DLT, London, 2001, £12.95
(price at publication of review)
Reviewed May 2002; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2002
A resolution of the 1988 Lambeth conference called on the Bishops of the Anglican Communion to spend time in the next ten years in a ‘deep and dispassionate study of the question of homosexuality’. Sadly very little of this happened and the Lambeth Conference of 1998 resulted in behaviour that was neither deep nor dispassionate.
Unheard Voices restored this reviewer’s faith in the commitment of ordinary people within the church to listen to and dialogue with real people, rather than discuss abstract ideas. The book describes the experience at St Luke’s Church, Charlton, of twenty years of providing a service of blessing for same sex couples and the theological reflection that took place within the congregation on this ministry.
Jeffrey Heskins has been the rector of St Luke’s only since 1995 but has known the church since 1988 when he became vicar of the neighbouring parish. The story begins in 1979 with the request by two men who had lived together for nineteen years to have their relationship blessed in church. They subsequently became prominent members of the church community. Since then forty-five couples have sought and received a blessing. It is both their voices and the voices of members of the congregation of St Luke’s, most of whom support the blessing, some who do not, who are the unheard voices of the title of the book.
Using the methodology of contextual theology which is well described by Heskins, five selected members of the congregation interviewed a randomly-chosen group of parishioners and Heskins interviewed a selection of couples who had had their unions blessed. I found the responses of the couples particularly moving. One wrote, ‘For me being blessed in church is a sort of ethical thing. We are making a commitment and we are trying to make every effort to live out and fulfil that commitment.’
The book explores the pastoral care before and after the blessings and includes a copy of the parish policy and recommendations for ‘Good Practice’, the first of which is that they should be celebrated openly and within the context of the parish community. Whatever your views on this subject and especially if you disagree, read this book. These voices deserve to be heard.
David Francis SSF
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