So here I am sat at the kitchen table at the vicarage on a beautifully warm & sunny Tuesday Morning and I have been scratching my head wondering what may be the right thing to put into our mid-summer messenger; then inspiration hit me, why not ‘Inclusive Church’?
I wonder if you have ever speculated about how inclusive church really is in our society today, furthermore who is ‘included’ and who isn’t. The reasonable folk among us may assume that church is inclusive of all people, whatever age, gender, background, sexual orientation, ability or disability, faith or none faith, this assumption is a very natural one to make, and yet it is not always correct.
I have just read a very sad story about a young lady in Manchester who took her own life, and why? Well because she could not reconcile her Deep Christian Faith with being gay, Lizzie Lowe was just 14 years old when she decided that she could not live with the dilemma. Her vicar later spoke of a ‘conspiracy of silence’ which existed at the time at Lizzie’s church around the specific issue of human sexuality wherein this young girl felt she could not engage in any meaningful way with her faith family regarding her own sexuality, she could not believe that the God who created her through love could love her and her sexuality; this belief was purely because of the attitude and conservative views of some Christians she had encountered in her journey of faith.
This awful, painful situation triggered something in this church congregation which although painful for some has led to a much healthier environment where most people were willing to engage in a process of listening and growth toward becoming a much more interactive, inclusive and welcoming community for everybody. It is still a work in progress, yet it is at least in progress.
As a caring human being, also a committed ‘professional’ Christian I never, ever want this situation to happen here, nor anywhere else for that matter. Our diocese takes LGBT+ issues very seriously indeed, in fact our diocesan Bishop has instigated a LGBT+ advisory committee of which I am very proud to be part. I am also very proud to be your vicar, wherever you stand with faith, if you are receiving this monthly Messenger I am your vicar and I want you to be quite aware that St David’s is your church, we are here for you or for anyone you know who may be thinking about faith, who may be exploring what God may be calling you to, for anyone of any background, gender, ability, orientation, faith or none, we/ I am here for you! Part of my job is to ensure you are being listened to both by God, hence I pray for you and with you, and also by the community in which we live & work. Even though at times some of us may feel isolation surrounding us we are never really alone.
St David’s PCC will be doing some work over the coming months to look at how inclusive we already are and how we can improve on this: at my last parish we went through a similar process, a process which led to us registering as an ‘Inclusive Church’ …yes there really is such an organisation and here is their mission statement; “We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.”
This is what I, your vicar also believe in, I also believe in having frank and open discussions about anything that we may feel comes between us and God and indeed us and our community; the good news of Jesus is, I believe, that there are no divisions, in fact St Paul tells us in his letter to the people of Galatia; “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Jesus.” My message for you this summer, and throughout the years is that we are all one and all loved & wanted by Jesus and by His church, come & talk to me about anything, you will find me to be a good listener. A Happy & Blessed summer to us all.
(This article by Rev Peter F Smyth, Vicar @ St David’s was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in July 2018)