In which Ruth ponders Cascade Conversations

Next week 50 people from the seven dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church will meet in Pitlochry to discuss Equal Marriage. Each bishop chose seven people to represent views from his diocese. I asked if I could go but was turned down. I only know of two people from Edinburgh who are going – the rest is a mystery.

These people will meet and listen and talk to one another with a bunch of facilitators and speakers. Only one of the speakers is from the SEC. Then they will decide how the discussion should continue to ‘cascade’ down to the people in the pews. I’m not sure what happens after that. I’m not sure how feedback from the pews will happen. I’m not sure about much, to be honest.

It seems a funny way of doing it really. Usually when something needs to be discussed in our wee Church we do it at Synod. For some reason this seems to be an inadequate way of talking about this subject. Perhaps we are not to be trusted to listen and talk in a civilised manner? That’s funny because we seem to have been discussing this subject (or rather, pussy-footing around it) for years.

I’ve been wearing a rainbow dog collar for a few months now in support of my gay sisters and brothers in the Church. It has attracted lots of attention from clergy (lots of thumbs-up), from congregation members (why? what is that for?) and from members of the public (Oh I like your rainbow collar!) Some conversations have led to discussions about why gay people would want to get married. A few folk have said that they thought Civil Partnership was enough, and why would ‘they’ want to marry in a Church, especially a Church who doesn’t want them. I usually ask if they got married in Church and why they chose that over a Registry Office. The responses I’ve had after that have all been positive. And of course, not all churches are anti-gay.

I know that some of my gay friends are disappointed that they won’t be going to Pitlochry to share their views and be part of the process of Cascading Conversations. People like Kelvin and Beth who are open and honest about their feelings and blog about them regularly have not been asked by their Bishop. It does seem a shame that those who have been most involved in this subject dear to their hearts are being excluded. It does seem a shame that those who will be affected most won’t have the opportunity to share their stories. We are told they will have a chance later on when the conversations have cascaded ‘down’ to their level. But wouldn’t it have been much better to have had them involved in how that happens in the first place?

So we wait with bated breath to see what will happen next. I pray for those who have been overlooked in the process and their hurt, and for those who will attend and have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. I pray for those who will attend who are gay that they will be treated with respect and have the courage to speak out without it affecting their future in the Church. I pray for any Bishops attending that they will remember those left behind and be pastorally sensitive to all who risk telling their stories. And I pray for those who are opposed to Equal Marriage. I do. I really do pray for them all.

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