I first came to Halas, a Church of England parish of 5 churches in and around Halesowen, in July last year, as their curate. Although newly ordained, I had been involved in active ministry in various roles for 9 years. During those years I witnessed discrimination in the church against women and LGBTQ+ people. As you may be aware, the first female bishop was only consecrated in 2014! And gay and lesbian individuals who feel called to ordained ministry are often discouraged, or asked to affirm that they will be celibate. Marriage is out of the question if they wish to follow their vocation. I have encountered people who are frustrated and even devastated by this. So the work of organisations such as IC, who press for change, and support churches to become inclusive, is absolutely vital.
I have never understood why anyone should be discriminated against because of who they are. Inclusion and unconditional love are so central to the message of Christ. I am proud Mum to a lesbian daughter, and first heard of IC through my daughter Ellie and my daughter-in-law Ruth, who is IC National Coordinator.
When I began ministry in Halas, the team had already done a lot of the ground work towards becoming members of IC. The ministry team and the PCC (Parochial Church Council), had read the books, and were fully on board with the vision. But through the pandemic, the momentum had stalled somewhat, and it needed someone to take things forward once more. So of course I volunteered.
Ruth kindly came to speak at 4 of our churches, and a regional ambassador, Nigel Pietroni, spoke at the 5th. Their talks were excellent and the congregations were buzzing with positive feedback for weeks afterwards. It then took a while (as the wheels of C of E bureaucracy move slowly!) to pass the IC statement of inclusion through the 5 district church councils and then the PCC.
The whole parish of 5 churches officially became members of IC on 19th May this year, and I was so pleased to have helped facilitate this before the end of my first year as curate. If this will help even one person to find unconditional welcome with us, it will be worth it.
Revd Mel Beynon is Assistant Curate to The Parish of Halas, Halesowen in the Diocese of Worcester (St John’s Halesowen, St Peter’s Cradley, St Margaret’s Hasbury, St Peter’s Lapal and St Kenelm’s Romsley).
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