They're talking about us - again
The House of Bishops of the Church of England is meeting again today, to talk further about sexuality, and to give shape to some of the responses to the two-year long process of Shared Conversations which concluded during the summer. Please hold them in your thought and prayers, and if you haven't already written to your bishop to express your support for inclusive and affirming change and welcome, it's not too late to do so. You can find a comprehensive guide to writing here, and we'd love to know about any responses you receive. So far we've been really encouraged by the correspondence which has taken place; there is much about which we can feel positive.
But nothing really changes the fact that, for LGBT people, they're talking about us again.
Most of the time, as you'd expect, it's possible for me to set this aside and focus on the work that needs to happen to bring about change, to support one another, to affirm and celebrate all that's good - and there's plenty that's good - about being a gay Christian woman. I know that generations before me have worked tirelessly for change, at huge personal cost, and that the freedom I enjoy today - and much of the credit for any changes in the future - will be down to their hard work and prophetic sacrifice.
Whatever my thoughts about the shortcomings of the Shared Conversations - and I do have them - the fact remains that the process was one which was undertaken in good faith. However imperfect, I chose to believe that good people have done the best they can to listen to us, to talk with us and not about us. But we're in a different place now, a place where all that talking and listening, all that risk and hope and optimism - and pain - needs to be shaped into something for the future. The bishops will need our prayers, for wisdom, courage and insight.
But - they're still talking about us. I don't imagine I'm alone in feeling uncomfortable and exposed by that. Because for all the learned 'book theology', the talk of 'good disagreement' and threats that, like women before us, we'll be the cause of irreparable schism - this is also deeply personal. Because, when 'they' talk about 'us', they're talking about me. They're reflecting and debating and assessing whether, in my life and in my love for my partner, I show forth the love of God for all humanity. They're discussing whether that's even possible - and they're considering whether the evidence of my life is sufficient to overturn the weight of arguments to the contrary. Do they sense the dwelling of the Spirit in me, despite my manifest shortcomings, my failure to live up to all that indwelling should mean?
It's a tough and uncomfortable place, but it's not a place I inhabit alone - I'm in good company. I've been fortunate to have had wonderful friends and role models to challenge and inspire me, and to keep my sense of perspective. I know that God is way, way bigger than any of this - and yet intimately present in it all too, so it really, really matters.
I know that I'm fortunate. If I was 14, and part of a church where I could not conceive of a God who is present beyond the boundaries of my world, who inhabits only a narrow bandwidth of faith, it would feel very different. If I feared losing friends, family and faith, if I had no-one in whom to confide, it would feel very different. I would be desperate for some sign of acceptance, some way fo making sense of the conflicting feelings and messages. This would be a dangerous and risky place, this talking.
They're talking about us again. So let us pray.
For our bishops and leaders,
for 'them' and for 'us',
for 'they' who are 'us';
for wisdom and discernment and courage.
For those who will feel especially exposed and vulnerable,
that they might know they're OK, more than OK -
and this will pass, and be transformed;
that they might know they are created in the image of God,
created for goodness, and for glory;
that they might be blessed with the gift and companionship of friends,
bearing the Christ-light, even in this darkness.
For the changes ahead
the changes for which we hope, and the changes we fear.
For one another,
that we might be especially watchful
and willing to connect, and encourage and affirm,
to build up and nurture.
To see Christ at work, and to say so.