Reflections from the Rainbow picket line

Submitted by SCM on Sunday, March 12, 2017 - 22:04

Kenneth Wilkinson-Roberts reports back from the 'rainbow picket line' at the recent Church of England Synod.

By Kenneth Wilkinson-Roberts

Much has been said about the General Synod’s decision to not take note of the Bishop’s report following the two year process of Shared Conversations on Human Sexuality. On all sides of the debate passionate pleas for acceptance have been made; acceptance for all people within the church, or acceptance of all theologies, however exclusive. This made protesting outside Synod particularly interesting – and a little scary.

As a trans Christian seeking ordination into the priesthood, the report struck me as having potentially dangerous effects for people like me, and other members of the Anglican Community. What would the future hold for us and future generation in the Church? I was – and still am, somewhat – worried that we would move backwards as a Church, to enshrined discrimination. I feared there would be little or no movement towards truly inclusive liturgy or employment policies. I felt I had to stand up and at least say that I, as an Anglican (and a catholic one at that!), would not be complicit in a discriminatory theology. So, I skipped university for a day and took the long journey south from Lancaster to London.

Being part of the small protest outside Church House was a thoroughly Anglican experience, filled with laughter, tea and kind words from Synod members. I was blown away by the number of amazing people I met. I had seen some people only in the news or read about them in the Church Times, but there were also seemingly ordinary Anglicans with a love for their identity and for the Church of England. Growing up in a very rural parish in Lincolnshire, I was convinced that queer people only existed in ‘revealing’ TV documentaries set in Manchester or Blackpool. Even rarer were queer Christians. But standing alongside such a vibrant and affirming group of clergy and lay people made me realise that there are a lot more of us then you’d think, and we are ready to stand up and be counted.

And counted we were! The House of Clergy rejected the report and the powers that be – finally – sat up and realised it is time to listen to the growing voice for inclusion! The Archbishops even released a statement, immediately after the vote, calling for a move to a “radical new Christian inclusion” for the church. Radical inclusion! Truly there is nothing more Christ-like then a church which calls, affirms and takes note of every person who comes to her!

There are no guarantees of what the new report (to replace the rejected one) will contain, or what the pace of change will look like for the church, but I feel that the growing calls from the grassroots to allow for the full inclusion of LGBTI+ people into the church and her blessings set a new tone. We, the people and the clergy, will not put up with the status quo any more, and will not allow for the discrimination of any Christian by our church, regardless of how it might be justified. 

Kenneth is an Undergraduate student at Lancaster University studying International Relations and Religious Diversity (with a focus on Peace Studies, Conflict Transformation and Religious Extremism).