Tag Archives: England

English Bishops Oppose Homophobic Bullying

At Bondings 2.0, Francis DeBernardo has reported on a new manual produced for the English bishops on combating homophobia in Catholic schools. In his headline to the post, DeBernardo  describes this manual as a “gift to the church” (and so it is).

A new manual for Catholic school teachers in England and Wales on how to combat homophobia and biphobia has caused a bit of a minor controversy based on its origin, perhaps because the document offers strong practical advice on how to stop and prevent bullying of sexual minority students.

The document, entitled “Made in God’s Image:  Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic Schools” was produced by the Catholic Education Service of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, in partnership with St. Mary’s University.

As one who has (twice) participated in Stonewall training to combat HBT (homophobic/biphobic/transphobic) bullying in English schools, I can confirm that much of this material is not just “similar” to the Stonewall material – it’s identical to some of what was used in Stonewall’s own training. Some other material consists of direct quotes from Stonewall publications in the public domain.

The desire to combat bullying is in fact clearly required by Catholic teaching, which insists on the obligation to oppose “violence or malice, whether in speech or in action”. It is for this reason that Quest (the British association for LGBT Catholics) has partnered with Stonewall to deliver their well-established training to Catholic schools, funded by the UK government Department of Education. What is helpful in this document from the Bishops, is that it provides useful faith-based material which will be helpful in adapting the standard Stonewall material, to make it more directly relevant to Catholic schools.

What I find particularly striking about this initiative, is that deliberately or not, the English bishops have in effect entered an informal partnership with Stonewall. Not long ago, there were widespread perceptions (on both sides of the divide) that Stonewall and the churches were necessarily in opposition to each other. From Stonewall’s side, under the leadership of the current CE Ruth Hunt, Stonewall is actively promoting alliances with faith-based LGBT groups. Now it seems that Catholic bishops too, are seeing value in Stonewall’s work to combat homophobia and bullying.

However, The Catholic Herald reports,that some critics have questioned who contributed to the document:

The critics said that portions of the document are very similar to anti-bullying materials produced by Stonewall and lgbtyouth Scotland, two leading UK LGBT equality organizations. Stonewall denied any involvement but said their materials are public and they’d be glad if their ideas were used by others.

What is most remarkable about this “controversy” is that the criticism seems intended to discredit what is a fine document on how to educate Catholic students about respecting gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

It is extraordinary that some, who would certainly see themselves as “faithful” Catholics, should be so critical of an initiative by their bishops, that is so clearly in accordance with established Catholic teaching in opposition to “violence or malice, in speech or action”. The only possible explanation must be that the critics are so obsessed with their opposition to “homosexuality”, that they are unable to see or accept those elements of Catholic teaching that are in fact inclusive and welcoming.

We, on the other hand, must welcome this initiative of the Catholic bishops – with a single reservation. While this document is strong on the importance of combating homophobic bullying, it is completely silent on the increasingly pressing issue of transphobic bullying.

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Prominent English Religious Leaders “Rejoice” in Gay Marriage

gay marriage, uk

We rejoice that from tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales.

As persons of faith, we welcome this further development in our marriage law, which has evolved over the centuries in response to changes in society and in scientific knowledge.

We acknowledge that some (though not all) of the faith organisations to which we belong do not share our joy, and continue to express opposition in principle to such marriages. We look forward to the time, sooner rather than later, when all people of faith will feel able to welcome this development.

Martin Pendergast, chair of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, has released a statement in support, on behalf of CSCS:

The Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality(CSCS) welcomes the support for same-sex marriage expressed by a number of religious leaders from different faith communities in a statement issued today, 28 March 2014. CSCS would also like to highlight the growing acceptance of same-sex unions, including their religious celebration, by grass-roots believers, congregations, and organisations from a variety of faith traditions.

Signatories to the CEC / LGBTI Anglican Coalition letter included senior office bearers of Liberal Judaism, the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, Quakers in Britain, the Movement for Reform Judaism and the Metropolitan Community Church, North London, and Revd Steve Chalke of Oasis.

Anglican signatories included one serving and seven former Anglican bishops and five Anglican deans. A second serving bishop, Nick Holtam of Salisbury, was not named in the published list of signatories, but has released an independent statement in support of gay marriage, and praising the courage of those couples planning to wed.

This mood of celebration was also expressed in a leader article in Church Times, which noted (in part):

THE first same-sex marriages this weekend will be occasions of celebration. At the political level, an inequality has been remedied. At a personal level, the virtues of love, commitment and faithfulness will be proclaimed publicly, as they are at every wedding. All of this is to be celebrated, as it was this week in a letter signed by clergy in Camden, north London: “We pray for all those who are marrying this year – that they may find rich comfort and blessing in each other for the whole of their life together.”

The full list of signatories to the CEC / LGBTI Anglican Coalition letter is:

Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism
Derek McAuley, Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism
Revd Sharon Ferguson, Senior Pastor, MCC North London
Revd Steve Chalke, Oasis

Rt Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford
Rt Revd Richard Lewis, former Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich
Rt Revd Peter Selby, former Bishop of Worcester
Rt Revd John Saxbee, former Bishop of Lincoln
Rt Revd Michael Doe, Preacher to Gray’s Inn, former Bishop of Swindon
Rt Revd David Gillett, former Bishop of Bolton
Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, former Bishop of Hulme
Very Revd Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
Very Revd Jonathan Draper, Dean of Exeter
Very Revd Mark Bonney, Dean of Ely
Very Revd Lister Tonge, Dean of Monmouth
Very Revd Mark Beach, Dean of Rochester

(Cross – posted from Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality)