Winter is coming!

As I See it: View from a trustee:
Winter is Coming

trevor donnellyI came rather late to the party with Game of Thrones.  If you haven't seen the series or read the books it is a kind-of cross between The Lord of the Rings and the War of the Roses.

While the TV show seems obsessed with nudity (largely, but not exclusively, female nudity) the books reveal the writer's vision of the human condition: George R.R. Martin is not an outspoken feminist nor a campaigner for LGBT equality nor has he spoken out about mental health or disability (to the best of my knowledge and a quick Google search), but that makes how he deals with these subjects all the more interesting.  Game of Thrones gives us a touchstone for how society reflects on these issues. 

To my mind the central theme of Game of Thrones is the value of those who do not fit into the dominant norm: the real heroes of the tale are Tyrion (a dwarf), John Snow (the illegitimate son of an executed Lord), Arya and Brienne (two women who desire traditionally male roles), Bran (a disabled boy) and Daenerys (a foreigner in a hostile land)

The message of inclusion is strongly proclaimed even in its faux medieval world of Westeros.

The contrast between these diverse and interesting role models and the role models provided by the Church is salutary.  Looking at the social class, race, gender, physical ability and sexualities of the Saints and Holy People we commemorate (not to mention the members of the House of Bishops and even the ranks of our clergy) we fail provide such diverse role models as Game of Thrones.

Like George R.R. Martin's villainous Lannisters we seem to be squabbling over issues of power and authority ignoring the stark warning that "winter is coming," and we need to build just and equitable institutions in order to survive it.  The 'Winter' that the Church faces is not the Ice Age that is coming to Westeros, but rather a winter of sharply declining numbers in many dioceses.  We have lost touch with a society where almost twice as many people watch Game of Thrones as attend the Church of England.

We are attempting to reach out to a generation used to diverse heroes with an institution dominated by middle class white men.

I was thrilled at the appointment Christine Hardman as Bishop of Newcastle - a good appointment of a holy and competent woman; but the Church, which once led the way on moral issues, is still lagging far behind.

If we take the issue of "equal marriage" we see that the largest political party to share the Church of England's official line on the subject is UKIP!  We were once described disparagingly as "the Conservative Party at prayer, oh that we were still so progressive!  Society sees us as "UKIP at Prayer."

Returning to Game of Thrones, the writers used his homophobia as a shortcut to telling us that Joffrey Lannister was a villain.  "Winter is coming" and the Church is not prepared.

Trevor Donnelly

The Church of the Ascension, Blackheath