Rainbow Laces

Congratulations to Stonewall for their Rainbow Laces campaign – trying to persuade the various football organisations to make a gesture to indicate that they are supportive of their gay players. For such organisations, it is a gesture that won’t cost them much.

I’m pretty sure that for gay players themselves, all closeted at the moment, there will be a range of internal reactions. For some, there will be a huge sense that this is supportive. For others, I’m guessing that this may actually be personally be unwelcome because it shines a light too close to their own lives. For pro players must wonder whether if they come out they will lose sponsorship, support and opportunity. There is no legal protection to help you other than not being sacked from your team.

Of course, the chances are, that any player in such circumstances would do well. They would receive overwhelming support from anyone in front of a microphone. But what would it be like on the terraces?

I have enormous sympathy for what must go on in the mind of the player wondering whether to come out. It isn’t that different from my own world in the church.

I heard recently of a prominent member of the clergy choosing to talk about being gay for the first time in public recently at a well known Christian Arts festival. It is a big deal. For someone in that position they really can fear that jobs that they might have enjoyed doing would suddenly be blocked for them. There is no legal protection for such a person at all. They can even be sacked from the team.

In the football world there are said to be no professional football players who have come out. In the church it isn’t much better. No bishops have done so and even at the level of people running cathedrals in the UK, I think there are only two of us who are out (and one of us was initially outed in the press). Clearly, obviously, there are other people who are gay who do my job.

I’m not suggesting a rainbow cassock campaign nor even rainbow laces in the sanctuary – my views on footwear are clear. However, the time in drawing near when we ought to be calling for some small uncostly gestures from those in the church who are straight and who are in positions of power and influence.

I remember a number of years ago Bishop Idris making a supportive statement about his gay clergy during a Synod address. It meant a huge amount to a small number of people.

Church leaders need to think about how to make those gestures. For all Archbishop Justin Welby seems to have struck a welcome new tone recently, much like the pope, there is no change in policy.

I’d like to hear the likes of Justin Welby speaking positively about the gay clergy he has known and making it clear that senior gay clergy who do chose to come out will be supported and nourished and cherished. The fact that such talk is absent won’t strike many people. It strikes me every day.

It is the lack of such things which makes this area of the churches’ work so troubled. Those with some power and influence have the means to make a big difference by doing small things.

Rainbow laces won’t do the trick in the church but a few rainbow words would go a long way.