Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.
I’m recording this in London at the end of a long day in which the recent Bishops’ proposals about a way forward for the church were debated at General Synod. You can find the details of these on the General Synod website. It would be most helpful to look at what was actually proposed as opposed to the various spins that have gone rather out of control from that starting point. I had hoped to be able to say something when all was done and dusted, but unfortunately there were so many amendments that as I record this on Wednesday evening, there is still a long way to go to finish the debate.
It was a challenging debate in which different views were argued with great passion and stories were shared.
In one sense this whole Living in Love and Faith conversation is our attempt to work out one implication to the next part of the Lord’s prayer. Your kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. These are lofty yearnings, but what happens when sincere Christians can’t agree exactly what God’s will is. That diversity of view was fully visible in our debate today. At one stage last week, I had equal numbers of emails in my inbox threatening to leave the church of England if we did allow same sex couples to marry in church, and others proposing departure if we didn’t! If our views are so diverse, and the views apparently so irreconcilable, how can we find a way to live in the same community that respects one another’s consciences? Or is, as some are proposing, the only way forward some sort of structured differentiation, short of a formal split, or even schism.
The added complication is that this is not just an internal conversation. We are part of the community we serve, which has very different views of sexuality to our traditionally received ones. Similarly, we are part of a worldwide communion of churches and in friendly relations with orthodox and catholic churches who hold a different view. Unfortunately, some of my correspondents have shown an attitude to colleagues in Africa (many of whom have far greater theological qualifications than I do) that I can only describe as racist and colonialist.
The beginning of a way out of our current impasse must be to accept that different views are held in conscience and that we recognise Christ in one another. Some have accused the Bishops of a compromise that is not discernment. But, if we cannot agree, a ‘differentiated consensus’, as one of my colleagues described it, might actually be a place of discernment. Some have accused the Bishops of not doing the theology, but we have been talking theologically for decades. The fruits of that scholarship are available in the LLF book and on the LLF website. The problem isn’t lack of theological thinking, its that the thinking has led us in different directions and to different conclusion.
Personally, I have my own views, but recognise my responsibility to be a pastor to everyone in this diocese, whatever their view might be, whatever their sexuality might be, cohering or opposing my own. There will be more opportunity to revisit this after the votes at Synod and decisions have been made. But, I would renew my call to our diocesan family to listen to one another, to not view one another through a lens of hostility, and to at least credit one another with coming to view through prayerful and reasoned thought.
It would be good if we could all continue to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” with an open mind. Who knows where such a prayer will still lead us.