Message from Bishop Rachel, 23 November 2021

Published: November 23, 2021

Almighty God,

give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light,

now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;

that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty

to judge the living and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal;

through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Advent Collect

 

As Advent begins on Sunday, we are very aware of the theme of things that are hidden in darkness being brought into the light. Gender violence is one such thing.

1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced domestic or sexual abuse, and this week the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence begins. It is an international campaign that takes place every year beginning on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and finishing on 10 December (Human Rights Day). Yet, this is not an issue about people who live hundreds of miles away. In the UK two women are murdered every week by an existing or former male partner; and this year the murders of Nicole Smallman, Bibaa Henry, Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa have led to a more public recognition of the abhorrent existence of violence against women and girls in our own country and communities (and in highlighting the abuse of girls and women I am not denying gender abuse and violence experienced by men and boys).

In the first part of this year, I was privileged to play my part in the House of Lords to scrutinise legislation and see the coming into being of the Domestic Abuse Act. There are amendments we did not achieve but we have made huge progress.

Domestic abuse whether physical, mental or emotional is a reality across every sphere of life – and sadly this includes people within our church communities. I am sometimes shocked by the failure in the Church to recognise and challenge it and for worshipping communities to be intentional about naming it and being places of safety where people can share their stories and find support.

In 2014 General Synod, passed a resolution, “That this Synod, believes all people are made in the image of God and that all forms of violence based on gender represent an abuse and violation of that image..’ A number of commitments were made[1] but more action and intention is needed to make them a reality.

All this resonates strongly with our diocesan LIFE Together and our spotlight on combating injustice in our desire to be advocates for flourishing.

It is a privilege for me to be an Ambassador for the charity ‘Restored’ and their resources for worshipping communities are superb as are the resources produced by Mothers Union for the 16 days around their campaign ‘No more 1 in 3

I know that engaging now with these resources will not be for everyone – I want people to be realistic about their capacity as we live this next season. However, we can all be asking how issues of domestic abuse and gender violence are named in our contexts and our ongoing commitment together to share the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ so that people may know life in all its fullness. How is the language we use, and the behaviour we encourage, and the way we use scripture, enabling us to shape a culture which recognises the reality of domestic abuse and gender-based violence so that it is brought into the light?

On Saturday (27 November) I will be outside our cathedral in Gloucester with some members of the Mothers Union to observe a 3-minute silence beginning at 1.03 pm and everyone is invited to join us in solidarity, whether being present at the cathedral or observing the silence prayerfully at home or with other people locally.

You can join virtually on this link —>

Finally, as I write about silence, solidarity and prayer, Bishop Robert and I urge you to also look at the message from Bishop Sadock in the Diocese of Western Tanganyika. The news of the drought reached us yesterday, and this too is about our commitment to be advocates for flourishing which includes combating injustice and environmental destruction. This is a reality for our sisters and brothers in Tanzania. Let us join with them in prayer.

This comes with my thanks and prayers

This comes as ever with my thanks and prayers.

Bishop Rachel

[1] “That this Synod, believing all people are made in the image of God and that all forms of violence based on gender represent an abuse and violation of that image (a) affirm the work already undertaken in dioceses, deaneries, parishes and Church of England schools in raising awareness and caring for survivors of gender-based violence in all our diverse communities; (b)support measures to bring perpetrators to account and provide support for changed lifestyles; (c)encourage boys and men to stand against gender-based violence; and (d) commend Anglican Communion Council Resolution 15:7 on preventing and eliminating gender-based violence to dioceses, deaneries and parishes and urge them to seek practical approaches to its implementation.”

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