As you read this, and as I write it, you’ve probaby heard all about the senior Anglican Bishops (Primates) meeting together to discuss the future of the Anglican Communion which is, at present at least, a global communion. Many are worried about what might happen – particularly on the part of those churches represented where the whole issue of LGBT sexuality is literally ‘anathema’.
Now, it would be less than prudent for a simple Methodist to advise the Anglican Communion. I am however, a presbyter in the Parish that John Wesley inhabited – the whole Globe. And I also believe that whatever occurs in any part of the Church does actually affect us all, so perhaps an ‘outside’ voice (though rambling!) is helpful…
On a serious note though, I do find it a bit sickening how excited the press seem about the possibility of a break up of communion for Anglicans – it’s like a python waiting for its prey – a sign of the times we live in for sure! I do, from my Methodist heart!, want to assure my Anglican sisters and brothers and all those inbetween of my sincere prayers over the coming weeks and months as you seek to listen to the voice and guiding of the Holy Spirit. We are different, but we are one, we are kin, we are family – and I love you despite our differences.
It seems to me such a sad prospect that the Anglican Communion, headed up by experienced, learned, wise, spiritually mature Bishops might decide that the only way they can do the Christian thing is to go it alone. Such is the fear surrounding the possibility of agreeing to disagree, or even just disagreeing but managing to love each other through the disagreement. Indeed, a “hard walkout” as it is being called, would be disastrous for the future of the Anglican Church.
I can’t help but think what a difference it would make to this whole situation if those senior clergy in opposition to discussions about human sexuality, could actually meet and get to know some LGBT people. The fear about entering into any kind of serious dialogue, personal or even theological is so hugely over-dramatized. Yet, there are some real inspiration people like Archbishop Tutu who has long championed LGBT rights, and tried to encourage others to join the cause – to see that this is a Gospel thing, not just a Western thing….but he seems to so often be a lone voice in the wilderness.
From the African perspective, to give in to any sort of agreement is to bow to a Western agenda. To ‘OK’ a lifestyle that is seen as inherently ‘un-african’…after all there are no African gays….right? And certainly no Anglican African gays….! Perish the thought!
Now although not many will want to admit it, much of this is simply the legacy of white-missionary activity in Africa raising its ugly head. For the African Anglican leaders, they are simply practicing the Christianity brought to them, indeed imposed upon them not that long ago…one can understand why African leaders treat the Church of England with suspicion given that it took her 200 years to apologise for her role in slavery. (reparations pending….!)
Of course, none of this is to give weight to the attitudes of some of the African Bishops, but the memory of their opposite numbers voting against the abolition of the slave trade in the House of Lords is most likely not a dead one.
It’s laughable that the litmus test for our unity is sexual intercourse, and our own bizarre fantasy about the kind of sex other people are having. It’s time all of us as Christians, re-imagined both the way we see sex, and the way we imagine what our common unity looks like and we really ought not to give up on the notion and theology of ‘communion’. After all, it is in that self-giving sacrifice of himself that Christ Jesus is present in our fellowship. We have turned our back on him enough – the pages of history make that clear. At its heart, this whole conversation is about sex – and who should really be allowed to have it. It’s actually easy to forget that sex is Gods-gift to us, that it is good…wholesome….lifegiving – spiritually enriching. The deepest kind of communion that two human beings can have is often experienced in passionate, loud, sweaty sex. So why are we so troubled by it? And oddly, no-one dares question the Bishops, who are so innoculated against the hell that so many LGBT people still inhabit, as to what kind of sex they the Bishops might enjoy in their marriages. There are biblical arguments and ethical ones to be made about all sorts of sexual relationships. But it goes deeper still.
What this speaks of is a sincere lack of trust in one anothers integrity both before each other, and most importantly before God. That we do not genuiney trust that those who hold differing opinions from us, do so because they believe at the deepest core, that that is the way they must live. This is as true for those within the Church as it is for those outside it.
We do not have to agree on interpretations of God’s Word to love eachother,
We do not have to agree on Same-Sex Marriage to love eachother,
We do not have to agree on Female Bishops to love eachother,
We do not have to agree on how unity operates to love eachother,
None of these things prevents us from RADICALLY loving those we disagree with,
But we must agree on the fundamental God-given principle that *every human life* is made in the image of God, and therefore is of worth, of value, of importance, and worthy of the Church’s love, care and protection.
Now, I was ordained last year at petertide at 24. It’s not something I say much about, but I think one of my biggest fears was that my entire ministry would be spent in a Church that was more worried and consumed in trying to sort out what it thought about sex than about the emptiness of peoples souls and stomachs. I have lost count of the number of friends, family and relatives of those in my pastoral charge who have walked away from the Church because of its pre-occupation with human sexuality – and its continual lack of welcome to all of God’s children. Can we all please get back to the task at hand….loving people into the Kingdom of God? Or will I, and many others, spend our whole ministries explaining to people that all are welcome….yes, really. *all*
The saddest thing in all of this, is that the Church universally cannot see that her own spiritual orientation is one of grave sin. That until she orientate herself, seriously, toward the principles of the Gospel – Love, Sacrifice, Truth and Mercy – she is actually frustrating the purposes of God in the earth she is called to transform.
Anyone who knows the Jesus of the Gospel, will know that he is the most perfect form of Love – and anyone who knows that Christ would die (literally) to keep the unity of the body that could communicate (however imperfectly!) his love to the world. If they are not willing to pay that price, then they have yet to truly know him. The Church has so much of which she must repent, she has effed up in every age…and she will no doubt continue to, but I believe it is better to eff up together – and to carry eachother through that, bearing witness to unity in brokeness and unity in diversity….loving eachother ‘in sickness and in health’ if you like, than it is to go it alone – and give evil, which is rife in our world right now, such a central and public place in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God.
The whole world is watching – but more imporantly, so is our God.
If your heart be as mine, then give me your hand?