If nothing else the last few weeks have reminded the Church of England of some of the many areas where it has found it difficult to gather agreement.
Whether it has been the way we approach the reading of scripture, the way we understand the interconnection between gender and ministry, or the response we make to the diverse range of sexuality present in those sharing in ministry, lay or ordained. One thing that seems to be clear is that we are having some difficulty in establishing agreement.
To those outside the Church this can seem as though we are not responding to the challenges faced by contemporary society, or, much worse, that we are institutionally reinforcing positions of prejudice. It is understandable that in the last couple of weeks there have been many conversations exploring the approach of the Church to gender and sexuality and many questions have been asked.
Nothing I write now is likely to change that situation, I simply want to reflect on some of the commonly held realities that perhaps we can hold onto in the midst of such diversity of opinion, especially when that diversity is expressed in ways which are painful to many in the Church and outside it.
The Archbishop spoke of our shared humanity and that we are each created and loved by God – we are not here talking about “problems”, but people.
For many of those affected by this debate have been only a blessing to the Church and the communities amongst whom they serve. That is something we can all hold to and celebrate and which should shape the way we relate to one another.
We have also been reminded, by Bishop Philip and many others, that we are in danger of spending our time looking at these questions whilst overlooking the huge questions faced by wider society and the great opportunities present for life changing mission and ministry – not least in areas of deprivation. There is a real invitation that we hold these discussions in perspective.
We may spend some time finding any lasting answers to questions of gender and sexuality, but let us hope that as we do that we can find a common pathway which allows us all to share enthusiastically in God’s mission of love to the world – something to which we are all called.
Canon Christopher Burke
Vice Dean and Canon Precentor