'We're all cavemen still.'
This was the assessment of my cleaner (Yes, I have a cleaner...I'm *that* middle-class) when I outlined the Church of England's position in relation to equal marriage.
She'd asked - not unreasonably - whether the good old C of E would soon be marrying gay couples in church. As most of you will now be aware, the C of E will be legally excluded from conducting marriage for gay couples. When I explained this, her response was barely disguised disgust. She is not - as far as I aware - religious in a conventional sense (and she's not a member of my congregation) but she has shown sympathy for the kind of work I do and what St Nick's is basically about. But her assessment of the C of E - 'We're all cavemen' - felt all the sharper because of that. As far as she is concerned, the C of E (and presumably all traditions which deny gay people a full and proper celebration of our commitments) is in the Stone Age.
As ever with me, I indicated how at a personal level, this situation is not how I'd like things to be. I still feel the future of the C of E - as a national church seeking to serve local communities - lies in enabling local priests to exercise conscience on this matter, just as they do over divorce. Otherwise a bleak future awaits in which not only gay couples continue to feel let down and excluded by their local Anglican church, but also very many of their friends, families and supporters. A bleak harvest of antipathy and perceived irrelevance will, I fear, be reaped. My cleaner represents a perspective that is more typical than many within the church's bubble of holiness are inclined to acknowledge: that our queer sisters and brothers are simply just part of us. Our local communities and their friends and families, both straight and gay, just see LGBT folk as ordinary normal human beings.
My cleaner's final words on the matter also struck home. She concluded that the church is happy to say gay people are part of the church, to use their talents and their gifts (including their financial offerings), but it's shocking that the church cannot properly show them respect and give them equal standing. I didn't quite know what to say. Perhaps my cleaner's words do not quite capture the full truth, but there's enough truth in it, for it to hurt.