Crafting Change with the Anglican Church SQ: Strengthening Apologies and Building Bridges

Brisbane Cathedral

In recent years, the discourse surrounding LGBTQIA+ rights and inclusion within religious institutions has gained significant momentum. From discussions around marriage equality to the recognition of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, the journey towards acceptance and understanding has been both challenging and transformative. Recently, an email landed in my inbox that encapsulated this ongoing dialogue – an invitation from the Anglican Church SQ to provide feedback on a draft apology to the LGBTQIA+ community.

As a blogger, advocate, and member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I felt compelled to engage with this opportunity for dialogue and reconciliation. The draft apology presented by the Anglican Church SQ was a crucial step towards acknowledging past harms and fostering healing within the community. However, upon closer examination, it became apparent that there were areas where the apology could be strengthened to truly reflect the depth of remorse and commitment to change.

Draft Apology from the Anglican Church SQ  - 15/03/24:

"The Anglican Church SQ:

Recognises and rejoices in the image of God as reflected in every human being, as expressed in people of every race, social circumstance, sexual identity, or sexual orientation.

Acknowledges the pain felt by sexuality and gender-diverse people who feel like second-class citizens because they cannot marry in the Anglican Church of Australia.

Apologises to sexuality and gender-diverse people for any time that:

We have not accepted that you are who you are;

We have denigrated you;

We have excluded you from the sacraments and community of the Anglican church;

We have advocated for your criminalisation;

We have advocated for and/or condoned the practices known as 'Conversion Therapy';

We have isolated you and subjected you to maltreatment;

We have not spoken up to protect you from violence and exclusion.

Apologises to the family members and friends of sexuality and gender-diverse people for any time when:

The Anglican Church’s treatment of your loved ones has hurt you;

We have failed to grieve or celebrate with you over the challenges and achievements of the ones you love;

We have silenced or maltreated you.

Undertakes to:

Affirm your humanity as we walk together in following Jesus Christ in our Church;

Listen to you;

Stand with you against injustice and marginalisation;

Live out the guidelines of our Being Together document in all our interactions."

In my response to the Anglican Church SQ, I outlined several critical aspects that I believed would enhance the apology and demonstrate a genuine commitment to accountability and reform. Firstly, I emphasized the importance of specificity in acknowledging past wrongs – from denigration to advocacy for harmful practices such as conversion therapy. Mere acknowledgment of past actions was not enough; the apology needed to articulate what should have been done instead, highlighting the church's failure to uphold the dignity and rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Moreover, I proposed concrete actions to accompany the apology, including a commitment to accountability and reform within the church. This encompassed revising guidelines to prevent future harm, inviting further collaboration and input from the community, and providing support and resources for healing. Additionally, I advocated for the creation of an LGBTI+ Diversity Officer position within the church to ensure ongoing education and inclusion efforts.

Beyond the specifics of the draft apology, this exchange exemplified the power of dialogue and engagement in effecting meaningful change. By offering feedback and constructive criticism, I hoped to contribute to a broader conversation about the intersection of faith, identity, and acceptance. It was a reminder that change is not static but rather a continuous process of reflection, dialogue, and action.

As I hit send on my response, I felt a sense of hope – hope for a future where religious institutions not only acknowledge past wrongs but actively work towards building inclusive communities where all individuals are embraced and celebrated. While the road ahead may be fraught with challenges, moments like these remind us that by coming together with empathy, compassion, and a willingness to listen, we can craft a future where everyone belongs.

Copy of my email to The Very Rev'd Dr Peter Catt:

After reviewing the draft, I believe there are several critical aspects that could strengthen the apology and demonstrate the church's genuine commitment to accountability, change, and support for those who have been harmed. I have outlined these suggestions below for your consideration.

Upon initial examination, the statement appears to downplay the severity of the abuse and trauma inflicted by the church. It lacks sufficient affirmations and fails to adequately address the profound harm caused by the Church. Rather than solely highlighting the negative aspects, it should include a greater emphasis on positive elements. Merely stating that individuals were denigrated without further acknowledgment or amends is totally inadequate. Without implementing the proposed changes below, the church's apology indicates a failure to learn and renders it deeply painful to the LGBTI+ Community.

Proposed rewording to apologies: 

We have not accepted that you are who you are; WHEN in fact, we should have embraced your identity.

We have denigrated you; WHEN we should have uplifted and honored you.

We have excluded you from the sacraments and community of the Anglican church; WHEN instead, we should have welcomed you with open arms into Christ's fellowship.

We have advocated for your criminalization; WHEN we should have stood up for your rights and dignity.

We have advocated for and/or condoned the practices known as 'Conversion Therapy' WHEN we should have supported you in being true to yourself and promoting self-acceptance and well-being.

We have isolated you and subjected you to maltreatment; WHEN we should have fostered a culture of inclusion and care.

We have not spoken up to protect you from violence and exclusion; WHEN we should have been your allies, standing against injustice and discrimination.

I would also suggest you add: We deeply regret to acknowledge the historical and systemic failures, particularly in instances of sexual abuse, harassment, discrimination, and mistreatment of LGBTI+ individuals within the Anglican church WHEN we should have upheld their dignity and safety as divine children of God.

Additional Undertakings of UTMOST IMPORTANCE:

Commitment to Accountability and Reform: We pledge to hold individuals accountable for past misconduct and implement changes to prevent future harm, by revising Faithfulness in Service guidelines.

Invitation for Collaboration: We invite further collaboration and input from individuals to address our church's shortcomings following the publication of this apology.

Support and Healing: We affirm to stand by survivors and their families, offering resources for their healing and reconciliation. Additionally, we are dedicated to expanding the accessibility and quality of the resources available on our website, including but not limited to the LGBTI+ page. (https://www.anglicanchurchsq.org.au/humansexualityandmarriage).

Diversity Officer: The church has LISTENED and is committed to hiring an LGBTI+ Diversity Officer to lead education initiatives across the Diocese. This peer-driven position will prioritize promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, ensuring the church embraces all identities and experiences.

Peter, these recommendations in my opinion, will see that the apology conveys the church's regret for its previous transgressions as well as its commitment to significant action and reform and meet with community expectations. Kindly inform me if you have any inquiries or if I can be of any more assistance to you during this process. Once again, I appreciate your consideration of my comments.

With Every Blessing,

Shane St Reynolds.

Crafting Change with the Anglican Church SQ: Strengthening Apologies and Building Bridges Crafting Change with the Anglican Church SQ: Strengthening Apologies and Building Bridges Reviewed by Shane St Reynolds on March 15, 2024 Rating: 5

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