The Pastoral is Political: We are called to love

Back in 1975, as a naïve young woman, I started my university course. My family were conservative with a Roman Catholic background, albeit they did not attend Mass. We lived in a very white, West of Scotland coastal town. University was therefore something of a culture shock to me, but a good one. My eyes were opened to a world where diversity existed.

Six years later, I loved and embraced the diversity of friends and colleagues in the multicultural West Midlands in England. At one trade union conference, I chatted with two young women about the challenges they faced every day as they were in a relationship with each other, unknown to others. My eyes were opened to a world where shameful prejudice exists.

The stories shared that day remain with me. I really had no idea of the intensity of the hurt caused to two people who loved each other. Sadly, within the universal church, many continue to exacerbate such hurt. Yet, we are called to love God, with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves. I see nothing in those commandments that say we are called to judge or to cause hurt to others. Yet, we continue to do so.

At my final stage of assessment before training for ministry in 2006, I was required to give a 5-minute presentation on a subject that was current within the church. I chose same sex relationships. At that point I had no theological training, but I did have a strong sense of right and wrong. Discrimination against people in same sex relationships is so clearly wrong.

Over that 15 years, I have watched the decline in many churches. We turn people away, children of God, because they are in a same sex relationships.

Of course we say all are welcome. All are welcome unless they are called to ministry, where they are only allowed to apply for some parishes. Even then, the wording is that the parish has departed from the “…historic and current doctrine and practice of the Church in relation to human sexuality (including marriage)…..” In our diverse church, departure from this doctrine of the church is permissible.

I recognise that diversity of opinion is important and as a Church of Scotland minister, will adhere to the decisions of our General Assembly, even if I don’t like them. I do find frustration sets in though, when we take the baby steps forward to address the issue and accept same sex marriage, those who fundamentally disagree feel it is necessary to register their dissent. Once again, we are saying, all are welcome, but if you are in a same sex relationship, you can only serve in a certain capacity within the church, because, effectively, this might offend the beliefs of others.

I’m now not naïve enough to resist the conclusion that many interpret the bible differently. I understand that theological views are firmly held. Christians across the world hold incredibly different views on same sex marriage, divorce, women’s reproductive rights, women in ministry. Ever so slowly, society is catching up with Jesus Christ and his inclusive ministry, embracing the oppressed. Many of us are trying to do this within the church.

Failure to do so, in my opinion, is turning people away from the church. I’m not yet permitted to solemnise or even bless a same sex marriage and have already repeatedly had to turn down the request to do so. The people concerned want to be married. They want to be married in the eyes of God, in the presence of God. In a world where marriage in church is decreasing, why would we turn people away? Where a church does not welcome those in a same sex relationship, a couple are hardly likely to want to be married there. However, an affirming church is a place where all people should be able to feel that they can request the solemnisation of their marriage.

Within my own denomination, we have taken yet another step closer. Our General Assembly has recently agreed to consider a church law enabling those of us who want to solemnise same sex marriage to do so, within certain constraints. Now this will go to members of Presbyteries to consider and could return to the General Assembly again next year.

I can only pray that we do make this decision. Many say it isn’t the most important issue. For those in same sex relationships, it is incredibly important. For me, it is also incredibly important, as I want to be out there, sharing God’s love for all. I want to let everyone know they are valued and that they are welcome.


Rev Maggie Roderick is a Church of Scotland minister, whose most recent parish was in a Central Scotland village. She now lives with her husband in Stirling, providing pastoral and preaching cover where it is needed. She is passionate about social justice and equality among other issues.

Views expressed here are her own and do not represent any Church or organisation.


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Climate change denial is not an option

*this piece was originally published on revgalblogpals by the same author*

Severe flooding has already hit the UK, much of Europe and also parts of the USA this winter. If that wasn’t enough to concentrate people’s minds about climate change, then the loss of life, human and animal, and the loss of homes in Australia’s bush fires should have done.

In the UK, the floods in Indonesia, New Zealand and Fiji failed to receive such extensive coverage. We can be so parochial at times.

Inadequate reporting on the major effects of environmental change can lead us to complacency. They are there and not here, so they don’t affect us, we think, until they do. They affect us every day if we turn on television screens or social media. We cannot escape the horror of what we see. Yet, the effects of our catastrophic failure to look after our environment were not always so obvious.

Having an environmental conscience 25 years ago marked me out as someone who was odd. What difference did it make if manufacturers called products environmentally friendly? Did it matter about the missing environmental impact of our domestic appliances? Why have regulation for the excessive use of packaging and its disposal?

As part of my job, all of these things mattered. Some colleagues wondered why I bothered. Others didn’t care. The global climate emergency now clarifies things. Accurate information is important so that we do not use incredibly harmful products in ignorance and self-satisfaction, believing they are friendly to the environment and therefore causing no harm. I am quite clear that there is an environmental cost to everything we do and use. We can minimise that cost.

Over time I’ve deluded myself with pride in my own environmental credentials. Reduce, reuse, recycle, we said. Oh dear. As we all know, pride comes before a fall. And I have fallen far.

Last year a friend questioned why I used wet wipes to clean off makeup. ‘There’s too much plastic in it’, she said. I hadn’t even thought about it. Then, in October, a relative questioned why I drink bottled water. Having explained that I don’t like the taste of our tap water, he shamed me into buying a water filter instead. Since then, we’ve saved over 150 small plastic bottles equating to at least 600 every year.

Then at New Year, the declutter adverts seemed to be everywhere. You know the ‘new decade, new space’ sort of thing? They irritated me. I wondered why I should dispose of my things. But the niggle remained that I really should unpack the boxes from 2 years ago. Why do I have so much stuff anyway?

Recent environmental disasters have made me question what I’m doing, what I’m buying and how my waste is impacting the environment. I’ve realised just how much my lack of general environmental stewardship is contributing to the worldwide misery caused by climate change.

I’ve discovered that plastic waste pollution affects more than the scenery. Not only is it killing fish, it’s slowly killing the planet. According to plastic oceans , more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, yet over 90% is not recycled. In the same article, they say that ‘At least eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year – the equivalent of dumping one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean per minute’. The environmental impact of that is too horrific to comprehend, but we must try to do so.

The German news & current affairs website DW gives useful and graphic detail about the various ways in which plastic impact climate change, from production to disposal. This information belongs on national television programmes on a regular basis.

In order to reduce our clutter, we can resolve to buy less, waste less and accept less in the way of packaging. Community campaigns can work. When we do have packaging, we must dispose of it responsibly and in the best way for the environment. We can also donate many of our unwanted, but useful, goods to charities for those who need them. More churches could take a lead in collection and redistribution of good clothes and household goods to those in need.

We are called to be stewards of the earth. We fail badly.
We are called to love our neighbours. By ignoring our environmental responsibilities, we fail to do so.

No one of us can tackle climate change alone. We can all make a start, though and change little things. Equally, every one of us can lobby our politicians to demand that they put the environment before profit and take climate change seriously.

Denial is no longer an option. We should not have to wait until more people and animals die and thousands become homeless before taking action.

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My First Blog Post

Who Am I?

A view over the water from Dalgety Bay, when I started thinking more deeply as I looked over the water.

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken”

— Oscar Wilde.

I love the quotation above, so decided to keep it here.