Thursday, 15 May 2008

Human Rights begin with us

Everybody should respect human rights... that often means Everybody else. How about us? How aligned are our values with the ways we treat our own people? It’s sometimes suggested Bishops are guardians of orthodoxy, to enforce conformity of doctrine. Actually, in the Acts of the Apostles there’s almost none of that. Right being aligns with right doing, the weeding out of hypocrisy, the discernment of strategic direction, not behaving like the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition, least of all about ideology.

So how do we respect human beings habitually in this diocese? On the Day of Pentecost, God could have put the clock back to the Tower of Babel — one language, one simple identity, and lots of neat little bricks all in a row until we reach heaven. But God didn’t do that. In an essentially chaotic act he affirmed the value and identity of every language and culture under heaven. God passionately affirms human diversity — do we?

Martin Luther King said “Peace is not the absence of war, but the presence of justice.” Christians talk a lot about love, and the first claim of love is justice. To lie low playing “Colour blind”, bracketing racial justice along with motherhood and apple pie, is just not enough. We need to get real about this. We need to take positive action. It involves holding ourselves accountable for cherishing the diversity to which God calls us, with as much determination as we pay our bills and taxes.

I've been doing some serious work with our diocesan Committee for Racial Justice, which I chair. We’ve been working hard to develop what we call a Rigorous Diversity agenda, and it begins with us, not “them”. We’re studying the Wood-Shepherd principles, and working out how and when to apply them to our diocese. And I believe finding a way to do that will help with various other objectives. Rigorous, open diversity practice founded on respect and fully accountable will help grow a kingdom culture.

Auditing and enforcing a rigorous diversity agenda will help create a fairer, safer working environment — one in the eye for the bullies. It will give a truer perspective in which to have discussions about authority (male and female), and, perhaps, even help us to discern sexual orientation issues more honestly and truthfully. I can quite understand why intelligent people out there cannot hear the gospel in us, and even hold us in contempt, for as long as our HR practice is less fair and accountable than that of Woolworth’s.

Get our act together on this and who knows, people on the outside may begin to realise that, OK we are a bunch of hypocrites, but a bunch of hypocrites who are being healed... Let’s put some serious work into respect for the human beings closest to us, in basic accountable ways. Then see what kind of love begins to grow among us, and where that enables the wind of the Spirit to take us. It’s a major undertaking, but I believe it’s been neglected, and it’s worth serious effort.
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Anonymous said...

Such an important issue, thank you. We need to be so aware not only of racism and sexual orientation prejudice within the Diocese, but also issues of disability prejudice?

Steve Hayes said...

Auditing and enforcing a rigorous diversity agenda will help create a fairer, safer working environment — one in the eye for the bullies.

Could you unpack this a little? I'm trying to picture what a "rigorous diversity agenda" would look like, and how it would be one in the eye for bullies. If there is a problem with bullies, then surely one needs a rigorous anti-bullying polocy. What am I missing here?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for your questions Steve.

What would a rigorous positive diversity agenda look like? DCRJ and I are working this out in detail, but it would involve intentional acts to change the ways we treat people in order to encourage a diversity that mirrors that of Acts 2, or Revelation 21. Rigorous because English Churchgoers sometimes believe that just because they have good colour blind intentions, they are somehow tackling racism, without changing any of the discriminatory assumptions or cultures that exclude some groups from ministry and leadership at all levels in the Church. The Wood Sheppard principles define and monitor performance in this area so that we actually align our acts with our intentions.

There are two ways of confronting bullying. Negatively you can go for zero tolerance; which sounds good, but is actually very difficult to do when definitions and evidence and accusations fly around. It can sometimes simply drive violence underground. Positvely you build as safe and positive a working environment, based on high respect, because in that kind of atmosphere bullying behaviour stands out as anomalous.

In a culture which tolerates low standards of respect (and churches can be curiously like this sometimes) bullying is almost impossible to detect, or is dismissed as part of the rough and tumble of life.

Not a complete answer by any means, but I hope that gives some idea what I had in mind.

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