Drawing the Line?

by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Ozanne Foundation

Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.[1]

It’s not that long ago that the word “inclusive” used to irritate me. I saw it as a party slogan, rather like the use of “orthodox” or “godly” in other parts of our Church. It annoyed me, even as it nagged at me.

This is because I hoped to rise above such divisive words. In particular, in my early days as a bishop I tried to inhabit a vacuum of opinion. I believed that this vacuum is the proper place for a bishop, the only place that a “symbol of unity” in the Church could possibly sit. Such a vacuum is certainly a good place to live if you want a quiet life: in space, no one can hear you scream.

Well, over the years things changed for me. As with so many others in the long history of the Church, events and wounded people approached me and I came to know them, and they changed me. Now, as I approach my retirement, the place and voice of a disciple involves (to quote Dan Berrigan SJ as I so often do), “knowing where you stand, and standing there”.

So I have done my best to say what I think about a whole range of things, including one or two which are contended in today’s church. I’ve tried to speak for, to make room for, the lives of people for whom there was no room in the past. Overall I’ve tried to set my compass by what the Roman Catholic Church has called the preferential option for the poor; what my predecessor David Sheppard called the bias to the poor.

As I’ve done so there has been no shortage of people to tell me that by making this journey at all, I have fallen short of my discipleship in general and of my episcopal vocation in particular. I’m told that I have gone wrong in one or both of two ways: by being a heretic and/or by being a maverick.

Those who think I’m a heretic usually write to me. They tend to be unrestrained in the use of their language. Many of them believe that my eternal destiny is at stake and that they need to help me with my salvation by setting me straight. From the tone of their letters they clearly believe that the job will best be done by shaming me into heaven, reminding me forcibly of my mistakes, inaccuracies, ignorances, underlining how offended they are by my words. I try always to reply to these letters and emails with thanks, but I have to say that none of them has yet succeeded in its aim. Shaming and anger are poor persuaders.

Those who think I’m a maverick are usually more restrained in their style. They tend not to write but to speak privately, or to express themselves non-verbally, in the raising of an eyebrow of the rolling of an eye. They communicate more in sorrow than in anger. What a pity, brother, that from time to time you have so noisily flouted the agreed norms of polite Christian behaviour. How unfortunate that you seem to be questioning or resisting or pre-empting the necessarily slow deliberations of the Church. What a shame that you keep banging on about one or two issues, rather than spreading your indignations more carefully, seamlessly and evenly about the place. How sad that you’re so… well, untactful.

For me, as for a number of my colleagues retired and serving in all orders of the Church, being seen as a maverick is unpleasant and unwelcome. Unwelcome, since our belief is that we live in the mainstream of discipleship and not on its margins. Making the option for the poor, being there for those on the edge of things, is the mainspring of our witness. But we ourselves do not wilfully seek to be on the edge of things. Still less do we want to be treated as a mildly tolerated presence on the edge, like pepper in a stew, piquant but mercifully optional.

Anyway, as the year’s end approaches, and with around fifty days to go before my farewell service in Liverpool, I have been reflecting on this question: how have I, who used to be so annoyed by the word “inclusive”, come to be seen as an annoying maverick/heretic now?

Perhaps it’s because I have entered in to a greater faithfulness to what I was taught about God and about his only-begotten Son. That at any rate is my hope and prayer.

Here is a short passage from the Lutheran liturgical theologian, Gordon Lathrop. I read it years ago, and I quote it often:

Draw a line that includes us and excludes many others, and Jesus Christ is always on the other side of the line. At least that is so if we are speaking of the biblical, historic Christ who eats with sinners and outsiders, who is made a curse and sin itself for us, who justifies the ungodly, and who is himself the hole in any system.[2]

In the week of my forty-second Christmas as an ordained minister, I look again as a disciple to the paradox of the Incarnation. I look to the Infant of Days, to the scrap of humanity who couldn’t find a room yet who is fully God, who grew up to dine with sinners, to scandalise the religious, to die an unclean death outside the city. I look to him and I agree with Gordon Lathrop. Jesus is himself the hole in any human system of righteousness, and Divine righteousness is a gift given to those on both sides of any line. And I will live in this mystery with all the integrity I can muster.

Another long-remembered thing. As a sixth-form student I read a book by Daniel Berrigan SJ, the US Catholic priest and peace protestor whose words I quoted above. The book was called “America is Hard to Find”. That book drew me into the peace movement, as a member of which I was honoured to have been arrested and held three or four times for standing or sitting in the wrong place, with Quakers and Catholics and Methodists and a few other Anglicans, acting as a heretic or a maverick over against the laws of England, when instruments of mass destruction were found on the streets, at Cruisewatch near Greenham Common, or at RAF Lakenheath, or in places where decisions were taken about the use of such weapons, such as 10 Downing Street (where in those days you could indeed stand or sit on the street outside). This has been a wellspring of my witness, and I remain glad that I stood there, although doing that too brought criticism to me.

Perhaps all these criticisms are justified, perhaps one day I’ll grow up enough to understand them and to repudiate my life’s journey. Or perhaps not.

In any case mine is far from being the unblemished journey of a saint or a prophet. It’s been full of twists and turns, mistakes and apologies, depressions and re-commitments. It has led me from a seat on the road outside 10 Downing Street to (briefly) a seat in the House of Lords, and many would say that sums up a road of contradiction and paradox and compromise and complicity.

But as a result of that journey, I am more and more convinced that if we draw a line that includes us and excludes many others, then Jesus Christ is always on the other side of the line, among the people outside. I want to be there with Him. I have become unashamedly inclusive, for Christ’s sake.

And on that road I hope to keep walking, through Christmas and through retirement and on into my own future, as part of the future of this broken and excluding world which needs Jesus so much.

As I prepare to enter another chapter of my life and ministry, I commend the life of looking beyond lines to you all. I hope that you’ll walk on that road yourself, unafraid. God is with you. Have a blessed Christmas, and a happy and spirit-filled New Year!

© Paul Bayes 2021

[1] 1 Peter 3:14

[2] Gordon W. Lathrop, Holy Ground: A Liturgical Cosmology, pp. 64-5.

Posted in Bishop of Liverpool, Good Disagreement, Human Sexuality, Politics, Social Justice, Spiritual Abuse | 7 Comments

Evangelical Alliance: “Loving & Orthodox” or “Damaging & Dangerous”?

by Jayne Ozanne, Editor Director of ViaMedia.News, Member of General Synod and Chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition
Last week the campaign to ban conversion therapy was given a significant boost by a letter to the Secretary of State from hundreds of Christian leaders stating clearly that they believed their “Christian duty” was to continue to conduct harmful conversion practices.

It was just the proof needed to show a sceptical public that the modern-day threat of conversion practices is real and that, even more worryingly, there is absolutely no recognition or remorse for the harm that they have caused countless LGBT+ people.

If ever the government needed evidence of why they must urgently introduce legislation to protect LGBT+ people, they now have it in spades.  It seems that no amount of reasoned argument, academic or medical opinion, research evidence or the harrowing testimonies of survivors has caused them to stop and reflect on the damage that they’ve done and continue to do.

Concerns had already been raised by politicians following two evidence sessions, one in Edinburgh and the other in Westminster, both involving senior figures from the Evangelical Alliance.  Indeed, one Scottish Labour politician, Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP commented on Twitter after hearing evidence at the Scottish Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee: “I honestly could hardly believe my ears this morning.  I am more convinced than ever* that we need to end all conversion practises, and fast. (*My views that it should end were already very strongly held).” 

Interestingly, in their letter to the Secretary of State, the Christian Leaders, the vast majority of whom are evangelical, made three claims which need public and firm rebuttal:

Firstly, they boldly claim that they “act in love” and “never with any coercion or control”.  Have they learnt nothing from the sexual abuse scandals that have riddled their evangelical churches?  Have they not seen the level of coercion and control that exists in their communities?!  It is something that the rest of the world can and does see, that is now well evidenced in various research reports, but it is fascinating and telling that they seem to be so determined not to acknowledge it.

Secondly, they use the term “orthodox” as if it were a brand label that they alone can claim. Not only is this arrogant, as it fails to recognise the millions of faithful Christians around the world who disagree with them, but it is also wrong.  True Christian orthodoxy is that which proclaims a gospel of God’s unconditional love for all.  Period.  No exceptions, no caveats, no exclusive clubs.  It is never about what we do or who we are, but everything about what Christ has done and who He is!

Thirdly, it is ludicrous to suggest that a Christian’s ability “to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ and calling people to find life in him” will be impacted by this legislation.  The only practices that are to be banned are those that seek to change, ‘cure’ or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  To claim otherwise is to bear false witness and to prey on people’s fears.

Perhaps I should not be surprised by their imperviousness to the truth about the harm they cause, nor their defiance in saying they will continue “to do their duty to God” at the risk of being criminalised.  Jesus encountered exactly the same spirit amongst the religious leaders of His day.  Indeed, He had a lot to say to them about this type of person – most notably in Matthew 23:

“They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

before then going on to say:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Harsh words yes; but I genuinely believe they are true.  This is indeed, in my mind, a Gospel issue.  This self-dramatising and intransigent attitude cripples and hampers the sharing of the Gospel – both amongst LGBT+ people, who have so often been rejected and hurt by the Church, as well as amongst a nation who want nothing to do with a religion that they see as hypocritical and unloving in the extreme.

You see just because you say a prayer in a quiet and religious voice does not mean it is loving.  Nor does rebranding a harmful practice as “prayer” make it any the less harmful.  

It is precisely because these Christian leaders think that what they do is both loving and acceptable that we need this legislation in the first place.  A truly loving approach would be to listen with an open heart to the cries of those who they have harmed, and to ask for their forgiveness.

Hardheartedness is one of the many traits that made Jesus very angry, and it is what he claimed made them unable to see the truth about the various pastoral situations that he himself was constantly speaking in to.

Now the opposite of hardheartedness is, I believe, humility.  It is a spirit that requires an openness both to what the Holy Spirit is saying and to admitting that we might have got things wrong.  It is this humility that has led the Church to recognise and repent of the sins of racism, or of poor stewardship of the earth, or of our treatment of women and now, I believe, of its false teachings about those of us who reflect the diversity of God’s creation in our sexuality and gender identity.

So, as we draw towards the end of the year and move into a time of celebration for the Gift of the Christ child who dwelt in flesh amongst us, I prayer that the eyes of these evangelical leaders’ hearts might be opened and that the Holy Spirit will call them to repent for the damage that they do and the danger that they pose to LGBT+ people, who are created and loved by that very same God, of that very same flesh.

 

Posted in Human Sexuality, Jayne Ozanne, LGBT Stories, Living in Love & Faith, Mental Health | 9 Comments

A Story of Transforming Love – and My Mother

by the Revd Canon Timothy Goode, Rector of St Margaret’s, Lee, Disability Adviser to the Diocese of Southwark, Member of Archbishop’s Council and Co-Chair of MOSAIC 

I wish to share with you a personal story. It is a true story and one that I hope will offer some insight into how I have come to understand my relationship with God specifically as a disabled person, and how the resurrected Body of Christ has become for me the place of ultimate belonging and the answer to all my longing.

I have a hereditary congenital bone condition called Multiple Exostosis. It involves lots of bony spurs growing outwards from all my joins, interfering with my ability to move freely, so, like my mother before me, it involved lots of invasive surgery, especially whilst growing up.

As a child I had all my many operations at the Woodlands Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham. Now the thing that one needs to know about the Woodlands is that the children’s ward is the furthest ward from the operating theatre, so the journey to the operating theatre took between 15 and 20 minutes, sometimes longer. It was not a fun journey!

Looking back, I remember one constant throughout my many operations and that was my mother. She was at my bedside early on the morning of each operation, always seeking to calm me down either by telling me how proud she was of me or offering catchy little prayers, all to help distract and ease my anxiety.

When the porters came to take me to theatre, my mother would walk beside me holding my hand, talking, soothing, and distracting me as only a mother can. She was with me as I was put to sleep, and she was there holding my hand as I awoke, ready to tell me that I was the other side of the operation.

I regret now how rarely I reflected at the time how costly this was for her, for my mother deeply understood what I was going through as she too had gone through the same experience on countless occasions. It must have been intensely distressing to be alongside one whom she loved so acutely, watching me go through what she had suffered as a child. And yet she also knew that each operation was essential for my health and so she quietly bore the cost, operation upon operation.

Now there was only ever one time in my early teens when my mother couldn’t be there with me for one of the operations and I felt, having been through multiple operations by this time, that I would be able to manage on my own.

So, the same routine unfolded – the porters arriving to take me on the 20-minute journey to theatre – being put to sleep – waking up in the recovery room post operation. Only this time without my mother present.

Oh dear. By the time the porters arrived I was all but climbing the wall.  Sitting bolt upright in tears, I implored the porters not to take me down to the operating theatre. I fought the anaesthetist and had to be held down so that I could be put to sleep. And when I woke up, I was so confused as to where I was, I shouted the ward down. It was a profoundly distressing experience.

Not having my loving constant, my mother,  present, the one who understood me from the inside out, the one who loved me and who I trusted above all other, profoundly changed the whole context and the whole experience. I missed my mother’s profound and deep empathy rooted in lived experience. I missed my companion on the journey. I missed her immeasurable love and compassion.

Now, when I imagine God, it is the image of my mother accompanying me on the journey to theatre that often comes to mind. Like her, God is by my side. Like her, God is reaching out his hand and inviting me to take it and hold it. Like her, God is telling me that I am loved, that I am perfect in his sight, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  For I am made in God’s glorious image revealed through the Risen Body of Jesus Christ, both wonderfully divine and profoundly vulnerable.

The Risen Body is God’s invitation to acknowledge, own, and ultimately love our vulnerabilities thus delivering for us our ultimate freedom and liberation. Christ’s Risen Body reveals true love to be vulnerable, selfless, and open to suffering. The open wounds are not healed but nor is the body broken. The wounds of Christ are fault lines, places of often profound pain and suffering and yet also places of creation, gift and growth. The Risen Body is our place of ultimate belonging and God’s answer to all our longing.  God suffers as we suffer, God celebrates as we celebrate, God mourns as we mourn.

My mother didn’t stop my operations. She was only too aware that they would cause me pain and suffering but she also knew that on the other side of each operation was the promise of hope, healing and restoration. Neither does being a Christian avoid us facing the realities of life. Being a Christian is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card.  Rather, the Risen Body of Jesus Christ promises us a new way of living, a new lens through which we can face in hope the realities of life – a promise of redemption and hope that empowers and transfigures the very way we live our lives.

The invitation to be a Christian is the invitation to respond to the generous offer of God’s graceful hand. God’s hand is offered to us today and every day. The life, death and resurrection, the incarnated Risen Body of Jesus Christ, affirm that this really is a hand worth taking. For God’s hand is offered through grace. We neither deserve nor not deserve it. God loves each one of us with such a graceful love that goes way beyond that of a parent to a child, way beyond that of any human relationship, it is a love that is utterly selfless, open to suffering, wishing to enter our vulnerabilities; a love whose sole focus is our personal and collective flourishing.

During the pandemic we have been forced to gaze upon the open wounds of the risen body. It has proved deeply uncomfortable, but we can hold our gaze because the open wounds of Christ’s Risen Body reveal a God who intimately understands our deepest concerns, because God has been there. The Word became flesh.

Why would we deny God’s invitation and refuse the loving hand of God who seeks to love, support, and hold each one of us through this troublesome time? Just as my mother’s love for me transformed my experience of childhood operations, so God’s immeasurable love for each one of us transforms and transfigures our journey through life, with all the joys and travails that beset us.

For remember… ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14)

 

 

 

 

Posted in Disability, Human Sexuality, Mental Health, Tim Goode | 3 Comments

The Thorny Question of Desire!

by Jeremy Marks, Founder of Post-Courage and Winner of the Colin Blakely Lifetime Achievement Award 

To the woman [the LORD] said,
“. . . in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband . . .”    Genesis 3:16 (RSV)

In our modern world, this famous verse is hard to read and accept as a word from God! My reason for quoting this is not to expound the verse but merely to point out that in one of the most well-known stories of the Bible – about the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden – the reality of God-given sexual desire is described in a very vivid and powerful way.

Never have I heard a sermon about this that does anything more than point out the “sin” that led to God’s judgement and “curse” on the man and woman. Therefore, we ought to “fear God more . . .”   One is left with the impression that desire, especially sexual desire (but it could be for money or power too) is like a caged tiger, that if allowed to escape will cause mayhem and death. Whatever we do we must contain that desire with the greatest self-discipline.

We are left to assume that this is more or less the sum of Christian teaching about desire.

Which can lead to great tragedy, as I have discovered in my life and ministry.

At the Ozanne Foundation Inaugural Dinner & Awards held at the Houses of Parliament last week, where I had the privileged opportunity to share my story, I explained that in spite of being a gay man, I had been brought up to believe one cannot be gay and Christian. I had therefore entered a quasi-heterosexual marriage with a courageous woman because we both believed that marriage, first and foremost, was given by God for companionship, not primarily for sex.  Indeed, like many in our position  we thought that sex was optional anyway. After 21 difficult years, during which my wife says she felt like a “non-person” we separated.  We remain the best of friends fortunately.  But when my former wife subsequently met a heterosexual man who loves women, it did not take long before she discovered what she had been missing all that time! And that missing piece of the jigsaw, that had been such a grievous omission in our marriage, had an absolutely transforming effect. Every relationship brings challenges. But sex, it seems, is one of the most beautiful gifts from God; an amazing “glue” that helps to smooth out many problems and tensions.

In my pastoral experience, I have met many sad, frustrated women who married gay men. Often those men seemed perfect gentlemen – thoughtful, considerate, appreciative, gentle, not sexually demanding, not having a roving eye for other women.  Almost perfect in every way. Except for something undefinable that the wife just could not put her finger on. In spite of every effort to be attractive to her husband, there was no response. Then at some point she discovered that her husband is gay, so of course he was never going to be interested in her that way, ever!  The rage, bewilderment, sense of being cheated and betrayed, the loss and shame, became overwhelming for her.  “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” William Congreve observed. Maybe he was gay, to have expressed that so eloquently?

With all my heart I feel such sorrow for those women.  A few manage to get over it, but many do not. This can be an absolutely life-wrecking scenario.

Why does any of this happen?  Because of the paucity of good Christian teaching on sexual desire – teaching that has been so shallow and risk averse.  The Church has done nothing to prepare us for managing well that most beautiful gift of God, designed to delight every human being who has the good fortune to find their desired partner.

Then for the LGBTI person, the devastation at being told that we are “intrinsically disordered” (Roman Catholic teaching) or an “abomination” (a favourite word amongst Protestants) or any variation on this theme, however nuanced the expression it has the same destructive effect.

When I met Paolo, my husband, finally I found fulfilment of the longings I had struggled with since my teenage years.  I often wonder how I had ever allowed myself to spend 40 years of my life in thrall to such mean-spirited religious hogwash?!

There is another well-known and beautiful passage in the Psalms, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 (RSV).

The Lord has fulfilled that promise both for me and my former wife. Thanks be to God.

 

Posted in Human Sexuality, Jeremy Marks, LGBT Stories | 3 Comments

Blessings & Same-Sex Relationships

by the Revd Dr Andrew Knight, Vicar of St Mary’s, Diocese of Chester

It was the conversation I had been anticipating with some trepidation since beginning my ordained ministry. Two young Christian men, long-term partners, enquiring as to whether the vicar of their welcoming local church, would marry them, or at least bless a civil marriage. By virtue of their ordination, priests are enabled in their ministry to invite God’s blessing upon people, places and objects… from new vocations to homes, bibles to boats, the baptised and bereaved. Yet, the Church of England ties the priest’s hands preventing in any meaningful sense them being able to bless a permanent, faithful and fruitful same-sex relationship. Having negotiated the uncomfortable conversation, where issues of theology and legality sat uneasily alongside the Gospel of love, welcome and reconciliation, this incongruity was amplified days later when a clergy colleague shared how he had joyfully responded to the request to bless a couple of guinea pigs in a pet service… I didn’t ask if they were the same gender?!

As priests we pray God’s blessing upon the church to enable it to be a blessing to the world, opening opportunities for divine intimacy and fruitfulness. Withholding blessing has therefore significant consequences for priests, church and community.  The crux of the issue is what we believe to be the nature and purpose of ‘blessing’?  I believe there are several dimensions to priestly blessing, which I’ll summarise here:

Blessing is firstly a prayer. The US Episcopal Church understands the blessing of faithful same-sex relationships as a prayer: to thank God for the grace discerned in the couple’s lives; to ask for God’s continual favour; to manifest the fruits of the Spirit in their lives; and to commission the couple to bear witness to the Gospel.

Blessing is also a commissioning: the invocation of the Holy Spirit to guide, empower and enable flourishing in a person’s life and ministry. For example, marriage is a new vocation to a permanent, faithful relationship where a deeper companionship and fruitfulness is commissioned.

The Hebrew word for blessing berakhah is thanksgiving, our frequent response to receiving God’s blessing. This celebratory blessing is present in any marriage rite in response to the good gift of relationships.

Blessing is pastoral care, originating in domestic settings where the covenantal relationship with God brought wholeness, peace and wellbeing to home and community.  The Church in Wales in proposing new blessing liturgy recognised it was “pastorally unsustainable for the Church to make no formal provision for those in same-gender relationships.

Blessing is a witness, allowing people to connect faith to their everyday lives. Same-sex couples who seek God’s blessing do not generally do so in order that a relationship can take place, or so they can have sex. Rather it is for them to bear public witness to the gift of their companionship in order to both ask for the community’s support and to seal their commitment under God.

Blessings are exhortation – words of power that can elevate and encourage.  They, thus are cries of liberation, bringing light, truth and justice into dark places where suffering and discrimination has been hidden.

Henri Nouwen’s concept of blessing is generous hospitality, allowing outsiders to connect with and enrich a worshipping community. This blessing requires vulnerability, empathy, authenticity and openness to the Holy Spirit in healing fragmented communities.

Blessing as sanctification calls upon the Holy Spirit to transform us, such that we grow into the fullness of the redeemed life. Both heterosexual and homosexual Christian couples recognise the grace of God in their lives, in their mutual joy, love and companionship.

As with the eucharistic bread and wine, blessing as consecration establishes a new reality and divine purpose. Through marriage the couple’s lives have a new trajectory and vocation, setting them apart to bear the fruits of, and be a witness to, God’s grace in the world.

The language of ‘blessing’, however, becomes highly emotive when used in conjunction with ministry to gay and lesbian couples. In everyday language if someone ‘gives their blessing’ to something, the sense is they ‘approve’. Many may perceive that blessing a same-sex couple is simply public pronouncement of the Church’s approval of a way of life or sexual practice about which they are personally uncertain or reject. The Church communicates its beliefs through its liturgy, and the priest has a liturgical blessing role, encouraging, or essentially giving permission for, a specific movement in mission or ministry. Yet if blessing is withheld from same-sex couples because of a narrower perspective of blessing as ‘expression of doctrine’, we negate its multifaceted richness as I’ve described, and perhaps forget it is not us but Christ that is the source of all blessing.

God’s desire to bless is not limited by our human boundaries of sacred and secular.  Nevertheless, the Church should recognise there are things we may not bless, such as weapons of war. It is perhaps easier to exclude blessing things which may cause harm, or destroy, or divide, but this is far from the nature of a loving, faithful relationship. A church may teach what kind of relationships might be considered worthy of blessing and which may not. Yet, the question is how do we draw the line, especially when there is limited theological consensus on same-sex unions?

We may choose then to bless those things in which we either recognise God’s goodness and potential for fruitfulness, or that can be orientated towards God’s purposes for redemption. If so, by denying a blessing for a same-sex relationship do we suggest that there is no goodness or hope to be found in it? Many heterosexual marriages are far from what we might call ‘good’.  Whilst some see the blessing of same-sex couples as abandoning traditional biblical theology of sex and marriage, others would extend it, to include same-sex couples, as a matter of justice, generosity and mercy. Meanwhile, when same-sex couples approach a church, they are not looking for a judgement or teaching document but an empathetic welcome from a church with a human face. The Methodist Church recently asserted “There is a strong case that, if marriage is what the Methodist Church says it is, and is as wonderful as it says it is, this Church cannot remain true to the God of justice and love by continuing to deny it to those same-sex couples who desire it so deeply”.

Several churches have moved to introduce permissive blessing rites for same-sex couples as a matter of theological and pastoral conscience for priests. I pray that we may not lose the opportunity to be the instruments of God’s blessing, and encourage LGBT Christians to capture the spirit of Jacob, who despite his difficult circumstances and against the odds, hangs on in there, wrestling with the angel until daybreak saying “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

 

________________________________________________________________________

 

Posted in Andrew Knight, Good Disagreement, Guest Contributors, Human Sexuality, Living in Love & Faith | 8 Comments

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 | 2 Comments

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