Group aims to build support for equality diversity and inclusion
Published on 10 February 2022 3 minutes read
The Church of Scotland's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group has begun work aimed at empowering people across the church to celebrate the diversity of all God's people and to strengthen our culture of welcome.
"As Christians, we believe that all humans were created in God's image," says Acting Convener Rev Mandy Ralph. "This is what gives us dignity. Every single person on this planet mirrors God. To treat every person with respect, fairness and dignity is the appropriate answer to God's creation of humankind in God's image.
"Our vision for this world and our society is, "That all may have life and have it in fullness" (John 10:10)."
Established by the General Assembly of 2021, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Group is made up of ministers, office holders, Church members, and staff with an interest and expertise in relevant areas including theology, law, worship and a wide range of equalities issues.
Scottish and UK law places obligations on all organisations and individuals through statutes such as the Equalities Act of 2010 which protects minority groups against discrimination and harassment. When the legislative landscape changes, Church policies and practices will be revised. However, the General Assembly has adopted a far broader and more ambitious goal – that everyone can feel safe, valued and included in the life of the Church.
The group aims to identify existing barriers to full participation, and to support presbyteries, employees, volunteers and local congregations to build a culture that is equal, inclusive and comfortable with diversity. The group has a sound theological foundation and will continue to explore the theological dimensions of its work as it progresses.
Working closely with the Assembly Trustees and supported by central offices staff, the group will:
- Seek input from experts and those with lived experience of equalities issues
- Carry out targeted research
- Provide opportunities for people to discuss equality, diversity and inclusion within the Church
- Ensure church leaders, employees and office holders have access to information and training relevant to their roles
- Raise awareness of changing expectations and best practices
- Highlight exemplary work underway in local churches
- Recognise congregations for their achievements
- Encourage and resource a network of supportive individuals
- Advocate for appropriate representation across the structures of the Church
- Work with ecumenical partners on equality issues
Work is progressing
During 2020, issues of equality came to the fore as people around the world watched the turmoil in the United States and called for racial justice in their own countries. The General Assembly of 2020 reaffirmed that racism is a sin, declared that black lives matter and initiated a wide-ranging consultation on the issue of racial justice and the legacy of slavery. The Faith Impact Forum has begun this work and will make a progress report to the General Assembly in 2023.
At the same time the EDI Group has brought together a research group on ethnic minorities to listen to the experiences of people from ethnic minority backgrounds within the Church and to make recommendations. The groundwork has been completed and the group will initiate a formal research project starting in January 2022.
The group has also decided to take a deeper look at accessibility and the barriers faced by people dealing with disabilities. Katrona Templeton, a pioneer worker appointed by Irvine and Kilmarnock Presbytery to facilitate inclusion for people with disabilities, has spoken to the group about changes that can be made to enable disabled people to participate fully in worship and the life of the Church.
The group also plans to work on other aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion through addressing the overall culture of the Church. Over time the group will initiate other projects that cover the all nine protected characteristics under the 2010 Equalities Act, which are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation.
"As Christians we are committed to loving our neighbours and we believe church members are overwhelmingly well intentioned in their relationships with others," Mandy says. "What we can do as an EDI group is to encourage people to consider how their attitudes, behaviours, bias— often unrealised –and language affect others with different needs and perceptions, enabling us all to uphold and actively pursue our belief that we are all one in Christ."
The group will make a report to the General Assembly of 2022.
How to contribute: If you are interested in being part of a network or supporting this work please email the group at EDI@churchofscotland.org.uk