Making a Stand: From Kilroy to Synod

by the Very Revd Joe Hawes, Dean of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich and Member of General Synod

As a young gay ordination candidate I learnt the contested territory I was about to step into in the Church during a ministry experience scheme a year before my selection and training.

The year was spent at a cathedral, a wonderful flourishing community where I learned much, made various mistakes and began to understand what ordained ministry might look like. It was 1987 and the infamous ‘Higton debate’ on General Synod was brewing. Like so many others, I experienced the casual homophobia of the tabloid press (remember the Sun article ‘How to spot if you’ve got a Gay Vicar’?) In my case the insecurity came not just from the knowledge that this was about people like me, but also from the proclaimed conservative standpoint of my bishop who was quite clear that questions would be asked of all ordinands whose sexual identities were in question.

Into this febrile atmosphere came a request for me to join ‘Kilroy’ a daytime live audience show. Not quite Jerry Springer, but populist and opportunist nevertheless. I should have said no at once but the prospect of the lure of the television cameras was just too strong. In discussions with the researcher beforehand I was careful to stress the precariousness of my position, that there could be no question of being outed and that my future would be in question if I was. Solemn assurances were given, and fool that I was, I believed them. Faithfully I did my research about how different factions of the Church of England, represented on the cathedral Chapter, might feel about the vexed question. From the ebullient defiantly liberal Sub Dean (“What’s all the fuss about?”) through to the conservative Anglo Catholic Chaplain (“celibacy would be your only option…if it’s you we are talking about here?”) and on to the gentle, agonised Precentor (“Oh I just wish it would all go away”), I swiftly gained a comprehensive picture of the polarisation of the Church of England. On one thing, however, all were clear: “If, by any chance, any of this is relevant to you, for heaven’s sakes, don’t admit to anything: you are in a highly vulnerable position!” I should have listened harder!

Came the day, and on the front row I sat – opposite members of LGCM (Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement), theologically conservative vicars and members of General Synod, hoping in vain that that I could escape any  notice. Of course, it was not to be. Perma tanned and implacable, Roger Kilroy-Silk honed in on me half way through the programme, which we had all been warned went out live without editing. “Now we have here today an ordinand, Joe Hawes, who is gay. So, Joe, do you feel at risk that you won’t be ordained?” I still remember the feeling of icy paralysis, knowing my family, my bishop, cathedral staff were all watching, all unaware (or so I thought) of ‘The Truth About Me’.

Swallowing hard and denying my true nature on daytime television does not come high on the list of my ‘ must be repeated’ life experiences, but it is what I did. Expressions of pity and disbelief on the faces of fellow guests did little to dispel the feelings of guilt, shame, fear and embarrassment which accompanied me as I aimlessly walked the streets, not daring to return to the cathedral, a card from LGCM in my pocket. (“If you ever need to talk, phone us.”)

I have recalled that day so many times in the intervening years.

It was followed by a decision to embrace celibacy as I began training for ordination even though I didn’t much want to) – a decision soon set aside as on my first night at Theological College I met the man who would become my life partner. The subsequent years have been quite a journey where I have grown in confidence by his love as well as by good teaching and generous friendships, where I have learned from sound, inclusive and progressive theology that I was loved by God for who I am rather than in spite of who I am; where I have found a voice to try and speak without hatred but with passion about inclusion; found welcome and fellow feeling in generous inclusive parishes; to eventually finding three years ago that a senior appointment in the Church of England really is possible if your bishop is brave and inclusive enough; even if it meant negotiating a storm in a teacup of a certain senior Tory politician’s reaction to my appointment as a Dean (we have subsequently become good friends and I was honoured to conduct the funeral of his wife), until the recent inauguration of General Synod.

Buoyed up by the good fellowship of LGBTQ members, I stood during the inaugural session of General Synod during Simon Butler’s powerful speech in silent witness to our LGBT sisters and brothers in Ghana who are soon to be in even greater risk of imprisonment and physical danger than they are at present.

As I stood, I recalled that terrified young ordinand under studio lights in the summer of 1987. If that was how I felt then, then how must it feel to be LGBT+ in Ghana today?

And as the years rolled back, I forgave myself, got over myself, set my very minor struggle in the context of the real danger faced by those in whom we stood in solidarity, and gave thanks for the liberty I enjoy, the task in which I share with other good people, and prayed the God who has been faithful to me to protect them and change the hearts of their government and Church.

Posted in Dean of St Eds & Ips, General Synod, Good Disagreement, Human Sexuality, Spiritual Abuse | Leave a comment

Advent Reflections: Seeking Justice; Showing Mercy

by Savitri Hensman, community worker, author of “Sexuality, Struggle and Saintliness” and LGBTI+ equality activist

Advent is a season of eagerness and patience, yearning for change whilst feeling the uneasiness about what this might mean, for us as well as others.

We are reminded that God’s love is bound up with justice (Isaiah 11.1-4, 42.1-4). We may cry out from the depths, longing for the day when we and our loved ones will be safe, that our oppressors will be punished and that we will finally be treated with dignity – yet all of us benefit from God’s readiness to pardon (Psalm 130, Luke 6.36-38). Forgiveness and redemption are on offer but personal and collective healing can sometimes be slow and painful.

Thanks largely to my late parents, I grew up aware that faith, care and resisting injustice are all linked. I became involved in anti-racist activism in church and society in my teens and then from the age of about twenty on sexuality – after coming out as lesbian. I had to rethink some of my own prejudices (internalised or otherwise) and am grateful for those who were willing to challenge me in non-destructive ways, always going the extra mile (Matthew 5.41).

I learnt the importance of persuasion and persistence as well as protest and that equality might not be achieved all at once. Changing institutions that are facing multiple pressures can be a complex process. Though living in England, my connection with Sri Lanka continued and, as the situation there deteriorated horrifically, I saw even more graphically what could happen when states and armed groups wielded too much power. I joined with others in defending human rights, even for people with views starkly different from mine.

I discovered that others were more likely to listen if they felt at least partly heard and understood and that hurt and anger, if not channelled constructively, could get in the way of achieving goals. Even in the pre-internet era, the people who were most forceful, or willing to do most damage to those seen as oppressors, often won admiration, yet their tactics could backfire in the long term.

Over the years too, including as a community worker and volunteer, I found out more about the hazards of unintended consequences. Life seemed messier, uncertainties greater, than when I was a child. Yet there were also moments of joy and major achievements by the movements of which I was part, reflecting I hope the Holy Spirit at work despite human errors and weaknesses.

Edging towards LGBT+ equality in the Church of England

Over the years, it has been encouraging to see a huge shift in views amongst both theologians of various denominations and ordinary Church of England members. There is far greater acceptance of committed, physically intimate partnerships between couples of the same sex or gender and recognition of gender diversity. It is excellent that so many churches, including some in the UK, have moved forward – but highly frustrating that progress in the C of E has been so slow and fragile.

I understand why some people might want to demand complete parity with no exceptions so that, for instance, all parishes might be required to celebrate marriage for partners regardless of gender. But groups and networks such as the (currently inactive) LGBTI Mission and Equal have taken a different approach, which allows space for freedom of conscience within reasonable limits. I believe there are good reasons for this that are both pragmatic and value-based.

Other UK-based churches which have moved further towards full inclusion have tended to do so on the basis of respect for conscience. I suspect it would have been nearly impossible for resolutions which took a different approach to have won enough votes at decision-making bodies. Allowing local discretion is also in line with national law, which in turn reflects international expectations around freedom of belief.

Additionally, whilst I recognise the damage which non-inclusive beliefs can do, I fear that a purge of ordained and lay ministers not yet able to embrace full equality would be even worse. I would not want leaders who have been welcoming and caring towards me booted out because they interpret the Bible in ‘traditional’ ways or are still undecided.

But I would like to see the archbishops and more diocesan bishops publicly recognise that for those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)+ this is a generous stance, especially given the human cost of discrimination. And while leaders should maintain space for Christians who read Scripture and tradition differently on matters of sexuality and gender identity, favouring people who do not face discrimination and buying ‘unity’ at the cost of the excluded is in stark contrast to Jesus’ example and teaching (Mark 2.23-3.6).

Three interconnected biblical themes often linked with Advent come to mind which might help the Church to move forward on this issue: justice as an outworking of love, equality and rejection of idolatry. Theologians have written libraries-worth of books on each of them, martyrs have sacrificed their lives: I believe it is therefore time to give these due weight in official pronouncements.

It is unjust for people with plenty to hoard God’s generous gifts to humankind while others’ needs go unmet. This applies to both material goods (e.g. Isaiah 5.8-10, Luke 16.19-31) as well as freedom and dignity (Jeremiah 34. 8-17, James 2.1-12) – unless there are truly compelling reasons why some should be denied what others have. Many take it for granted that they can marry or be open about their gender without being prevented from being Church leaders. Those who nevertheless deny this to others should ask themselves searching questions

And behaviour towards some people as if they were second-class Christians based on their identity (e.g. as working class, disabled, minority ethnic or LGBT+) is at odds with the radical equality of Jesus’ vision (Matthew 23:1-12, Luke 22.24-27).

It can be tempting to treat mortals, institutions or concepts as objects of worship. Throughout history, unequal treatment of women and girls has done much damage, blatant and subtle. Yet most senior clergy seem reluctant to speak against theologies promoting male domination, which are harmful and can unintentionally foster idolatry. LGBT+ people who do not fit neatly into roles rooted in sexism are affected too.

Such imbalances distort relationships with God and neighbour.

Mercy is important; so is justice!

Posted in Good Disagreement, Human Sexuality, LGBT Stories, Savi Hensman | Leave a comment

Spiritual Guides – The Key to Transformation?

by the Very Revd Rogers Govender MBE, Dean of Manchester and Chair of the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns 

Every visitor attraction and Cathedral in this country has a number of guides to help people navigate the place. These are usually volunteers who know how to tell the story of the place because they have usually spent much time in the space over several years. They have grown to love the history, the artefacts, and the people who have animated the space over the years.

We know much about the Girl Guide movement for girls aged 10 to 14. They are young people who want to go on adventures, create their own campaigns, learn leadership skills and meet new friends. This work of personal and social transformation begins at an early age. Very often the Girl Guide movement as well as Scouts train their members to become trail guides by going on hikes, mountain climbing, etc.

The National Trust is another organisation that depends heavily on tour guides. Without their help and support the NS would struggle to open national treasures to millions of visitors around the country.

As Christians we believe that God is our eternal guide. We follow Jesus the Guide who takes us on the train and trains us to become spiritual guides to others in their search for meaning and for God’s Kingdom. Psalm 73:24 reminds us ‘You guide me with your counsel and afterwards you will receive me with honour.’

We are encouraged to have a spiritual guide to help us with our relationship with God and to help us in our discipleship and ministry. For some of us this is an alternative to therapy, enabling us to combine personal and psychological insights with spiritual teaching and truths. Spiritual Guides are essential for those of us in Christian ministry.

A guide is able to speak from years of experience, with a practised sense of direction, self-discipline and an ability to lead others (Prophetic Dialogue, p 51). A seasoned guide will also be able to read the signs of impending storms or obstacles and help people stay the course avoiding potential danger. When distractions emerge, the guide will encourage people to keep moving so that they arrive at their destination safely.

We are taught in the gospels that endurance in the spiritual journey is crucial for authentic discipleship, ‘The person who endures to the end will be saved’ (Mark 13:13). The ability to endure to the end is possible through our faith in Christ and the encouragement of our guides. Some may understand a mentor to be one’s guide. However, one may look at this, we all need someone to guide us through this earthly pilgrimage which usually begins in our early life with our parents, teachers and friends.

We need spiritual guides to experience the good news of the gospel. We note the role of Philip as a guide to the Ethiopian eunuch, enabling him to share the good news of the gospel leading to his baptism.

I have been reflecting on the importance of guides because we live in challenging times in church and society. There are so many issues of injustice, exclusion and exploitation that we face each day. We are called to a personal faith that cannot remain private – our faith calls us to engage with the needs of the wider church and society. Sometimes we may grow weary because we do not see any progress. As the current Chairperson of CMEAC (Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns) I have seen such slow progress on issues of racism in the Church of England. I am encouraged by the work of Lament to Action.

In a secular society we can easily get tired of the apparent indifference to spiritual matters of faith and relationship with God. I was on a tram one evening in November this year and saw a man on the street holding a placard proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. A young lad sitting opposing me on the tram got rather angry and started banging on the window of the tram at the man on the street and began spouting expletives that were angry outbursts about God and the Church. It did leave me feeling a bit shattered and saddened.

We sometimes face the temptation to give up the fight for justice and fairness. This is often the case with the issues of racism, human sexuality, gender equality, migration policy, etc. We wonder when might these issues be addressed in positive and just ways.

However, I want to encourage us to look to Christ who is our Guide (John 16:13). We also need to look to those who guide and inspire us in our personal faith, discipleship and wider mission for Christ. We must endure and stay on message as we follow Jesus on The Way of the Cross to the experience of Resurrection. Let’s continue to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Only in this way will be see God working in and through us as agents of God’s transforming mission in the world!

 

 

 

Posted in Dean of Manchester, Racism, Social Justice | 1 Comment

General Synod: “Gone Fishing!”

by Professor Helen King, Professor Emerita in Classical Studies at The Open University, elected member of General Synod and member of Living in Love and Faith project

I returned from General Synod last week reflecting on the contrast between the message from our management – the senior leadership – and the realities of life for the majority of members not just of Synod, but of the Church of England in general.

I met many people at tea-breaks and at fringe events and in the hotel over breakfast and drinks: laity, clergy and bishops. These were certainly not all from any progressive ‘bubble’; even if you wanted to hang out with your own tribe, with a Synod of nearly two-thirds new members, you wouldn’t be able to spot who’s who. What struck me most here was how we are not some special group of super-keen super-Christians. I heard many stories of pain, pain suffered in the church in the very recent or more distant past, whether this was from central policies or from particular congregations. I met people who had dropped out of church but had come back. And I found respect, and the beginnings of the trust we will need as we move towards more controversial topics than the Leeds Diocesan Synod motion on the ‘wealth gap’ which kicked off a Synod otherwise more concerned with bringing us all up to speed on the current buzz-phrases.

Rather like the staple question of university freshers’ week conversations, ‘What A-levels did you do?’, ‘What’s your church like?’ comes up regularly in conversations with other Synod members. Mine is a standard parish church in a market town – electoral roll around 160, attendance at main Sunday service maybe 90 before the pandemic – but one person hearing this was very excited: ‘Ah, an ordinary church – excellent!’ That made the point to me that our experiences of church life can be very different. I wonder how many people on Synod come from parishes which are really struggling? In debates, we naturally tend to hear about success stories, but they don’t reflect many people’s reality.

In my ordinary church, the level of interest in last week’s meeting of Synod has been pretty much zero. I wasn’t expecting anything else, to be honest; nobody talks about the national church there. Of course, a few friends were curious, as was my vicar. My guest for the Westminster Abbey service which was held last week before Synod was formally ‘inaugurated’, a friend in her first year of ordination training, found it all fascinating, not least – as a choir member – having the experience of singing with 1000 or so people without masks. But generally? Very little interest.

I don’t find this at all surprising. In the ordinary church, there’s little knowledge of what Synod is, or how it works, let alone of what it does. Many deanery synod members never cast their vote in the elections to Synod. Local concerns are far more relevant than anything else. What happens at national level – whether that’s a statement on poverty or the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – passes by largely unobserved.

What was done last week to make the connection between the national and the local? More than once in these sessions, the Archbishop of Canterbury emphasised the etymology of the word ‘synod’ – the Greek syn-hodos, the road/way together, also a reminder of course that what we call Christianity was once hodos, ‘the way’, and that in John 14:6 Jesus calls himself the hodos: ‘I am the way’ (ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς). The journey image – one which seems to have gained traction every year since I first met it – went on through what both Archbishops said in their joint Presidential Address. ++Stephen stated that we don’t have a map, but we do have a compass: the Holy Spirit. Alongside ‘the way’, we had the image of the nets: ++Justin took as his theme casting our nets on the right side of the boat and ++Stephen ended with the same thought, and on the way reiterated the call to be ‘simpler, humbler and bolder’.

That’s one of the current buzz-phrases, which I’ve never heard mentioned in my local church. The other one now is ‘mixed ecology’: meaning not just the parish, but chaplaincies too, as well as those 10,000 new churches we are supposed to be creating in the next ten years. I noted how often our leaders took the opportunity to say that we don’t need the ‘Save the Parish’ movement because nobody is threatening the parish; did they protest too much, though? ++Justin assured us that the church is always changing, using as examples the nineteenth-century ‘daughter churches’ for new areas of housing, and women being able to attend churches without wearing hats: nothing too controversial there. ++Stephen called us to survive by adapting.

As for what change or adaptation may mean, ++Justin used the saying from indigenous Australian people, that they are “walking backwards into the future”. This is supposed to suggest that, while we survive, adapt or change, we take with us our heritage. The phrase reminded me that, in 2014, the Archbishop of York published Walking Backwards to Christmas, telling the familiar Christmas story in reverse, starting with Anna and ending with the prophecies of Moses and Isaiah. It’s a powerful set of meditations. He credited his title to The Goons’ 1956 song, ‘I’m walking backwards for Christmas’. I’m not a fan of The Goons, but I was struck by these words in the song:

I’ve tried walking sideways,
And walking to the front,
But people just look at me,
And say it’s a publicity stunt.

The danger of the slogans, I think, is that they look precisely like a publicity stunt. We can say ‘simpler humbler bolder’ as much as we like, but when that’s said shortly after the pomp of a Westminster Abbey service, does it really make an impact?

And I did wonder about those fishing nets. I know it’s a different sort of fishing, but in lockdown we discovered the wonderful TV series with Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse, Gone Fishing. What they do together is, indeed, fishing, but it’s not about catching the fish, even though there’s great excitement when they do, before they put it back into the river. What it’s really about is the conversation between the two men; their careers, their families, their experience of severe illness and recovery. It’s about life, and death. The several series so far are often described as life-affirming, and we certainly found them so. The two friends come across as totally authentic: real. I have a deep distrust of slogans and ‘programmes’. True relationship, real trust, deep knowledge of each other: those are the qualities which I believe will make a church community, and a Synod, flourish.

 

Posted in General Synod, Helen King, Human Sexuality | Leave a comment

Ghana, Synod & the “Othering” of LGBTQI People

by the Revd Dr Charlie Bell,  Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge and Assistant Curate, St John the Divine, Kennington

The events of the last week or so have not been good for the Anglican Communion, or for LBGTQI people.

As readers will doubtless know, the Anglican Church in Ghana has lent its support to – indeed encouraged the passing of – the ‘anti-LGBTQI bill’ that will lead to the imprisonment of LBGTQI people and their supporters, the enforcement of “conversion therapy” and “corrective surgery” for intersex people. The Archbishop of Canterbury – after a rather significant delay – initially released a statement that ‘reminded’ the Ghanaian church of their commitment to oppose the criminalisation of ‘same-sex attracted’ people [sic], whilst not missing an opportunity to mention Lambeth Resolution 1:10, which opposes same-sex relationships and is entirely unbinding on any member church of the communion. Whilst that statement wasn’t much, it was something.

Yet only a few weeks later, a second statement was released that issued an apology to the Ghanaian church for speaking out about the potential incarceration of LBGTQI people before the Archbishop had spoken to them directly. In that statement, the Archbishop stated that ‘cultural, social and historical contexts must also be considered and understood’. As I have written elsewhere, it is somewhat difficult to imagine which “context” would justify the imprisonment, mutilation and psychological torture of LBGTQI people. It is noticeable that the swathes of bishops who appeared to suddenly become aware of the situation in Ghana the second the first statement was released – and immediately re-Tweeted it – did not do so on this occasion.

But the saga was not over. At General Synod this week, the announcement was made that “while not condoning same-sex marriage, the Anglican Church in Ghana does not condone the criminalisation of the LGBTQ+ community”. Leaving aside the absence of any need whatsoever to mention same-sex marriage – indeed, we are talking about people being thrown in prison and subjected to medical maltreatment, and not holy matrimony – it is the latter statement that is both fundamental, and fundamentally questionable. There is no evidence, beyond vague reassurances from an English Archbishop, that the Anglican Church of Ghana has changed its position. If it continues to support the ‘anti-LGBTQI bill’, then it continues to call for the imprisonment of LBGTQI people.

Yet beyond this, what wasn’t said also spoke volumes. Whilst criminalisation was mentioned in the speech, not a word was said about conversion therapy or the enforced surgery spoken of in the bill for intersex people. By mentioning marriage, and ignoring these genuine issues, by the endless references to Lambeth 1:10 and ‘same-sex attraction’, by the utterly baseless conflation of the issue of basic LGBTQI rights and ecclesial relations with ‘those who suffer from the ongoing effects of colonialism’, and in the whole way this has been presented – without evidence, without urgency – it has once again become clear that LGBTQI people are acceptable collateral damage in the diplomacy of the Anglican Communion. At what stage will enough be enough?

Nobody is calling for the Archbishop of Canterbury to patronisingly tell off the Anglican Church of Ghana, or to swan in as a colonial authority. Yet it is equally patronising – and ultimately colonialist – to talk about culture, history and context when deciding whether to argue strongly against the criminalisation of LGBTQI people. The Archbishop may be an ‘Instrument of Communion’ and a ‘focus of unity’, but this will mean little to Ghanaian LBGTQI people if they are thrown in prison or disfigured. It is entirely possible to make an argument about basic human dignity without adopting the mode of colonial overlord.

The problem is that, ultimately, we don’t matter.

For years, I have tried to argue myself out of this position – listening to the voices that say ‘wait’, or ‘patience’, or ‘warm hearts and cool heads’. But it is true – we simply don’t matter. What matters is the propping up of a colonial era structure that is the Anglican Church’s version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The Communion is broken – it is simply not possible in a post-colonial world to have an Englishman who is both Primate of All England and the ‘focus of unity’ worldwide. It is startlingly obvious, and yet we lack the vision and faith to reimagine the communion for the twenty-first century. And the price we pay is the cheapening of LGBTQI lives.

The most recent session of General Synod simply emphasised this.  In response to a question, we were told by the Bishop of London that LBGTQI ordinands and clergy don’t have to assent to the document Issues in Human Sexuality, only to ‘live within its guidelines’ – guidelines which forbid any sexual relationships for LBGTQI people. We were told to wait for the outcome of Living in Love and Faith, with a benign smile of ‘I know it’s a difficult time’, belying the blithe attitude that characterises so much of the central church’s engagement with ‘issues’ that are grappled with daily in the lives of LBGTQI Christians. ‘All candidates’, we were told, must agree to live within the guidelines – yes, indeed, ‘all candidates’, yet the guidelines aren’t forbidding ‘all candidates’ from forming any sexual relationship whatsoever. The LGBTQI experience is one again ignored and minimised – there are overtones of ‘all lives matter’. LBGTQI people are put in a position where we are not expected to ‘assent’ to a document but are expected to live within its guidelines which are explicitly based on the reasoning found within it! It’s sophistry of the very worst order. The situation would be farcical were it not so tragic.

LBGTQI people remain ‘other’.

They are told to ‘just trust’, as if that trust has ever been justified in any actions from the centre of the church. They are told to ‘calm down’. They are told to ‘wait’. They are told ‘the time is not quite right’. All the while, the straight people in charge continue to discard LBGTQI voices, loves and hopes as peripheral to the concerns of the church. We can talk about services of blessing – which are certainly part of the solution – but until we tackle the underlying culture, nothing will change.

At some point someone is going to have to take some responsibility. It is a known fact that some bishops are privately in favour of change. The time to speak is now.

LBGTQI people are either collateral, or they are beloved children of God. Enough with the excuses, enough with the politics. We are not called to be politicians – indeed we are not ultimately called to be a focus of unity, if that damages God’s children. We are called to be heralds of the Kingdom of God. It’s time to get on with it.

Posted in Charlie Bell, General Synod, Human Sexuality, Lambeth Conference, Safeguarding, Spiritual Abuse | 4 Comments

General Synod: What Would Compromise Look Like?

by the Revd Neil Patterson, Director of Vocations & Ordinands in the Diocese of Hereford and Vice-Chair of the General Synod Gender & Sexuality Group

A number of commentators, including Simon Butler, Helen King and Charlie Bell, have taken the polarised membership of the new General Synod as good evidence that only a path of listening and compromise is likely to yield progress in the intractable sexuality debate.  I want to go a little farther, and sketch out one possible line of movement, and comment on how it would represent compromise for both sides.

You will not be surprised that my starting point is the so-called ‘Hereford Motion,’ passed by our Diocesan Synod in 2017, and parked on the agenda of General Synod, which calls on the Bishops to authorise a form of service for same-sex couples, whilst making it clear it would be wholly optional.  The basic concept had been talked about in all sorts of places, and I am glad to make clear here that it was not my idea to produce a diocesan synod motion (thank you, Kay Garlick, former Chair of the Business Committee!) nor did I propose it (thank you, Matthew Burns, Team Vicar of Leominster!).  But I did produce the wording, so feel a certain responsibility for the motion.

Why would this be compromise for progressives?  In my experience we have varying approaches to campaigning and may see different points of principle as more critical, but most of us believe in the equality of opposite- and same-sex relationships as places for Christian discipleship.  And so the only really logical conclusion is to welcome equal marriage, with the admission of same-sex couples on the same basis, whether or not your theology makes it a sacrament (mine doesn’t).  So to accept a position in which same-sex couples (even if married in law) were only offered a limited liturgy would inevitably seem to put us in a second-class place.

And this has bites on the ground.  One of the strongest examples to me has been that of a couple of musician friends, partners for over 20 years, first civilly partnered and now married.  Both have been church organists (one still).  They will over the years have played at hundreds of opposite-sex marriages, cheerfully welcoming brides and grooms (whose previous and subsequent connection to the church may have been zero) to exercise their right to marry in church.  Under the Hereford Motion proposal, they would at least to have been able to enjoy a public liturgical celebration.  But no banns, no register, no invocation of Cana of Galilee.  That is a compromise, and it hurts.

But we can recognise how conservatives too would have to compromise to live with this situation.  At present there is of course considerable diversity of opinion, and to some extent practice, across the Church of England.  But it is still credible for conservatives to say that the official positron is that traditional marriage is the only norm for relationships.  And none of us should doubt that for some, this is as basic as other key doctrines of the faith.  If we were to make the Trinity optional, or declare readings from the works of Aristotle to be Scripture, I too would wonder whether this was really a Christian church.

And it has a local impact, as I have discussed with conservative parish clergy.  If approached by a same-sex couple seeking to celebrate their marriage, they can currently say politely that the Church of England doesn’t do that (and the website will confirm it).  If we have an official service, the couple will know that the refusal is down to their, or their parish’s, conscientious beliefs.  They will have been ‘outed’ as conservative on sexuality, and the couple may simply dismiss them as homophobic.  In my experience even the most conservative Christians want to be welcoming, but are wrestling in their hearts with what they believe to be obedience to God.  That hurts too.

And all of us, on whichever side, may be fearful that a decision of this sort will mean local division of every sort.  Will the PCC approve use of the service?  Will Julie resign if they do?  Will Greg resign if they don’t?  What about the church school Inclusion and Diversity Policy?  It will not be easy, and it may dislodge us from customary middle-class English evasion.

The question of public liturgies is of course only one element of the debate.  But I set it out as an example of how the way forward may well involve no-one getting what they want, or even what they believe to be the most holy and true solution.  That seems to be the way, without exception, the Church of England does things.  And ideally there is usually an element of the settlement that can be interpreted by different sides to suit their own theologies, and I feel that’s not a bad thing.

There is another reason, sharpened this week by the news of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent and seemingly fruitless meeting with the Archbishop and other senior churchmen in Ghana, where a proposed new law will criminalise LGBT+ people severely.  Whatever our fears, I firmly believe it very unlikely that any of us in the Church of England, conservative or liberal, LGBT+ or otherwise, face imprisonment for our identity or beliefs.  The joint statement by leaders of all the Synod groups in response to this threat of terrifying injustice may, sadly, be making little impact in Ghana.  But perhaps it is a sign that we are closer together than we realise, and can find a way forward.

Revd Neil Patterson is writing here in a personal capacity.

Posted in General Synod, Good Disagreement, Human Sexuality, Living in Love & Faith, Neil Patterson | 5 Comments

General Synod – A Pragmatic View from the Middle Ground

by the Ven Nikki Groarke, Archdeacon of Dudley and part of convening group for the Evangelical Forum on General Synod

As I arranged to borrow a colleague’s academic gown, and rescued my crumpled white preaching bands from the depths of my cassock pocket, where they have been since the inauguration service of the last General Synod, (strange attire we clergy have to wear on this one-off occasion!), I reflected how different it feels this time to be heading off to London.  Different because I am not a synod-newbie, and have a clearer idea of what to expect and how it all works.  Different too because the experience of being a member of this body has changed me.  My understanding of the workings of the Church of England has deepened, I have been enriched through new friendships, and my views on some key issues under discussion have been modified, as I have engaged in dialogue, debate and process, both formal and structured, and informal in the bars and coffee areas around the edges.

I am by nature an optimist, so I look forward to this group of sessions with faith and hope, honoured that the clergy of my diocese have entrusted me to serve in this way, and intending to do so diligently and prayerfully.  It is, however, hope tinged with sadness and frustration, that there are some amongst our elected colleagues, and from the ranks of synod groupies on social media, who would seek to divide and polarise us before we have even started.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul begs his hearers to lead a life worthy of their calling and make “every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Unity in the body of Christ is not something we have to work to create, it is there to be maintained.  Indeed we are equipped through the Spirit to be built up in unity as we mature, as we know Jesus more fully and become like him.  Each of us has been given grace for this, Paul claims.  How I long to see that grace in evidence over these next five years.

Society as a whole is becoming increasingly polarised.   Perhaps it’s the stress and isolation of a global pandemic, but it feels that extremists are ever more extreme, that any view held needs to be voiced with ever louder decibels, that anyone who does something disagreeable should resign instantly.  There is little room for careful conversation in any arena, and those who are hurting all too easily become casualties of word wars.

As Christians we have been given grace to engage with differing positions more healthily.  Synod is not, as some have described it, a house of two main parties to which all must reveal their allegiance and swear their loyalty, but an elected body of Christ followers called to engage with maturity, humility and trust.  It’s easy to make assumptions about where people stand on certain issues, to categorise, judge, and pit us against ‘the other’.  But some of us don’t fit those boxes into which we are being pushed.

I didn’t anticipate at the beginning of the last synod that I would deliver the opening speech in a key debate on sexuality and become associated with the ‘silent middle’.  I have no regrets, but what’s changed from that moment, when I stuck my head above the parapet, is that I am no longer silent, and somehow my willingness to be vulnerable seems to have enabled the middle to have a voice.

It can take courage to hold the middle ground, and it’s not a comfortable place to be. Neither is it newsworthy or popular.  But standing in the middle often places you close enough to listen to ‘the other’. In the middle you perhaps hear more than those who shout from the extremes, where they have sometimes been driven by pain as well as passion.  From the middle you can engage in conversation and learning. You can grow.  You can change.  On the issue I spoke on then, I have moved a little further away from the centre.  I hope that many of us will change our stance on different things over the coming years. That’s not weakness.  It’s openness to learn and grow and change.

So I will speak confidently from the middle during this synod whenever it feels appropriate, refusing to be categorised into a binary extremity.

I am both an evangelical and inclusive and affirming of LGBT relationships. I am both passionate about saving the parish and believe we need to make changes at local church level, radically rethinking patterns of ministry to enable all churches to flourish.  I am convinced we need both local and central strategies for growth – most archdeacons are not out to close small churches, rather to enable them to flourish, and our diocesan appointment of a Dean of Smaller Churches is one way to do that, providing practical solutions in complex parishes.  We are in this together.

The middle way will often be messy, compromise is rarely tidy – we’ve seen that in the way we have navigated other challenges within the church, such as the ordination of women.  But I would much rather have a win/win, both/and way forward with messiness and muddle, than remain stuck forever on issues where we will always differ.

From the middle I will aim to navigate the decisions before us with principled pragmatism rather than pressured polarisation.  From the middle I will encourage other evangelicals to meet together as part of the Evangelical Forum in a safe space to reflect on synod issues, operating with a different model of being together than that of other evangelical gatherings on offer.  I will occasionally attend meetings of those groups described as the other ‘main party’, because I consider myself to be both orthodox and revisionist.

And I will remind myself from time to time, that though the decisions taken at General Synod are hugely important, and we carry a weighty responsibility when we vote to make changes, or not, to the church we all love, we must not delude ourselves that we are representative of those who worship in our local churches week by week.  We are a quirky subset of the church, with time and inclination to participate in a highly structured, middle class, outdated governance structure which excludes some who would otherwise be involved, and does not even enter the consciousness of the majority.

Many who are active in our churches only vaguely know that General Synod exists, they play no part in the election process, they only know we’ve made a controversial decision when it appears in the press. The alleged ‘substantial orthodox presence’ populating our churches is simply getting on with being church, trying their hardest to worship God in ways that are accessible to their neighbours and those they love.  They are serving their communities as best they can.  Some only start to care about same-sex blessings when their grandson introduces his male fiancé, others have gradually found the freedom to be themselves within the context of their congregation and openly identify as gay.  They want to save their parish, because they always have, not because it’s become a sexy slogan.  They are principled and pragmatic, and have been given grace to muddle through, mostly finding a middle way, compromising when they must to keep going, and living in the unity that is theirs to maintain.

Let’s remember them, for it is they who will keep the Church of England alive and strong, not those of us debating its future in a stuffy chamber, or on social media.

Posted in General Synod, Good Disagreement, Human Sexuality, Living in Love & Faith, Nikki Groarke, Safeguarding | 10 Comments

General Synod: Over and Out!

by the Revd Canon Rosie Harper, Chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham and Trustee of the Ozanne Foundation

Jayne very kindly invited me to reflect on my 11 years on General Synod, as the new Synod is about to begin. So please excuse it being a bit more personal than usual.

My father’s first journey outside the UK was to Switzerland to meet the family of the beautiful young woman he had fallen in love with. Round a massive wooden table he was introduced to her parents and the six brothers and one sister. Later that evening they went for a walk and my mother (yes reader, she married him) asked him how he felt. He told her he’d been horrified. ‘Why were they all shouting at one another all the time? Why were they so cross?’

Turns out he had mistaken passion for anger. Many British people do.

I have often thought of this story as I have tried to make sense of my relationship with General Synod and indeed with the Church of England. Having retired from Parish ministry earlier this year and called it a day with General Synod, am I now heading for a divorce”?

In order to fit in, to belong, to be a fitting wife for my pastor Dad, my mother interiorised her passion.  Coming over here just after the war and speaking with a Germanic accent I can only imagine how necessary that felt. I caught glimpses of a deep thinking, unconventional woman who was very concerned that I wouldn’t spoil my life chances by being perceived as too ‘over the top’.

Somehow my drive to ask difficult questions, to challenge, to speak for people without a voice – yes, to be passionate – never got moderated to a fully British tone. It took me quite a while to understand that this was a problem in the Church of England.

I first went to an Anglican church at university and that was because Ivor Keys was the organist and he was magic! While I was at the Royal Academy of Music I went to All Souls Langham Place and again, playing the violin in their orchestra more than compensated for the oppressive theology that I found there.

Walking through the years I learnt Anglican ways and there was so much to enjoy. I found God in the hearts of good and loving people. Much as I loved my parish, and I really did, in due course I tried to get some new and very interesting jobs. I failed, not, I was told  because of my ability but because I was too outspoken. I belonged but I didn’t belong. General Synod was much the same. I remember being told ‘we need people like you’. Ha!

Well – we all probably have a tale like that to tell. We all bring both spiritual and cultural baggage and encounter many layers of unwritten rules, disability, class, gender and race divisions, intellectual snobbery, power structures and old school networks, reputational lawyers and NDAs. It’s an Institution. What do you expect?

Only this is a church that is meant to preach something rather different. That we are all equal before God and equally loved. That the first shall be last. That we should not judge.

Sadly it seems that we just can’t get it right.

I sat on the Synod that was trying to make women equal and become bishops and we managed to embed inequality into its very laws. I voted for a ban on conversion therapy and yet Christians are lobbying the Government for an exemption. We are still at the point where gay people are deemed to have been created less equal than others and denied both the joy of marriage and a place at the high table. We fail to see how even discussing this as an option is abhorrently abusive. There are just so many ways in which, by the sheer essence of who you are, it is so difficult to truly belong.

For most of these years the discomfort was perfectly bearable. Daniel Finkelstein wrote a pre-obituary of terminally ill Frank Field in The Times on 2nd November. He described Field’s position in a way that resonated: ‘Field saw political allegiance as being a little like supporting a football team. Not something to which, once you had adopted it, you gave much further thought to or could easily change.’… ‘What Field meant by his analogy was that he realised his continued membership of the Labour party was tribal and he wasn’t going to let it constrain his thinking or actions.’

Yep! That was how it was with me and the CofE.  It had become my home, yet I was fine about being a critical friend.

It stayed like that for many years. It’s why I stood for election to General Synod. I was looking for reform and even rebirth and wanted to do my small part from within. The time I felt most lonely was when I articulated a Christian and compassionate argument for Assisted Dying, but even then I found kind and encouraging folk to talk to.

What changed things for me was safeguarding. Working as chaplain to Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, we found ourselves listening to a growing number of people whose experience of abuse within the Church was made unspeakably worse by the way the institution treated them. I gained a far deeper understanding of the parable of the Good Samaritan. It was walking by on the other side writ large. Somehow with each new person’s experience I made a shift from feeling that the CofE was basically a good but flawed outfit, to wondering if there was something irredeemably rotten at its core.

Over many years decent men and women promised to put survivors at the heart of all they did, but no-one could make it happen. Apology followed tear-stained apology.

We began to drown under an avalanche of new policy, training and procedure, but the actual survivors remained an afterthought. Good grief – we still don’t even have a date for the Makin report into the Smyth abuse and Smyth died in 2017. The actual abuse has been known about for far longer and it seems the survivors matter so little that their story has not even been logged.

I don’t know how this will end. It’s never great to divorce, and I’m not quite at that point yet, but it‘s hard to see the way forward once the trust has gone. I sincerely hope that the next generation of Synod members will find cause to be less cynical and I will watch with interest and encourage where I can.

Posted in Conversion Therapy, General Synod, Human Sexuality, Mental Health, Rosie Harper, Safeguarding, Spiritual Abuse | 8 Comments

On Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s Move to Rome…

  1. by Revd Trevor Wyatt, Vicar of Christ Church,  Bexleyheath and Co-Chair of MOSAIC 

As has been widely reported in the media, Rt Revd Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, was recently received into the full communion of the Catholic Church by Monsignor Keith Newton on the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, and with the permission of the Holy See will be ordained to the Catholic priesthood for the Ordinariate at some point in the future. It was my privilege to be Ordained Deacon and then Priest by Bishop Michael in Rochester Cathedral at Michaelmas in 2000/2001.  It is a sadness to me that the Bishop who Ordained me has left the Church of England.  Bishop Michael has held many senior positions, has a fine theological mind and his leaving will be considered by many to be a deficit to the Church of England.

It seems that a key reason for Bishop Michael leaving, as reported in an interview with the Telegraph is “a lack of teaching authority in Anglicanism, a lack of a sense of belonging to a worldwide church where everyone has to do things in step, rather than everyone doing whatever they want to do”.  In its governance structures the Church of England and the worldwide fellowship of Anglican churches (the Anglican Communion) has never had a centralised authority like the Papacy in the Roman Catholic Church that can amongst other things, provide a “clear teaching authority” that all are compelled to follow.  The founding fathers of the Church of England relied on a doctrine of provincial autonomy – the church was beholden to nobody but the King, and least of all to a Bishop in a foreign land.  The Anglican tradition has tended to eschew centralisation and see benefits where authority is mediated though a number of separate entities thus avoiding the dangers of tyranny and unchecked power.  Anglicanism has historically been committed to an approach to authority where its sources are dispersed through a number of different channels with the objective that they are mutually restricting and illuminating.  The timeless words of Lord Acton warn us that ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

Because the Anglican tradition has not had a “centralised authority” it has become the kind of church where people can more freely express their opinion about things.  The intellectual freedom to question the establishment, speak truth to power, challenge accepted norms and the status quo without being excommunicated is something that many Anglicans treasure.  Admittedly this doesn’t look too good in our media age of “sound bites” however the richness of working with different perspectives is arguably something to be celebrated rather than disparaged.  The history of the Church of England especially over the last two hundred years has been one of living with increasing diversity over a wide range of theological issues.

During the nineteenth century the various ‘parties’ within the Church of England – the catholics, evangelicals and the so-called liberals became more visible.  The Catholic tradition was re-energised and led by the so called ‘Oxford movement’ including John Henry Newman, who of course went to Rome like Bishop Michael.   In the Church of England one could now be ‘Catholic’ or ‘Evangelical’.   However, differences don’t stop here.  Anglicans have always had different opinions about most ethical issues that one might care to mention.  When it comes to whether we can “go to war” and kill the enemy, there are ‘pacifists’ who believe that war is always wrong, and then there are those who support the ‘just war’ theory – that in certain proscribed circumstances it is ok.  Over the question of contraception, although it was overwhelmingly supported by the Lambeth Conference in 1930 a large minority of Bishops present disagreed with the majority.  When the Abortion Act was passed in October 1967 it is on record that Bishops of the Church of England voted both ‘for’ and ‘against’.  Although General Synod agreed to the Ordination of women as Priests back in 1992, and women as Bishops in 2014, many issues remain and we need to find better ways of living together with our differences over this so that both sides on this issue can flourish.  On marriage after divorce, the church allows clergy the right of conscience not to remarry divorced people.  The most recent example of difference has been the spectacle of two recent Archbishops, Carey and Williams,  taking opposing views on assisted dying.  When we come to the issue of the day – human sexuality – there are passionately held view on all sides and the church finds itself divided pretty much down the middle, if the most recent General Synod elections are anything to go by.

If anything summarises Anglicanism in its classical form and in its history, it is living with diversity and difference – whether Catholic or Protestant, or over the many complex ethical issues about which we take different views.  In the future it is unlikely that there will be a ‘knock down argument’ or an ‘overwhelming consensus’ on many of these issues.

It is perhaps ironic that just at the moment when Bishop Michael has moved to Rome, Pope Francis has formally launched a two-year global consultation process in the Roman Catholic Church, saying “. It seems highly likely that many of the questions about which Anglicans disagree will at the very least be debated in this consultation process e.g. women priests and human sexuality.

In response to this diversity that is the sheer reality of things in the Anglican tradition, my deepest prayer and urgings are to encourage everyone on all sides to hold on to our shared identity in Christ above everything else, and to find ways of walking towards each other rather than walking away.  That we enter into the areas of tension and find ways of inhabiting uncomfortable places, disagreeing with each other in the kindest way possible and holding on to each other with bonds of love and affection.  I recognise immediately that staying and remaining requires sacrifice and has been at a huge personal cost to many, and that I speak as a white straight male whose lived experience is not directly affected as it is for so many others.  Not everyone will feel that they can keep with us, but I profoundly hope that most will.  Over the years the Anglican tradition has been wonderfully creative and resourceful in finding ways to hold different kinds of acknowledged, public disagreement within a framework of common life as one church, and one communion of churches.

I for one hope we can find similarly creative ways through the current issues that threaten our common life.

 

 

Posted in Good Disagreement, Human Sexuality, Lambeth Conference, Trevor Wyatt | 1 Comment

General Synod: Once More Unto the Breach?

by Canon Simon Butler, Member of General Synod and Vicar of St Mary’s, Battersea

In two weeks’ time the new General Synod will be inaugurated. Synodical psephologists are already analysing the results, trying to see where they lead, especially on the question of human sexuality, attitudes to which seem to have been a key factor in determining who has been elected. The Church Times reckons that both progressives and conservatives have done well at the expense of the middle ground and traditional Catholics[1]; Inclusive Church reckons 45-47% of those elected are clear progressives; the Evangelical Group in General Synod (EGGS) also appears to have done well, although it is hard to see how many of ‘their’ candidates will vote in a conservative direction, if only because EGGS encouraged conservative candidates not to be clear about that in their election addresses[2]!

All of this is grist to the mill to experienced Synod watchers: Anthony Archer, sadly not elected again from St Albans, says “I fear Living in Love and Faith (LLF) is dead in the water…there will be no change of any kind during 2021-26[3].”; from a very different perspective, Peter Ould claims that “there is still a substantial orthodox presence in the Church of England…LLF is not a shoe-in for the revisionists and we are likely to see no change…towards accommodating same-sex unions[4].”

Despite divergent hopes, both Archer and Ould agree about one thing: that both ‘sides’ have the numbers to block any attempt by the other to move the church in a more conservative or more progressive direction. And, while strictly numerically that may prove accurate, I find myself wondering whether this is a genuine piece of realpolitik or simply a processing of either hopes dashed or worst fears not being realised?

I think the jury is still out.

First, because Synod is a gathering of disciples open to the Holy Spirit. We often change our minds or adjust our perspective through relationship and listening. Over the next five years, despite the best attempts of campaigning bloggers like Ian Paul and Colin Coward to persuade us that the choice is about two mutually-exclusive, competing ‘orthodoxies’ – what Paul would call “historic biblical orthodoxy[5]” and Coward “radical Christian inclusion…an evolutionary process[6]” – General Synod is made up of people committed to listening to God and one another. For reasons more psychological than theological, the most irreconcilable conservative and progressive campaigners seem to only want a ‘winner takes all’ approach.

That is simply not part of the DNA of the Church of England. We bear with one another, we recognise we need one another, we accept (at our best) that we cannot be ‘A Christian Presence in Every Community[7]’ with only people like us. We say at every Eucharist, “we who are many are one body”. Like it or not, conservatives and progressives are stuck with one another – not chiefly in synodical deadlock, but in a shared obedience to discern together the mind of Christ for the future of the Church. Who knows where that could lead? Could God’s truth be bigger than either/or?

Second, because LLF is alive and well and being engaged with. Peter Ould’s sleight of hand claim that, because lay Synod electors return good numbers of conservatives the Church of England is more conservative than liberals claim and conservatives fear, is no more than an assertion, especially as worried conservatives have been encouraged for some time to pack Deanery Synods with members[8]. Conservative forces are often energised to resist change more by fear than hope when it comes to politics; but, even if the conservative bloc is strong in Synod, the evidence of LLF is that, where it is done properly, it is landing well and that many people are listening and learning, not just to bolster their own view, but to appreciate the views of others. At the very least this must open up the possibility that listening really does change hearts and attitudes and that change remains entirely possible. The possibility of change is what we signed up to in commending Living in Love and Faith.

So even if there are blocking minorities in the General Synod, I agree with Charlie Bell that compromise is still possible[9]. Indeed, I think both theologically and politically it may well be essential for the health of the Church we all claim to love – even if we don’t love all of it as much as we love our bit of it! The problem is of course that both “sides” want to compromise in separate ways – and expect the other side to do so in ways that suit that our “side’s” agenda. We will have to work extremely hard and long to discover the costly path of what Bell helpfully articulates as “compromise and conscience”.

This week, there has been an encouraging first step in response to the dreadful proposals to criminalise LGBTQ+ people in Ghana. As many will know, the Ghanaians have issued a statement supporting a parliamentary Bill[10] which, among other things, will result in draconian action against LGBTQ+ people and their supporters, even potentially their families. These ungodly proposals have attracted widespread criticism, including from Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and many diocesan bishops. Significantly, however, the Officers of the General Synod have combined with the leaders of key Catholic, Evangelical and progressive voices on sexuality to issue a joint statement of support for Archbishop Justin’s intervention. It’s a positive step to see both progressive and conservative voices on sexuality uniting in the face of something that clearly flies in the face of every statement and agreement made by the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

Such solidarity is a small but visible step we have been able to take together; yet, given the much wider challenges the Church of England faces, can conservatives and progressives can find any further common ground? For some, like Peter Ould and Ian Paul, the synodical deadlock is evidence that no change is likely and I firmly expect them to argue that the whole project should be abandoned; I’ve begun to hear that argument rehearsed. But what they fail to appreciate is that, for many progressives, even the evolutionary ones like me rather than the radical ones like Colin Coward, the issues are as fundamental to our discipleship as those of conservatives: for us the Gospel is for all; we often see holiness and discipleship in same-sex relationships, a sign of God’s blessing that the Church should honour. The loving faithfulness I see in such relationships in my congregation is far more exemplary than the tabloid tone we see in some conservative blogging, which see progressives colluding in a “furious assault on the Church”[11].

Whatever the synodical numbers, this matter isn’t going to go away. Unless we can compromise, we will all have to shoulder responsibility for a never-ending argument about sexuality while the Church of England becomes even more distant from the people of our land.

It’s time to start a different conversation. No one holds all the cards. Do we all dig our heels in crying, like Luther, “Here I stand; I can do no other”? Or might we all stop blaming each other for the division we face, and try and reach a settlement? Ironically, with no winner-takes-all possible, the likelihood of a settlement actually increases.

Some will cry “Once more unto the breach, dear friends![12]”, as we return to the synodical fray, but I find myself wondering if we can afford to doubt the possibility of a settlement, remembering Lucio’s words in Measure for Measure, “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt[13].”

 

[1] https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2021/22-october/news/uk/high-turnover-in-general-synod-elections

[2] https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/09/22/church-of-england-evangelicals-general-synod-candidates/

[3] https://www.facebook.com/anthony.archer/posts/10158075355006361

[4] https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/what-will-the-new-general-synod-look-like/

[5] https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/debating-the-church-and-same-sex-marriage/

[6] http://www.unadulteratedlove.net/blog/2021/8/3/radical-christian-inclusion-a-definition

[7] The strapline of the Church of England

[8] http://www.ceec.info/uploads/4/4/2/7/44274161/gs_2021_elections_paper_leaflet_-_jw_edit_28.08.2020.pdf

[9] https://www.viamedia.news/2021/10/13/general-synod-the-importance-of-compromise-conscience/

[10] https://www.episcopalcafe.com/ghanas-anglican-bishops-support-draconian-anti-gay-bill/

[11] https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/what-miracles-does-the-church-need-on-sexuality/

[12] Henry V, Act III, Scene I

[13] Act I, Scene IV

Posted in General Synod, Good Disagreement, Living in Love & Faith, Simon Butler | 12 Comments