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Parish letter

From the Rector

Dear All

It probably says more about the social media feeds I follow than anything else but at the beginning of June there came the entirely predictable influx of messages about pride. They were almost all about what a bad thing pride is - one of the seven deadly sins no less. One of the problems with most of these posts was that they misused the word pride.

In the sense it used in the New Testament and Christian theology, pride is ‘the inordinate desire to excel over others and God, often with malicious intent… the supreme vice over against humility.’ (from the New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology)

What is often called pride might also be things the NT approves of:

‘All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride.’ Galatians 6:4

‘I often boast about you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with consolation; I am overjoyed in all our affliction.’ 2 Corinthians 7:4

The reason for the increase in posts about pride was, of course, the beginning of LGBT+ Pride Month, something which is about a pride that does not fall within that sinful definition above. The month of June was chosen for LGBT+ Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held during this month to recognise the impact LGBT+ people have had in the world, and to guard against the bad - often evil - impact that the world can have on LGBT+ people.

It is particularly poignant coming, as it does, hot on the heels of mental health awareness week (back in May.) The damage that has been (and continues to be) done to LGBT+ people by the vehemence of some in their religious condemnation needs to be challenged and ended. This is especially true when we are talking about youngsters. The suicide and self-harm rates are alarming and there is plenty of evidence that Jesus had a particularly low view of those who would put a stumbling block in the way of a child or cause them harm. Millstones were mentioned.

Even if it was a little late, there was some welcome news in October last year from the bishops of this diocese, who issued an Ad Clerum letter. Titled 'Clothe Yourselves with Love’, the letter addressed the place of LGBT+ people in the church. The bishops wrote that silence is both painful and damaging for LGBT+ people in the midst of continuing debate within the Church about human sexuality and the letter, sent to all clergy and LLMs in the Diocese of Oxford, set out expectations of inclusion and respect towards all and affirms LGBT+ people called to roles of leadership and service in the church.

At the same time they announced the setting up of a chaplaincy to the LGBT+ community. This was done on the advice of, and alongside members of that community and the role of the chaplains will be to listen, to offer support and to advise local clergy and congregations in our welcome and support of LGBT+ people and their families, and to learn from the insights of LGBT+ people about being the church, the body of Christ, together.

Small steps, but for all that, important steps.

  Every blessing.