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.
We journey with God. Thank you
I am yet to be convinced that ‘Climate Change’ is something we humans are completely responsible for. That human activity is exacerbating it, yes. That we are responsible for polluting the air and the seas, the ground waters and the earth also. But we know historically that the world’s climatic conditions have fluctuated throughout history. That for instance the sun’s activity has been dying down in recent times leading to extremes of temperature and weather conditions on the earth.
I tend to believe that the Sun is the driving force behind what is happening here on earth. But even if it is human activity, we know that the United States, the Republic of China and India are three of the greatest polluters, yet we see little sign of Extinction Rebellion taking on these nations and demanding a halt to their industrial activities. The British Isles are pretty conscientious these days, and it seems to me that there is little more we could significantly do to change things in comparison to the three nations mentioned earlier.
For that reason it is hard for me to have any sense of respect or admiration for Extinction Rebellion; especially when I consider the sufferings and martyrdoms of Christians across the globe simply because they are Christians…
This comments has been made by someone wishing to remain anonymous:
The moment that Westminster rang the bells in solidarity and the clergy came out to stand with us for the planet and thousands of XR rebels fell silent to listen was the most beautiful thing! I felt God with us. “Your Kingdom come”.
I also just wanted to say how the St John’s Waterloo opened it’s doors to us in October was, to me living out Jesus’ instructions. You demonstrated “love your neighbour” in an amazing way. Imagine if every church opened it’s doors for rebels in the way you did. What a way to show Christ’s love! I know many churches did open their doors, thank you so much!
I was at a workshop at St John’s and having not had much sleep for quite a few nights was a bit wobbly emotionally. One man spotted me struggling and packed me off to fetch a cuppa. I went down stairs and was enveloped in love by strangers. They fed and watered me and made me laugh again 🙂
For the next rebellion can all the C of E churches in the area do this please? Can we open our doors for rebels to sleep so that we can provide wave after wave. Maybe there will be space for people who don’t want to be arrested but want to be involved, they may want to serve, to make food, clean up. I know many who wanted to do this but were too worried about being arrested so didn’t come down. People are ready to love the way Christ told us, that involves loving God’s creation and defending it for the sake of our neighbours who are already suffering.