Today was the Diocesan Synod of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway.
I chose not to seek a point of clarification at Synod today because I’d realised that I was so angry that had I got my hands on a microphone at that particular moment I would have done something that I have never done, ever, not in any church, not at an AGM or a Vestry or at General Synod. At that moment, I did not trust myself to speak without losing my temper. The Bishop, the Chair, the whole of Synod, all the invited guests, and the members of the Design Group for the Discussion of Same-Sex Relationships. They would all have got shouted at and I don’t think I could have brought myself to entirely regret it later.
The point that I wanted to clarify was in any case clarified by someone else, but I’ll come to that.
Yes, I am banging on about same-sex relationships again. Oh, believe me, I am as bored of talking about it as I know you are of hearing me talk about it, but, given that I participated in a small group conversation today in which LGBT people were referred to as those people, I trust you’ll see why I don’t consider my job done.
Today, we have been given an update from the Design Group for the Discussion of Same-Sex Relationships. I mentioned this process last June when it was imposed on a dissenting General Synod, and the Provost wrote before Synod last year about the information we were given on the process – information, I might add, that has never been made publicly available, to the point that there were people at Diocesan Synod for whom today was the first time they knew that such a process had been taking place. I was invited in my capacity as one of the convenors of Changing Attitude Scotland to meet with the Design Group late last year, and I declined to do so on the grounds that we do not believe it wise to collude with or endorse a process that we don’t believe is fit for purpose. In declining that invitation, I outlined at some length what our issues with the process were and I informed both the Design Group and the Standing Committee of General Synod of the alternative mechanism that I propose for seeking resolution to the issue of same-sex marriage within the Church. The proposition, which I do not feel is a terribly radical one, is that a resolution is sought through the usual channels of Synod, which would lead to a three year discussion with an end in sight and a framework for getting there. I keep being accused of trying to rush the process. I presume you will forgive me for believing that three years has never by any definition constituted a rush.
In all of the correspondence I’ve had on this subject over the last eight or nine months, one of the things I’ve kept saying is that it isn’t my intention to undermine the work of the Design Group. I’d been told very little about the work that they had done, but I thought that if it were good then it could be used to bring about just such a motion as to lead to what I propose and I didn’t think it out of the realm of possibility that their work might start us off in facilitating just such a three year discussion process as I’ve described.
My view on that has changed somewhat today.
It is my opinion that not only the process which led to its formulation but the Design Group as a group is not fit for any purpose at all. It is my opinion that the existence of the design process and its imposition on General Synod last year is and has always been a stalling tactic. It is my opinion that the Design Group considers LGBT people to be Other. It is my opinion that this has not been and will not be a transparent process. It is my opinion that the Design Group is not a safe space for people who happen to be gay, and that furthermore both the Design Group itself and any space or conversation that it tries to facilitate will potentially be a dangerous space for people who happen to be gay.
I am tired of being talked about as if I am not there. I am tired of LGBT people being talked about as though we are not Christians, as though there are no LGBT people in our churches or in our rectories or on our Synods. I am angry that when these conversations take place, they are of a tone and with a presumption that a conversation about same-sex marriage is about Other People, that it is not about the marriages of people who are in the room, and that a conversation about gay bishops is about Other People, that it is not about the careers of people who are in the room. I am so tired of standing up just to remind them that I am not an abstract concept.
I believe that this is a process with no credibility and that if the Province continues to pursue something so deeply flawed and so very unsafe that that will raise questions about the credibility of the Church.
For consider this:
You cannot claim to be working to provide a safe space for conversation if you demonstrably have no understanding of what a safe space means to LGBT people.