Here are three fragments of writing, connected through a conversation around acceptance, equality, inclusion, and the established church: i’m triggered to share these, with others that remain unpublished, by the experience of speaking to people excluded by the church because of their sexuality or gender identity. This writing is about the moral imperative to acceptance, and the need to evolve systems that have fallen out of kilter with what is right.
I write with some hesitation about the church, because my work typically involves Organisations, and yet when it comes to the underlying legal, moral, and ethical frameworks of a society that is striving for equity, equality, and greater social accountability, it feels fair to do so.
This writing is shared from one perspective: an institution that excludes, based on sexuality or gender, is perpetuating harm. And an institution that rationalises that exclusion based upon doctrine is failing to recognise when doctrine turns to dogma. This writing will be painful for some people, but it is shared from one truth.
The nature of our sexuality, preference, or expression, is a matter of individual identity and free expression or choice. To deny that expression is to deny that person an identity, and that is why, as a writer, i feel compelled to write.
I share this writing with respect for my friends in many places and around the world who hold different views to my own. But i share it with a clarity around our individual and collective responsibility to change.
Shadow of a Shadow
Through history, our respective and fractured religions forged a dominant moral and ethical framework upon which the nations, and ultimately the democracies, of western society were shaped. Their shadow flowed into the legal frameworks, and social norms, of those societies. Religion was an ever present facet, coded into both our built landscape and civic structure that lay upon it.
Today, under the dual pressures of an increasingly secular society, and an emergent and dominant mode of celebrity, the shadow falls the other way. Less pressure for society to conform to religious norms, more so than religions to conform to emergent and dominant social ones.
For some, this pace of change, and where the shadow falls, is too fast, or too uncomfortable. But what if it is right?
Many of our established religions are out of kilter with the broadly felt and fairly held views of society, and where they are not, they are holding the regressive stance against a progressive youth.
The Church casts a shadow from a hilltop of pain and exclusion, a shadow that reaches beyond congregations and into individual lives. And fails to recognise that in doing so, it is falling into the dark.
To Do Right
Doctrine holds a truth safely, wrapped up in architecture, velum and art, but dogma may prevent us from examining the truth that is held, resulting in ossified systems of belief that fracture under harsh blows as the dominant narrative of societies evolve.
Should society reflect the moral code of it’s established religions, or should religions expect to adapt to reflect the moral code of society?
Perhaps historically this picture would have been clearer: much of Western society was built upon the moral and ethical frameworks of it’s established, even if fractured and divided, Church. But in an increasingly secular society, what is left is the shadow.
And it is a shadow that casts a legacy of inequality and pain.
Sometimes truth forms the foundation of our actions, whilst at others we should take action despite our lack of a common truth: we must take action whilst we quest for understanding, insight or enlightenment instead of waiting until we have it.
We should take action during the journey, not wait for the end of it.
Not because we have to, but because we choose to. And we should choose to because love is, itself, a light, and a dogmatic Church leaves people alone, in pain, and in the dark.
Cast aside. Washed away. Adrift.
Love is love
Love holds an imperfect truth: it is a story written in every word, kiss, and moment of pain. Love is a belief held by two people. Love’s beauty is it’s intangibility, fragility, and touch.
And love is found where it is found: we are less when we judge that. We are less when we exclude that. We are less when we condemn that with quiet words and old beliefs.
Love is love: love is life. And if we celebrate life, we must surely celebrate in the warmth of all the flames, together.
Thanks for highlighting this – the treatment of your friends is not sanctioned by the church and is very wrong.
There are many who judge, categorize and measure under the banner of ‘church’ but my experience is that the church has survived the centuries not because of the users and abusers within but because of the lovers and healers. A friend of mine sheltered a homeless trans person in his church until they were housed because they were being attacked on the street. This isn’t a one off story. Maybe contact Rachel Mann a trans Anglican priest for stories about how the church is responding to sexual orientation and gender issues.
I hope your friends find a loving, accepting church community, they are out there.
Thanks for sharing that story Amanda – i will pass on your best wishes and hope, Julian