Primates 2016

Primates 2016

The past week has been a difficult one for LGBT people, whether or not they happen to be Anglican themselves.  As the leaders of the different provinces have met in Canterbury, we have prayed and waited, knowing that our lives, loves and identities, our very personhood under God was being scrutinised and debated – more talking about us, without us.  

It has been hard to hear homosexuality conflated with child abuse, to hear of church leaders continuing to pray for 'healing' for LGBT people, to hear our relationships addressed in the same terms as child grooming.  It has been hard to hear that our committed, loving relationships are the stuff of dry doctrinal debates – when we know them to be nothing more or less than the abundant outpouring of God's love in our lives, a source of blessing and grace.  

I have listened – in person and virtually – to so many people's pain and anger over the past 24 hours.  For many, this is more of the same – the depressing realisation that every time this particular family gets together, LGBT people are hurt and diminished.  For others, perhaps particularly young people, there is the gradual dawning that what began in hope and prayer and openness seems to have descended into micro-politics, strategy and spin.  It is no great surprise that more than a few people have decided that this is the end of the line.   They are ready to walk into an uncertain future, perhaps valuing the kingdom over the Church.  I respect and understand their decision.

To try to say anything positive in the face of so much pain seems almost to diminish the deep hurts that people are feeling this evening.  So may I commend to you this statement by Presiding Bishop Curry of the Episcopal Church of the USA, as the meeting concludes, and in light of the 'consequences' imposed on his Church.  His grace, simplicity and integrity resonate for me, and I hope they will resonate for you too.  Bishop Curry's vision of Commmunion is one to which I can relate, and it's one I want to work hard to bring to birth.  Relationships matter infinitely more than rules.  

In any movement, some of us will be at the front, and some of us will be at the back.  There will be more tough times ahead.   We will all feel righteous anger, and pain and exhaustion and frustration.  We will fall out with one another and fail one another and direct our hurt outwards at other people, and inward towards ourselves.  It will be messy and hard work. We'll need to think carefully about how we act and speak and pray.  We'll need to learn to say sorry.  In all of this we will need one another, and we will need God.

Whether your particular journey  is to continue within the church or on its edges, we need you as we move forward.  We need you to work for change, to challenge and hold people to account.  We need you to tell your stories, so that when the Primates speak of 'deep hurt', our voices are not silenced.  And we need you to walk alongside those who want to change, but have much to lose, or don't know where to start.  Some of those, I suspect, are numbered amongst our own bishops and I will be writing to each of them tomorrow, to offer our support in becoming more visible, vocal and brave.  

I know that this week has caused LGBT people inside and outside the church additional and avoidable hurt.  But watching Bishop Curry in Canterbury – a city I know well from my student days – in his woolly hat, something struck me even more powerfully than that sadness, and it's this.  Out there beyond the cloisters, a different reality is breaking through, beyond the politics and carefully worded statements.  Tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day, LGBT people will continue to work and pray for the coming of the kingdom – feeding the hungry, bringing good news, mending broken hearts.  Comforting and encouraging one another, knowing deep sorrow yet also experiencing profound transformation, in our own lives, and the lives of the people around us.

The Jesus stuff.  Neither sanctions, nor consequences, nor Instruments of Communion can change that simple truth.