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'
OPPRESSIVE ASSAULT ON CONSCIENCE
Conscience is a God-given gift.
It is one of the conduits through which God speaks to us, and reveals to us what's right and wrong. It channels compassion, pity, mercy, to our hearts, so we feel it, recognise it, and experience the flow of love to others and our responsibility towards others.
Sometimes in life, we know, like a deep conviction, what is right if we are 'to live justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God'.
We may experience conscience individually, and we may experience conscience collectively. I remember on the huge march before the Iraq War, that sense of a sea of people, stirred by collective conscience, all there because something deep inside told them it was the right thing to do.
Of course, not everyone has the same conscientious experience or views. That's the case, and the problem, in the Church of England today over human sexuality.
Respect for other people's consciences is really important. For example, I respect the sincerity of conscience of those who believe that gay sexuality is wrong. I don't agree, but I understand many of their reasons, and I also respect that they sincerely love God and in many cases lead lives of fidelity and sacrifice in the service of neighbours, communities, people in need. We must guard against demonising each other.
At the same time, the issues of human sexuality and human flourishing are 'conscience' issues in the Church today. What's happened for many years is that from the top of the Church, leaders have imposed the views of one group in the Church as a uniform obligation for all groups, dominating the sincere consciences of many priests and local church communities.
This has been backed up by threat of sanction, and so what we have is people's consciences and communities' potential flourishing being crushed. These sanctions are actually brutal in their effects.
Half the Church (possibly more) believes in good conscience that we should affirm gay sexual relationships. It isn't academic because real people's lives are at stake. And people feel this strongly: that the orders they have are wrong for them and the communities where they live out their lives in the service of Christ.
Because conscience bites so deep (and thank goodness it does) we find in our Church today a real impasse: so much so, that people leave (or threaten to leave) the Church over it.
The Scottish Episcopal Church has shown probably the only way conscience can be protected, or at least the best solution possible at present, by allowing priests and local church communities freedom of conscience on this, to decide together how to live out their faith in the way conscience tells them is right, in the places they live, with the people they know, in shared lives of service and love.
The leaders of the Church of England have resisted this, so the conflict and the oppression - for that is what the domination of conscience, backed up by sanctions, is - have continued. There is no resolution. There is only continuing harm.
In the end, on conscience issues, when one group says to another group 'Only our beliefs are right and you must accept them', that is trampling over another person's conscience. It forces them to do what they believe is wrong, and even to do harm to other people.
That can feel like assault, and can cause grievous harm or hurt. Look at the impact of the recent 'Pastoral Statement' in the name of the bishops: the tone was like a sledge-hammer, and it caused widespread hurt and dismay.
Of course, even if you soften or sugar-coat the language, domination of conscience is domination of conscience. So many churches today, with much-loved lesbian, gay or trans people in their lives, long to exercise conscience - as a community - through radical inclusion that is unashamed, out in the open, joyful, grateful, and affirming people for who they are - not who a dominant faction of the Church says they ought to be.
Because this is one of the great conscience issues - in some ways like women's ordination is a great conscience issue - that the Church has had to work through... respect for conscience over this is a fundamental principle and, like the Scottish Anglicans, this now needs to involve allowing priests and local churches, serving their communities in fidelity, to live out and be true to what they deeply feel in their hearts, and who they understand themselves to be as decent people, and the hope of who they can yet become, in the journey with God and the shared compassion of God.
This is an issue of conscience that cannot be solved by domination. It's not going away. The harm is happening now. Conscience must be respected.
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 ~