In Praise of Activists…

by the Rev Simon Butler, Prolocutor of the Province of Canterbury 

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Please Note – this article, written by Canon Simon Butler, has been published by him with support of other Via Media contributors. Ms Ozanne has had no say in the content or decision to publish.

The last place you would see me is in a demonstration. There’s something about the crowd mentality that doesn’t sit comfortably. Maybe it’s my inner reserve, or my fear of what others might think. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no coward. I’m happy to make my mark and speak my mind, but my way of working is through the structures. And I’m OK with that.

But I’m full of admiration for the activists, who tirelessly campaign, go the extra mile, write the letters, brief the media, even have the faith and passion to believe that one more action can tip the balance or make the difference. There’s something about believing in a vision of a better world, a fairer, better community, a more Christ-like church, that can drive women and men to passionate engagement, risking the opposition of those with power or who prefer the status quo or their understanding of orthodoxy. Let us now praise famous activists…thank God for you.

One of the amazing things about some activists – and here I come to praise the editor of this particular blog – is the way they make themselves vulnerable and are, often, fools for Christ. Jayne Ozanne has this gift: it is costly and it sometimes makes those of us who prefer the more softly, softly approach very uncomfortable, but for all the right reasons. Jayne has had to bear the brunt of the shadow side of those with whom she disagrees: it has been physically, emotionally and often spiritually taxing. There was, for a while, even a Facebook page devoted to mocking her. Such is, sometimes, the cost of discipleship.

But Jayne does this gospel work for the sake of the people who cannot speak, but who speak to her. She knows, not only in her own life experience of bad religion, but in the life of many who contact her, of the pain and hardship they experience, of the psychological distress – sometimes harm – often godly, loving Christian people wittingly or unwittingly inflict upon those to whom they minister. Often these sisters and brothers cannot see the distress they cause, and so those who suffer have no-one to talk to because they fear their pain will be interpreted as disloyalty to a particular church, minister, friendship group or even Jesus himself. As one of my own congregation ruefully said to me today about a church she used to worship in (prompting this article), “My church preached God’s unconditional love, but then I discovered that in that church love always came with strings attached.”

Jayne’s willingness to take a public stand has meant vulnerable people have found someone to confide in, and, thank God, someone who will speak for them. Despite some far-fetched fear-mongering by some that Jayne’s General Synod Private Member’s Motion on Conversion Therapy was a ‘Trojan horse’ for the outlawing of New Wine, HTB, Soul Survivor and Spring Harvest, many in these movements of the Holy Spirit in the Church of England’s who are members of General Synod voted for Jayne’s motion. They, like her, want to see any abuses of practice or, importantly, church culture, cast out. No one is banning prayer, but prayer must never be coercive or directed to potentially harmful outcomes, even if requested by the one who asks for prayer. The right thing to do is not to pray such prayers, but to pray that God’s will is done in and through a person.

Jayne will hate that I have written this article. But sometimes it’s important to give credit where credit is due. I’m no activist but Jayne gives me courage to be more bold in my own work to see God’s church renewed and reformed. Thank God for you, sister, on behalf of so many you speak for.

Posted in Church of England, Human Sexuality, Simon Butler | 2 Comments

Speak Clearly After the Tone…

by the Rt Revd Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester

david-walker

It feels a long time ago, when the February Group of Sessions of the Church of England General Synod discussed a paper from the House of Bishops, which advocated a change in tone over how we speak about LGBT+ people but failed to convince many Synod members that it had itself adopted the new tone for which it called. Yet what the document failed to deliver, the Synod itself immediately began to put in place. Many of the speeches in the debate that rejected the paper exemplified what a new and distinctly more welcoming tone would sound like.

Last week in York, where Synod was gathered for its summer sessions, we saw that tone begin to impact on action. In two debates, over consecutive days, attention was turned first to the practice of “conversion therapy” and then to support for those who have transitioned. Both debates were characterised by the passion, courtesy and good humour that had been heard in February. Beyond this, Synod showed an overarching desire to hear the voices of LGBT+ people, whether expressed directly or through their stories being shared by their friends. And most important of all, we heard from a Synod that wanted decisive change and action now. Members listened to, but clearly rejected, demands that these matters required further study, be it theological or scientific, ahead of any decision.

My guess is that the painstaking work of the Shared Conversations is bearing fruit. In a number of dioceses, groups who first met as part of the Regional Conversations have continued to study, pray and get to know each other better. Meanwhile the vast majority of General Synod members took part in the Conversations of a year ago. We follow a God whose ultimate revelation of himself was not in words on a page, or in commandments inscribed on stone tablets, but in a fully human person. Our Lord met with people face to face, individually and in groups. He built relationships, around which he structured his own conversations, where those on the margins were repeatedly brought to the very centre. Our answers to crucial questions of belief and practice, both then and now, must be grounded in scripture and consistent with its overarching messages. But they cannot ultimately be determined purely by the choices we make of how to interpret a small number of specific texts. Rather they are informed by the relationships we have nurtured with Christians whose journeys have been very different from our own. We do our work relationally, building bridges across difference, because that is precisely how God himself chooses to deal with us.

Synod has set its new tone, and begun to speak compassionately and clearly in the voice it has found. I look forward to hearing what it says next.

Posted in Bishop of Manchester, Church of England, Human Sexuality | 6 Comments

The Elephant Orphanage

by the Right Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool

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In the middle of the city of Nairobi you can find the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. Here baby elephants, rescued from Kenya’s wildlife parks, are nurtured and fed and re-socialised and returned to the wild in a state to communicate and to flourish without going rogue.

elephants

I know this because last week I stood, as part of a group of bishops mostly from North America and Africa, to watch the elephants being fed their milk. I was in Nairobi for the eighth meeting of the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, an informal and unofficial gathering of men and women who have been meeting in one form or another since 2010 for prayer, listening and engagement across some of the divides of the Anglican Communion, geographical and theological. Bishops were present from Canada, Kenya, UK, Ghana, US, South Africa, Tanzania and more. Last year we were in Ghana; next year we hope to be in Canada.

Our trip to the Orphanage came after three days of focused conversations and theological presentations in which we sought to learn from each other and to understand one another’s contexts. This year’s theme was “Harambee” – a word used by Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta as a way of persuading and aligning people; it means something like “all pull together”, “lift together”, “forward together”.

When bishops of the Anglican Communion meet, there will probably be elephants in the room. These elephants certainly get in when major issues of division or concern are ignored or never grasped or shared; for example, issues of global North/South inequality, or issues of human sexuality, or issues of Communion power politics.

These issues are real, and in Nairobi they were named as real, by people sitting at a table and looking into one another’s eyes; not by organisations or committees firing off press releases or generalised anathemas or blogs from a like-minded cyberspace. In the room, the truth was spoken hesitantly, interruptedly, tentatively, gently, in context and in love. And the more this happened, so the clearer the elephants became, and they were smaller than any of us might have thought to start with, until there were just one or two orphans left.

We did not try to starve our elephants to death by pretending that they were unimportant or non-existent. If we had tried that they would have grown and become rogue, as they so often do. Instead we each described them as we saw them, and we paid attention to them in the context of worship and study and mutual affection, in the belief that if we did this they might help us and not trample us. And as far as I could see, that was what happened.

Churches seeks to reflect the love of Christ and they do so imperfectly. In England, in this week of the clear-sighted and sharply critical report into the deeds of Peter Ball and their aftermath, we’ve seen once again the potential for collusion and deceit and confusion that goes with any spiritual authority.

The Church can be a broken and dangerous mirror for the reflection of love and truth, not just through the sins and crimes of a few, but institutionally also. David Ison wrote in Via Media earlier this month, “…bishops can carry a huge weight of expectation, being given an almost messianic level of responsibility for shaping the life of the Church and leading its mission in individual isolation.” When this happens, and still more when bishops collude with it for the sake of power or prestige, then the structures of the Church can become unreal so quickly. Then those structures need to be shaken, and the elephants will gather in the room to shake them. We can hear their trumpeting in our Church of England as we look back to February’s General Synod, and forward to next month’s Synod and beyond it.

And there is no quick fix by which we can avoid all of this. Conversation, shared conversation, continuing Indaba, mutual listening – structures like these are good, but they can all too easily become attempts to keep the elephants safely muzzled (because of course you can never keep them from the room).

But my experience in Kenya (and not only in Kenya) is different from that. It is that a group of people can resist group-think, and stereotyping, and the temptation to spray righteousness all over one another, and can choose instead to welcome and nurture some forlorn and ignored elephants, in the faith that God will use them to feed us too. The elephant orphanage is a very helpful place, truly.

Famously at the height of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco some people came to the Bishop there to tell him to stop ministering to HIV-positive people on the grounds that they were sinners. His response has stood for me as a compass for ministry ever since: “God took the risk of becoming a human being; why can’t you?” Sitting in Nairobi last week I became aware of that response again, and I saw the risk taken, in the eyes of African and North American sisters and brothers, in the room, with the elephants. And I continue to hope that it is here that the future is to be seen, and heard, and lived, and shared.

For details of the Consultations of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, see http://www.anglican.ca/gr/bishopsconsultation/

If you want to foster a real elephant, see https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

Posted in Bishop of Liverpool, Church of England, Human Sexuality, Social Justice | Leave a comment

For Grenfell – Where Were You?

by Rev Dr Hayley Matthews, Director of Lay Training, Diocese of Leeds

Hayley Matthews

It took some courage for the Prime Minister to make her apology on Tuesday, for the nation was truly shell-shocked by the Grenfell disaster, and Mrs May’s summary of the situation was a statement we could all agree with.

It’s taken me a full week to find myself able to watch the Panorama film documentation of the Grenfell disaster.  As I wept, it was impossible not to imagine waking to thick black smoked, or worse still, an unendurable, inescapable heat. The palpable shock and grief of the survivors interviewed was devastating as photographs of young, happy children, wisened old men, mothers, grandmothers and vibrant young adults were shared in the vain hope that somehow the fire didn’t reach them or impede their attempts to escape the towering inferno. Who will ever forget the disabled brother told to remain in his flat with a damp towel by the door on the 22nd floor, or his distraught sister?

Yet it wasn’t the scene of the destruction and loss of human life that disturbed me most. I was completely unprepared to see hordes of people on the streets with carrier bags full of clothes, boxes of nappies as shouts of “perishable food is about to arrive, we got manpower but we need women to sort it” reverberating through the crowds.  Hundreds of people spilling out of their homes and businesses to bring what they could, do what they could, share all they had in some cases, with those who had lost everything but the clothes they stood up in.  It was a beautiful sight, people pulling together in the face of human tragedy, a truly empathic response towards those in dire need. What disturbed me, however, was the fact that after waking up to a living hell, survivors were left to fend for themselves, find somewhere to sleep, get up the next morning to nothing but chaos, loss, grief, confusion, the true horror of losing loved ones, all one’s wordly goods and every memory in every form, whether it be photograph, trinket or song.  All irretrievable lost to nothing but the vagaries of the human memory and nobody there to say, ‘here we are.  This is what we are providing for you, this is where you need to go, this is where you can bathe, be clothed, fed, sleep.’  It was nothing short of chaos and had an ‘every man for himself’ feel about it. Nothing was properly planned or organised and I simply fail to believe that there is no disaster plan for every borough of our land never mind our capital city. Why wasn’t it activated for these people? Why was it left to Church Halls, mosques and the local neighbourhood to wade in and sort it out for themselves?

A few days later (yes, days later, I still find that hard to believe) the £5million fund from central government with each survivor receiving an immediate £5000 was met with the derision it deserves.  Perhaps a £5000 payout seems generous to a person living on £72.40 per week but even a minor whiplash victim is better compensated.  As has been rightly pointed out, a far lesser sum would have ensured the building was fire-proof in the first place.  What the survivors needed was a roof over their head, a plan for permanent accommodation and a proper support system in place, not cash, nor to be left wandering around the streets relying upon the charity of their neighbours, wonderful as it was.  It must have been bewildering to find oneself so utterly adrift.  It was one of the rare occasions when the word ‘aftermath’ rose to its full height, squared its shoulders and looked us all in the face.

Aside from the political and organisational questions raised, is the question most being bandied about is ‘where was God in this?’ The Christian faith speaks of a God who is amidst everyone, including alongside those who mourn, those who lie in the burns unit fighting for their lives and those who are traumatised survivors.

Jesus identifies with us in our human suffering most acutely as he hangs from the cross, vilified by the powers that be, turned upon by His own, crucified for doing nothing but good – the Innocent hung out to dry by the high and mighty, religious and political, easy to sacrifice, to silence, or so it seemed.  Yet I would suggest that God is most visible in those who gave from the little that they have, those who chose vocations that put their own lives at risk in order to save others; those who place ethical decisions above parsimonious politicking, for God is in these inhabited, lived out words, attributed to Jesus Himself: ‘”Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25_34-40)

Says it all really – doesn’t it?

 

 

 

Posted in Church of England, Hayley Mattews, Social Justice | Leave a comment

Bishops and Transforming Love

by the Very Revd Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral

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Over the last few months the Vacancy in See Committee of the Diocese of London has been working to set out our view of what kind of bishop we need for the next stage of our journey together.

The Committee has been keen to connect our hopes with the content of the (modern English) Ordinal for bishops, to put the current challenges we face into the historic context of the mission of the Church. To help that process, I read through the Ordinal to find the words, prayers and questions which frame the calling of a bishop.

One of the things that struck me was how the content of the Ordinal is related to its origins in the sixteenth century conditions of Christendom and schism: in particular the concern for what in modern management-speak is termed ‘outputs’ (what the bishop and the Church are to do) as opposed to ‘outcomes’ (the fruits we bear). There’s a lot about proclamation of the Gospel so that it may be heard, gathering and feeding the flock, teaching rightly and guarding against error, and building up the unity and love of the Church. But there’s not so much that relates to the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to ‘make disciples of all nations’, or much about the revelation of Christ in the love of his people for one another as in John 13 and 17; when the reality of day by day mission is that God’s love for us in Christ is made present and visible in the love of the Church for one another and for the world – or not. The Church in the Ordinal is spoken of as a single community of love in space and time, and bishops are charged with loving ‘their people’; but they aren’t directly charged with loving those who are outside the Church, not least because when the Ordinal was drafted there were few people known to be outside the Church apart from ‘heretics’ and a few of other faiths.

There are two consequences to this. One is that bishops can carry a huge weight of expectation, being given an almost messianic level of responsibility for shaping the life of the Church and leading its mission in individual isolation. As with churches seeking parish clergy in times of stress and decline, dioceses look for someone who will rescue and transform their situation: and although there’s a lot a bishop can do, she or he is liable to damage their physical, mental and spiritual health in trying to do it without the Church being alongside.

And the other consequence is that we as the body of Christ don’t take seriously enough our responsibility for being the evangelistic community of love which leads people to Christ. Of course we need to have living faith, and witness to it: and we do so through how we live much more than in what we say, and by how we love those around us, within and outside the Church. It’s our job corporately to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ, confront injustice and work for righteousness and peace in all the world, and so make disciples of all nations, and not the job of the bishop to do it for us.

And how do we see that happening? I have been greatly challenged over the last weeks by the response of the Coptic Church to the extreme persecution to which members of its community have been subject: bombed, beheaded, beaten, shot and killed just for being Christians in Egypt; most recently at least 26 men, women and children killed in the Egyptian desert going to pray, in between the Manchester bomb and the London Bridge killings. Bishop Angaelos, the Coptic Bishop in the UK, has not only called for forgiveness, but love: addressing the terrorists he has said, ‘the violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but YOU are loved…. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, Who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.’

Here is a bishop speaking out for love, boldly: bearing witness to the love which is held not just by him but by the community of faith, by a Church which is determined not to retaliate with hatred but to make disciples of Christ through the witness of love.

Here’s a challenge to Christians in this country as to how we proclaim Christ by living out the love of Christ in the face of terrorism and violence and frightened communities.

And here’s also a challenge to the Church as to how we help our bishops, in being the Body of Christ together: not expecting them to sort everything out for us, but together to build a community of love which puts Christ at the centre and enables everyone, wherever they start from, to find the power of the transforming love of God.

Posted in Church of England, Dean of St Pauls, International Relations, Social Justice | 2 Comments

Walking Beside Our Neighbour

by the Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford

Charlotte BP

Everyone of us has been appalled and deeply shocked by the wicked terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday night. We abhor the horror; we mourn the terrible loss, and the deliberate targeting such young, innocent lives. The aim of the attack was to create a climate of fear designed to shatter peace and tear communities apart.  All our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with those affected by the terrible atrocity.

Despite the destructive aims, the opposite has occurred. Yesterday’s one minute silence, a time for prayer and reflection, showed the Mancunians —  all people, all races, all religions — standing together and then bursting forth at the end with long applause. We have also seen extraordinary acts of kindness to random strangers, feelings of strength and unity, unbowed spirits and moving tributes to those still fighting for their lives.

Radicalisation, terrorism and all forms of extremism are abhorrent, and we must fight back in every way and on every level. We must make community cohesion and international cooperation priorities amongst all faiths. It was pleasing to hear Iman Monawar Hussain, Founder of The Oxford Foundation, say that “One thought on Manchester is that not a single classical Jurist has justified the killing of innocent people, what is happening now is anti-Islam and against all that the religion stands for”.1

And one of the most moving pictures from Manchester showed an Imam and elderly Jewish women side by side expressing solidarity for victims of Monday night’s bombing. Imam Sadiq Patel and Renee Black (93 years old) prayed together, having traveled together from Blackburn to express unity and compassion for the victims.

Such images and actions are important testament to combat hatred and division. And Oxford also hosts an interfaith action which tries to do just that.  On the eve of the transfer of power to Iraq in 2004 over 14 years ago, I founded an Interfaith Friendship Walk in recognition of the need for community cohesion. We walked from the University Church, St Mary the Virgin, to the Central Mosque in Manzil Way, Oxford in solidarity against the brutality to Iraqi prisoners in Basra prison. The following year the Jewish community joined, so the walk now starts at the Oxford synagogue, and goes from there to St Mary’s and then on to the Mosque, sharing prayers at each place of worship. The walk is led by a Bishop, a Rabbi and an Imam and now includes 9 other faiths, such as Hinduism and Sikhism.  Movingly, the Jewish community makes cakes and delivers them to the Mosque so we can all share a meal at the end of the walk. This event has fostered community cohesion, friendship, mutual respect, and fosters dignity in our difference. And out of this trust and shared action Oxford has created a Council of Faiths, which on Tuesday evening held a candle-lit vigil for those who lost their lives in Manchester.

Sadly, some Christians have declined to participate because the aim of the Inter-faith Friendship Walk is about conversation not conversion, about friendship not judgement.  Their response has saddened me deeply, as it indicates an agenda of separateness, and underscores their belief that there is an ‘other’ with whom it is impossible to connect. This kind of thinking has often been referred to as the “sheep and goat” theology.  2. (For many, I too am a “goat” because of gender, as I am a women priest in ministry teaching and leading worship).

Interestingly the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, The Rt Revd Dr Martyn Percy, said that in the early 1990s the LGBT community was regarded in a similar vein in conservative Christian circles. He said that at that period “Gay men and women are “the other”, not thought to be in the “kraal of the redeemed”. 3

The avoidance of the “other,” whether they are of another faith or a Christian of different theological persuasion, does not work. In a speech he made in St Martin in the Fields called “Who is our neighbour? The Ethic of Global Relations,” the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said we cannot afford now not to engage with the “other” in a deep and profound way. By referencing the story of The Good Samaritan, he claimed, “It is not a matter of deciding who out there deserved to be loved by you. It is a question of your decision to be a neighbour, your decision to be someone who offers life to others. This is a basic choice, which turns our lives into life-giving realities”.  He continued:

To love our neighbour is to love the person who can save our lives. The extra catch in the parable of The Good Samaritan is that we never know quite who that person is. It is likely to be the most improbable person around, so our openness to neighbourliness has to be profound, all encompassing, all embracing thing”. 4

On Monday night the world saw people acting as true neighbours.  Taxi drivers, homeowners, emergency workers, doctors and nurses all came to help those in need and brought light into the darkness.

Narrow conservatism and inflexible dogmatism prevent believers from seeing that they have more in common with the “other” than one might first understand.  All of us of faith need to encourage and to engage with the “other” in open-hearted and open-minded ways. As the OT scholar Professor Bruce Birch said, “the basic meaning of Shalom is peace – a wholeness, a state of harmony among God, humanity and all religions”. 5

Only with this can we all fight shocking extremism, radicalisation and terrorism. Then there is a possibility that there may be light where there is darkness, hope where there is despair. We as people of faith, can choose understanding over hatred, love over fear, hope over desperation.  Without this understanding, we are failing Christ and all those who lost their lives on Monday night.

References.

  1. Iman Monawar Hussain: The Oxford Foundation – Statement 26/5/17
  2. Matthew 25 31-46: The Sheep and the Goats.
  3. The Revd Dr Martin Percy: The Wisdom of the Spirit Gospel, Church and Culture.
  4. Lord Rowan Williams: Who is my neighbour? The Ethics of Global Relationships. Autumn Lecture Series. St Martin’s in the Field. London. 2016.
  5. Prof Bruce Birch: The Predicament of the Prosperous. Chapter V11 p149

 

Posted in Charlotte Bannister-Parker, Church of England, Social Justice | 11 Comments

ReNew and Reject….

by the Revd Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of Human Sexuality Group on General Synod

Giles Goddard

50 years ago the watershed conference at Keele University committed Anglican Evangelicals to working within the Church of England.  Evangelical readers of this blog will know very well how the conference transformed relations with the C of E,  starting a process which is still continuing. The appointment of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury is, partly, a result of the Keele gathering.

Although not without its problems, the relationship between evangelicals and the rest of the church has been fruitful and creative; the mainstreaming (!) of Holy Trinity Brompton and its cousins has brought a new dynamism to the C of  E. Speaking as someone within the Anglican catholic tradition, I hope that the engagement has worked both ways.

In the run-up to the conference, John Stott said, ‘It is a tragic thing…that Evangelicals have a very poor image in the Church as a whole. We have acquired a reputation for narrow partisanship and obstructionism… We need to repent and to change.’

It’s nicely ironic that, fifty years on,  the hardline conservative evangelical wing is laying plans to leave the C of E again.  There has been an irregular consecration of a bishop in Jesmond, and preparations are afoot for a parallel structure.

From their point of view, the experiment has failed. It’s not just about sexuality, it’s about leadership more generally.  ReNew, the latest iteration of the GAFCON/AMiA nexus has a statement of faith which is very clear about male headship as well as the indissolubility of marriage (really?) and gender complementarity.  It reads like a document from history.

We’ve been here before, many times. There have been protestant and catholic departures from the C of E. The history of the Dissenting movement in the 17th , 18th and 19th centuries is well known, as is the conversion of John Henry Newman to Rome. It’s hard to see how an organisation like ReNew with its rigorously regressive theological positions will get much traction, and there are many within the C of E who would breathe a sigh of relief if some of our most vocal conservatives moved to pastures new.  Many conservative evangelical churches have already begun to withdraw financially anyway….

Underlying all this is, of course, the vexed question of sexuality.  The question is most pointed in relation to same-sex relationships but ReNew is clear that ANY sex outside marriage is sinful (again, really?).

Readers of this blog do not need the arguments in favour of inclusive Christianity to be rehearsed.  As chair of the General Synod Human Sexuality Group I was very involved in preparations for the February Synod debate in which Synod voted not to take note of the Bishops’ latest report. It is becoming clear that, both for conservative evangelicals and those of us working for inclusion, that vote was another watershed moment.

We are all working out, collectively, what possible next steps might be taken.  Ultimately those of us who voted not to take note are urgently seeking a way of welcoming LGBTI people, especially vulnerable young people who may have been harmed by the church, into the family of Christ.  There are practical outworkings:  there is a strong desire for an authorised liturgy to be used in the celebration of same-sex relationships and to end the differential treatment of LGBTI ordinands & clergy in relationships.

But there is also a desire not to exacerbate the divisive behaviour of the conservative evangelical wing by pushing for the approval of same-sex marriage too soon. We want a mixed economy, similar to the mixed economy we enjoy liturgically and over other issues such as the remarriage of divorced people.

These are complex times. We are certainly seeing a realignment in English Christianity. At the heart of our shared life is a fundamental question:  who did Jesus come to save?

I am with Desmond Tutu on this. My favourite quote from him is:  ‘I wish I could shut up. But I can’t, and I won’t.’ My second favourite is this: ‘Jesus did not say, “I, if I be lifted up, I will draw some.” Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all, all, all, all, all.” ‘

 

Posted in Church of England, Giles Goddard, Human Sexuality | 3 Comments