Pretty much all of the credit to this article goes to Miranda Threlfall Holmes. So in the spirit of blogging i am going to plagurise her hook line and sinker, but i think deep down she might appreciate it. For those of you only following social media and finding Trump there, yesterday the House of Bishops tried to sneak out a little report on sex and gender, on marriage and homosexuality in the church. this is here: https://www.churchofengland.org/media/3863472/gs-2055-marriage-and-same-sex-relationships-after-the-shared-conversations-report-from-the-house-of-bishops.pdf Now not only am I as unqualified to talk about it, being (as Miranda also says) white, straight and already married, I am also male, and I would be very unqualified to talk about the inner working of the Anglican church. Miranda has that audience and

Now not only am I as unqualified to talk about it, being (as Miranda also says) white, straight and already married, I am also male, and also I would be very unqualified to talk about the inner working of the Anglican church. Miranda has that audience and attention, and played it very well. Having read Miranda’s piece which is here if you want to read it, I began to reflect on what it might feel to youth workers in the church and ‘doing mission’ and to young people in and outside the church ; however, first here is what Miranda says about the gender and sexuality debate being had in the anglican church:

So, caveats aside, my primary feeling on reading the document was ‘here we go again’.
I don’t want to go through each paragraph or recommendation of the report, such as they are. That would be too depressing. So let’s talk about ‘tone’. The report is very keen on ‘tone’.
Emotionally and ecclesiologically, the tone throughout is all too familiar from the interminable reports on women’s ordination that we had to wade through. From the basic assumption that these people are an inconvenience, a problem to be solved, a difficulty we would much rather not have to deal with, to the carefully crafted tone of agonised eirenicism throughout. The report is at pains to emphasise just how difficult and painful all this has been – FOR THE BISHOPS! – and begs us to sympathise with them in their hard task of steering the ship between two extremes.
This really isn’t good enough. And I say that as someone who has been part of the Shared Conversation process in Synod, and so is not particularly surprised by the actual proposals (basically not to do anything, although with a few hopeful noises about changing the tone and being a bit more permissive).

But how do you change the tone without changing the tone? The tone of this report is exactly what we have come to expect. Agonised reporting of your own pain at a difficult decision and pleas for patience are not tone-changing.

And how do you change the tone without changing the underlying assumptions, doctrines and rules? The very reason that the current tone is so negative towards gay people is because those who wish to be negative can perfectly correctly point to their position as upholding the Church’s teaching. Those who wish to be unwelcoming can perfectly truthfully talk about definitions of sin. The point of rules is not primarily to punish, but to set tone – unless you change the rules, it is very hard indeed to see how the tone gets to change. That’s one reason why we campaigned so hard for Women Bishops – not for a few women to have a particular job, but because of what the change means for the whole tone of how our church talks about and to women.
Tone does matter. But to set the tone, you need to begin by setting it in reports like this – and all this report does is bolster the hand-wringing ‘oh, it’s all very difficult to balance, isn’t it’ tone that we have got so used to.

 

Question: If it feels like the Bishops have been at pains, and agony to try and navigate through this situation- when might the need for the church to act towards young people in and outside its walls the source of the same kind of heartache?

Not for a moment am i suggesting that young people face the same kind of discrimination in the church that those who of a ‘outside the rules’ sexual orientation face. But age discrimination, and also behaviour discrimination, race discrimination, poverty discrimination and sexual discrimination might all be a factor in the way young people are treated in the culture of a church. Ie we can only cope with people like us. Until there is recognition of the dynamics of power and culture in churches, and this is challenged with more than declarations of intent, then im not sure what will change, yet not for a moment am i saying the same thing. But actually, looking at what Miranda has said here, the debate for young people could look similar:

The report is very keen on ‘tone’.
Emotionally and ecclesiologically, the tone throughout is all too familiar from the interminable reports on women’s ordination that we had to wade through. From the basic assumption that these  YOUNG people are an inconvenience, a problem to be solved, a difficulty we would much rather not have to deal with, to the carefully crafted tone of agonised eirenicism throughout. The report is at pains to emphasise just how difficult and painful all this has been – FOR THE BISHOPS! – and begs us to sympathise with them in their hard task of steering the ship between two extremes……

And how do you change the tone without changing the underlying assumptions, doctrines and rules? (that young peopl have to face, encounter and the church adopts)  The very reason that the current tone is so negative towards gay people is because those who wish to be negative can perfectly correctly point to their position as upholding the Church’s teaching.

Young people have been a problem to be solved in the church, but since ‘Youth a Part’ (1988) has any pronouncement been made in their favour..?

What seems to have been done in the church about young people is to make proclamations without much action. ‘Young people are important’, ‘we will appoint someone to be a national person, to run a ministry from an office somewhere central and coordinate a ministry to help with young people’ – proclamations that try and have a conversation about the tone, about the culture even, but is change actually occurring? When any work that might be considered ‘missional’ has to scramble around to find ‘external’ funding. How is that valuing mission amongst young people?

Youth Ministry can only afford itself to have conversations with itself, often young people , let alone gay young people, or young people outside the church arent even part of that consultation.

It has many conferences, conversations and collaborations, surveys and research. What it doesnt need is more of the same people offering the same sympathies about it, offering to host conversations. What it needs is action, a shift, something, like Miranda calls for, that turns the conversation into culture and systematic change. It shouldnt be anything like as contentious as this debate. Actually what it could do is say to the world that the church, instead of getting its proverbial and hmm literal knickers in a knot about something like this, is about committing to, investing in and building transforming communities of young people, of families in communities across the country who have been abandoned by the church in the first place.

Its not enough in youth work, in mission amongst young people and youth ministry for the only the tone to change either.

There was no need to talk about the way in which the debate affects mission and conversations about the church outside of it, Ruth Harley, youthworker illustrates this perfectly here: https://becausegodislove.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/the-parable-of-the-wedding-invitation/.

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