"The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives."
Few in the Church of England can be surprised by the tenor of the House of Bishops’ pastoral statement, though many will be sad that it was issued around St Valentine's. For as a statement of ‘love’ about ‘love’ it is at best equivocal.
I want to flag up one aspect of my reaction to it. I accept that this reaction is visceral and emotional. This is precisely why I want to mention it – to remind anyone who reads this blog how it can feel to be on the wrong end of something like the House of Bishops' Statement. Such things are not mere paper but have human consequences.
I actually cried when I read the statement. Weeped. I am an emotional person but I was surprised. And then I realized where my own particular pain was coming from.
Members of my church have often said to me, ‘Rachel, we want you to be happy.’ They know I can be a miserable so and so (:-)) and they know that I am alone, without a partner. They want me to have a partner. They also know that this will not be the solution to everything, but who does not want the joy, challenge and reality of a loving relationship?
The last time I was in a relationship my dream was that we might get married one day. That it would be possible for two women to marry each other. Because – and call me old-fashioned – I wanted that covenanted expression of our love. Alas – for many reasons - it was not to be and our relationship ultimately came to an end.
But now if I and another woman fell in love and became deeply committed to each other we could – in the eyes of the secular state – get married. And there would be much rejoicing! There would even be bishops who’d be invited along to share in our joy. My congregation would no doubt want to come and throw confetti.
And yet…the church qua church might ask me to leave a cherished ministry. In truth, if it wanted me and people like me so little, I’d probably just go. But the joy of being married to one’s beloved would bleed into the pain of being seen as one who is failing in God's love as it is being shown in the Church.
I weep for all my sisters and brothers – good, ordinary and faithful LGBT Christians and clerics – who are in committed relationships and yet are being pushed ever to the outside where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. I sense God is weeping too.