A question for Inclusive Church

Eucharist at a previous IC conference

I attended an Inclusive Church roadshow in Newcastle a few days ago (not really a show, nor on the road, but an introduction to what IC does and hopes to do).

I put a question at the meeting and was invited to pursue it further. In a more worked form it became:
How may power in the Church of England be patterned such that there is a reasonable chance that it might move towards a sustainably inclusive church?
(Instead of the verb pattern you might substitute structured, embodied, enacted, realised, controlled, or others, each of which has slightly different connotations.)

Of course, the question could be put to any church but Inclusive Church is specifically focused on the CofE.

It's much easier to see contrary examples, of which parts of the Province of Central Africa has been a repeated refrain on this blog, but it is much harder to construct a positive framework, even theoretically, which might evoke godliness while guarding against the sins of the godly.

One might, for example, consider Mad Priest as a test case. His excellent sermon on bearing the cross of mental illness is well worth the read - including the way he was dealt with by the church, with a follow-up here. How might a truly inclusive church have acted?



  1. Well until it cracks the problem of women in the episcopate it won't be, that's to say it has a logjam to get past that has to blow something of a revolution down its corridors.

    Much else has to be done too; attitudes regarding Mad Priest are more primal and bureaucracies find it difficult to respond to such as these.

  2. Well, yes - it is long past time that women were admitted to the episcopate. The debate now, as I understand it, is about terms for those who feel further dispossessed by the prospect.

    But no revolution. The point was made at the IC meeting that the women who had hitherto known themselves to be amongst the marginalised were now demanding their share of patriarchal power. They are willingly assimilated into the existing structures rather than reforming those structures. After all that is the test of ceasing to be marginalised: gaining the power to marginalise others.

    The right thing - enabling women to be full members of the body of Christ - has (almost) been done. More people are more included. But the exclusive structures may remain just as strong even as the boundary between who's in and who's out changes.

    After all, who noticed when grammar school and even working class boys were admitted to the episcopacy?

  3. The Inclusive Church Movement is the acceptable face of rebellion. It is lead by people who are already part of the establishment and who choose their words carefully. You can guess now which of the leading lights will be elevated to the episcopacy or other high office. That is how the establishment of the Church of England has always controlled the grass roots.

    Those, who are doing the spade work in the parishes will, knowingly, use these high-fliers. But groups like Inclusive Church are not the emergent church because they wish to control and be leaders as much as those they are now fighting.

    There will be change because of their efforts. But it's such a boring and predictable way of going about things. At the end of the day, the structures of the Church, that make change so slow and bring derision on us, will not be affected in the slightest. (see - the rise and fall of Rowan Williams).

  4. MP, I know you're right, I just keep hoping that maybe, one day, someone will respond affirmatively to my concerns.

    On the other hand perhaps it's a good idea to get future leaders to consider questions of power. There seems to be little or no reflection on it in the Church.

    Sometimes I just can't help being naïve despite all the evidence.

  5. I don't think we are being naive as we fully understand the mechanics of the game and use them to our advantage.

    The Internet has made a huge difference. The unambitious now have an instant, collective voice. At the very least we are treated by the decision makers as one huge focus group. You only have to see how the blogging community's reaction to any major current event is cited by the media as a matter of course to realise the grass roots now have a bit more influence than they used to. This is why professional commentators like Giles Fraser are so against the chaotic way the blogging world operates. Me, I revel in its anarchy because it is so wonderfully human.