Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Codename: 'Voldemort'

I've been thinking once again on the moratorium concerning discussing same-gender relationships within the Church of Scotland.
I've taken to referring to the current situation as 'Voldemort', given the fear attached to uttering that particular character's name in the Harry Potter series.
Re-contextualised for the CofS, instead of:
'you-know-who' and 'he-who-must-not-be-named'
we have:
'you-know-what' or 'that-which-must-not-be-named'.

This has gently bubbled back to the surface for me due to several factors:
The first was due to a very good conversation with someone concerning the power of language: she is a non-native English speaker. We agreed that words are powerful tools which can be used to both include and exclude, sometimes intentionally and sometimes deliberately.
By not discussing 'the elephant in the room' within a CofS context for the next 2 years, I wonder what message the non-verbal gives out to LBGT folks, and folk outwith the church? Do we truly think that if we don't discuss it, people will think that we've moved on...? And actually, are we deemed so irrelevent by society in general in the UK that they don't even know or care about what the church thinks anyway?

The second was prompted by the last day of ministry training conference in St Andrews, when we sang 'All are welcome'. It's a hymn I like immensely for its prophetic vision of church and celebration of diversity in all its contexts. But that morning, I found it stuck in my throat: it was hard to sing those words knowing that at this point in time, we as church welcome some less than others.

And laterally, perhaps too, my thoughts have wandered this way again due to last week's lections - in particular the passage in James 2: 1-17 concerning partiality:

1My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,
3and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say,
“Have a seat here, please,”
while to the one who is poor you say,
“Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,”
have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you?
Is it not they who drag you into court?
7Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?
You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

I'm tempted to change 'rich' and 'poor' to 'heterosexual' and 'non-heterosexual'. The point is that partiality is about power and privilege. In a society dominantly heterosexual, power and privilege is in the hands of that majority. It's a clumsily made point, I'll grant, but I think the principle carries through.

Is might right?

Is straight great?
Aren't we as church called to be counter-cultural, to be revolutionaries?
To question existing power structures and challenge those structures when they use a steamroller to crush a butterfly's wings?
But then again, maybe I'm just an ageing hippy....

I look forward to the closet being opened concerning debate and discussion: unless we can talk about it, like Voldemort, it becomes a creature of the shadows, creating fear, creating partisan divides.
We are not ruled by the lord of darkness, but the Lord of Light.
Let's get open the closets, let's name 'that which can not be named' and use the power of words as tools of inclusion, peace and liberation, which creates a church for all God's children.

I long for the day when I can sing 'All are welcome' as a truth in the now, as opposed to the not-yet.


Kate said...

I think this is a really brave post - and there's so much here that I want to comment on. But for now, I'm simply going to say: Amen. And amen.

Thank you for writing this....

Danny said...

"Aging hippy" was my blog sidebar strap line for a while... before "Angelic... coffee freak"... so like Kate I too say Amen and Amen!

Sarah H said...

You've given me a lot to think about as well! I say Amen too.

I can't help but think that the moratorium simply causes LGBT people to think that the church is either ignoring them or hoping that they will just go away. My personal opinion is that it will probably only serve to further disappoint, confuse and sideline LGBT Christians.

Do they really think that this will mean that people will stop talking about the issue?

Whatever the decision/outcome after 2 years of "silence", there are going to be some very unhappy and even angry people and the Kirk needs to face up to this and figure out an appropriate pastoral response that is NOT wringing its hands in despair.

The C of E (yes I'm a closet Anglican) is in a similar perilous situation. My fear is that if the Church does not fully acknowledge and celebrate the presence of LGBT Christians - lay and ordained - then many people will never see the love of Christ when they look at us, only an unredeemable prejudice and superiority complex.

Sorry for a rant. Like I say, you have given me a lot to think about :-)