by the Revd Canon Giles Goddard, former Chair of the General Synod’s Human Sexuality Group and member of the co-ordinating group for the Living in Love and Faith project
October was a strange month for me. It was all about insiders and outsiders.
St John’s Waterloo was pleased to open its doors to the protesters of Extinction Rebellion. We gave fifty Red Rebels a home in the crypt for a fortnight, enabling them to rest and robe before going out to sites of protest around London. In their robes of red, with stark white faces, they witnessed silently to the consequences of catastrophic climate change.
The response we had from XR protestors who made us their home was moving. One person wrote to me afterwards – ‘I was brought up as a Christian. However, I have to say that in the sixty five years of my being on this planet this is the first time in my life that I have been quite so moved and impressed by such an open, loving and caring approach.’
At the same time I was hard at work helping with the fourth redrafting of the Living in Love and Faith resource, following feedback from the College of Bishops. I have been moved by the level of engagement from people across the spectrum of views in the Church of England, as we work closely together. We’re trying to create something which will genuinely help the church to engage better with the deeply contested issues this blog often covers. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but the process of making the pudding has been in many ways humbling.
Many of the XR rebels I spoke to are ‘insiders’, grandparents – often from the West Country – who have never protested before. Who have certainly never thought of being arrested, of intentionally breaking the law – they are the people we would think of as the haves, the comfortably off. But they have deliberately re-cast themselves as outsiders, as lawbreakers. They have reached the conclusion that this is the way they are called to try to bring about the urgent changes needed to resist global heating. The insiders have become outsiders.
Many of the people involved in LLF are ‘outsiders’. People who, because of the church’s history and theology, do not fit within the current structures. Lesbian and gay people in relationships, trans people. People bringing a different voice, people who have often in the past been shut out or marginal. But now we are in the room, being listened to and listening. For many it hasn’t been an easy process. Some have left – but others have stayed or joined. The outsiders have become insiders.
In March I compared the XR arrestees to Jesus, and got some pushback for that. But I didn’t change my mind in October. The challenge of climate change is so great that urgent measures are vital.
In October I was welcomed by the College of Bishops, expressly because of who I am, a unique and individual member of the Church of England’s spiritual community. It felt weird but good.
I’m not sure where I stand now, inside or outside the circle. I expect the XR protesters aren’t sure where they stand either. But I am absolutely sure that the necessary changes won’t happen, in climate or in the church, unless we are willing to unsettle ourselves and move outside our boundaries. Journeying together to an unknown future. Which, by God’s good grace, will be the better future for which we all hope.