien. I emailed them a question and was invited to ring in and ask the question. I was slightly worried about the timing as I was taking a service in church for most of the phone in. I managed to get out just in time and asked the Archbishop the last question of the show. In a nutshell I was asking why, as priests, we couldn’t bless same sex couples and use our own conscience like happened when the remarriage of divorcees came about in church. This could be the case while we waited for a synodical process to go through that could change the rules to allow equal marriage in church.

I was shocked and saddened by Justin’s response. Much has been publicised and blogged about Justin’s answer by theologians and people far and wide in the Anglican Communion. As the person who asked the question and a bog standard priest in the Church of England I feel extremely let down by my institution and the Archbishop. He said that we couldn’t move forward with a more liberal agenda in the UK without it having a devastating effect on people in Africa. He told a story about standing at a mass grave and had been told the people were killed because of the liberal changes in America. That’s like wondering why a woman in a violent relationship who is murdered didn’t leave, instead of asking the murderer why he killed her. Violence always needs to be condemned. The Archbishop didn’t do this. Murder and homophobia are the issues, not liberalism in the UK. Can you imagine what would have happened if Gandhi had given in to the violence and not challenged the marginalisation and oppression at the salt mines? How different would the world be if Wilberforce wasn’t listened to because the slaves might have been further abused? What would have happened if the civil rights movement hadn’t progressed because people were scared of the violence of the KKK? Women are killed and maimed today because they are being educated. Just ask Malala. Does that mean we shouldn’t educate girls? Apartheid was atrocious in its outpouring of violence. Should we not have campaigned because more black people would have been killed? What Justin said put the power in the hands of the oppressors and those who wield violence.

Let’s be clear, it’s not only Africa that kills people because of homophobia. I live in London, a very cosmopolitan city, yet my neighbour was killed in a homophobic attack. I had a friend who took his own life because he couldn’t cope with coming to terms with his sexuality in the face of homophobia from his family, friends and church. There are many people hurt and trapped by homophobia and a lack of acceptance in the UK.

 If God is love, we should be free to express that and surround all people with love. It is wrong to withhold God’s blessing from anyone who is living in loving, faithful and committed relationships. I didn’t set out this week to start a potential international incident or bring the Anglican Communion into disrepute. I have read blogs from priest in America who are very upset by Justin’s response. They are wondering why the finger is being pointed at them for violence in Africa. I didn’t set out to challenge the institution. I did, however, set out to stand up for love and condemn oppression and marginalisation. The Archbishop really missed the mark by not condemning the violence and hatred in Africa.

I really hope that in a small way people may see little chinks of light and love when they see that there are ordinary priests working to make a change to unjust rules. The Archbishop recently said that his reading of the bible commands him to be outspoken. Well I read that bible as well and am proud to have a hoodie that says “Jesus was a rebel too”. Those of you reading this that don’t go to church, please don’t judge God by the actions of Christian’s or the institution. I hope always to stand up for love and I can’t see the wrong in that.

32 comments:

  1. Thank you for speaking out, for asking the question and for responding here. Long live your rebellion!

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  2. I am so proud of you for stan ding up to the establishment because of your beliefs. I am a christian but I don't go to churchbecause I have a simple faith around love and don't want too feel oppressed by the doctrine of an institution.

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    1. Thanks mate. It's been a starnge week but maybe the time was right

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  3. I like your approach. Can we talk? Tonythebadger@gmail.com.

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    1. Hi,
      My email is kgrant@saa.woodard.co.uk but I'll be away for a while.

      Cheers

      Kes

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  4. You are a light in a sometimes dark world, which got a bit darker when the ABC made his strange, statement, without evidence, without justification and a serious error of judgement. He should have just answered you question with the party line which would have angered you, but would have been expected and wouldn't have caused such wide spread offence.

    But you have the courage of you convictions which is welcome when many Clergy are intimidated against speaking out - which is a form of mental violence being done by the church itself. Shame on it.

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    1. Hi

      Thank you for you encourahging comments. As you can imagine I've had some hositility.

      I think standing up for love should always be a part of a clerics ministry. I understand why some are fearful though.

      Lets hope that more light comes in

      Cheers

      Kes

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  5. I felt great pity for the Church of England and Anglican Communion too...those of us who would have such a man as first amongst anything/anyone. He is dangerous to LGBTI Anglican and our families/friends and he ought resign immediately. The man IS one of the instigators of abuse/worse against people like me. LeonardoRicardo/Leonard Clark Beardsley, Guatemala

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    1. Hi,

      I am so sorry that you experience abuse and intolerance. I long for a world where people are judged by the compassion of their souls. May you be surrounded by as much light and love as is possible.

      Thank you for taking the time to contact me

      Kes

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  6. Don't ever lose the prophetic edge to your ministry. It will never be comfortable, but then it never has been for prophets.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement. "Does any thing good come out of Nazareth?" We all know it did but the locals needed convincing!

      We all must try and be prophetic at times but I understand how tough it is

      Cheers

      Kes

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  7. Thank you for this - I shall share it further. While in theory the Methodist Church "recognizes, affirms and celebrates the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men in the church" it still will not let us bless a union in church. One colleague has faced difficulties for describing himself as married, but as his partner is Spanish and it has been legal there for longer, that is the true description of his union (as well as being how they view it). Another has discovered awful prejudice on moving to a new area with churches refusing to let him preach. Where is the God of love in all this? I am sure there is much weeping in heaven at the lack of love displayed by God's people.

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    1. I long for the day when people are judged by the compassion of their souls. It's a very sad state of affairs that we can't celebrate our differences.

      Thanks for sharing this and your encouragement

      Cheers

      Kes

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  8. Thank you for your clarity and your bravery. Jesus' ministry constantly challenged domination systems and we should not be cowed from speaking out by violence elsewhere. Africa is a big place. I have close links with some parts of it and attitudes there are not as monochrome as they are often portrayed.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement and insights. I long for a time when we are judged by the compassion in our souls and when we can celebrate our differences.

      Cheers

      Kes

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  9. Even on a radio call-in show, the fact that ABC Welby immediately went to victim-blaming is just ATROCIOUS. How can you blame acts of VIOLENCE on a commitment of LOVE? How could Welby have not *challenged* those who told him that the mass grave was "caused by actions in America" as opposed to be solely the responsibility of the KILLERS themselves?

    Violence.Is.The.Problem!!!!!!

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    1. Hi

      Agreed totally. Something to meditate on this Holy Week.

      Thanks for the encouragement.

      Cheers

      Kes

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  10. One call, one love. Just keep doing what your doing and may be the house of bishops may be forced to look to themselves for the right answer and be moved by the spirt instead of the African church.

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    1. Hi

      Thanks for your encouragement. We live in hope. It will be poignant as we go into the Holy Week journey

      Thanks

      Kes

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  11. If you're on facebook, Kes, maybe you'd like to join us in the Changing Attitude group: you'll find plenty of solidarity there. Rest assured, you are not a lone voice!

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    1. Hi. Thanks for the encouragement. I am already a signed up.
      Cheers
      Kes

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  12. Thank you! I'm fortunate to belong to a church where all human love is celebrated and I'm surrounded by attitudes like yours. That is a gift and a blessing (and has been since my partner - soon to be husband, once the government allows us to convert - met 34 years ago). But it's so good to hear this kind of thing being said more and in more places by more people.

    May you be blessed in your prophetic ministry!

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    1. Thank you.
      May you have many more years together.

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  13. Well done for taking him on. That must have been stressful! Good piece as well.

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    1. Cheers. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  14. Thank you - for this piece and being willing to make a stand.

    Your reflections make prompt me to think of an unrelated, but relevant, example of negotiating social change in an African culture: We have good friends in the Episcopal Church of Rwanda and have travelled to northern Rwanda several times. Attempting to dress in a culturally appropriate fashion, I always made a point of wearing long skirts and covering my arms, particularly when in Church or meeting Christians. The 16 year old daughter of the Bishop, who was acting as our translator, took me to one side and very firmly admonished me: Women in the Rwandan church faced an uphill struggle in challenging the social expectations of their church and society. What hope did they have if all their visitors from the church in Europe insisted on dressing like 19th Century missionaries?

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  15. What interests me about reactions to gay people being allowed to marry is two things I've noticed since:
    (1) comparing the map of where gay people are persecuted and comparing it to the map of where Christians are, the one pretty much morphs onto the other. This plainly says, at a very basic level, that the problem is human rights violation, not gayness. Progress with that would be good for everyone.
    (2) looking at my small but significant "anti" postbag since the change, the basis for it all is simple crude fear and hatred of gay people — "They are disgusting and you are disgusting for thinking they should be allowed to marry..." kind of thing. So much for theology. Turning to the second thing the ABC said he deplored (homophobia in the C of E) we plainly have a long way to go...

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  16. I agree. If we got human rights sorted then the world would be in such a better place. If we treated each other like Jesus treated people there would definitely be no homophobia.
    Thanks for your stand.

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  17. You've said it ALL. That's it in a splendid nutshell. Thank you, dear sister in the faith. You've done us proud. +Justin may be a beaut bloke in many ways, and a fine communicator, but in this he's just plain wrong, and likely to increase the damage. He's letting all those ugly homophobic bishops in parts of Africa off the hook. I hope your words on the subject go viral. Let love reign!

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    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement. I long for the day when homophobia is history.

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