Dear anonymous UK GAFCON person,
In response to your recent document which ‘names and shames’ the Lambeth-Violators (of which it seems you think I’m one), I thought I’d take a moment to write back.
To write to you is really hard. Not because I’m especially upset by your piece (despite it acting as a potential invite to target individuals), but because (ironically, given you’ve named lots of people in your document), you’ve not revealed your name. It’s very hard to humanise a generic voice. And, well, despite the violence implied by your words, I’d rather not respond in kind. I’d rather prefer to speak to you as a human being and Christian sister/brother.
It’s also difficult to write to you as there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to give oxygen to your position. I suspect it’s helpful for the GAFCON position to generate ‘controversy’. I hope that doesn’t do a disservice to you, but a binary mentality does rather depend on its opponent, doesn’t it?
However, I wanted to say to you, anonymous UK GAFCON guy (sorry! In my head, you are a guy), you are, despite the aggression in your document, still part of the family. God loves you and, well, I’d rather like to say ‘I love you.’ Because I think that, despite the unpleasantness of your actions, I think we’re called to love each other. And that’s blooming hard given what you said, but Christ never said it would be easy.
We are, at a profound level, still family. Family, of course, is a difficult metaphor for Church, because families are both places which can be springboards for human excellence as well as the scenes of abuse and violence.
However, I still want to say, we’re family. I suspect that – to develop the metaphor – we’re very distantly related and it’s unlikely we’re ever going to want to spend much time together, but…family, nonetheless. Christ remains central. And while it would be easy for me to cast you as the embarrassing uncle or aunt who holds deeply questionable views and who should be kept out of sight (just as, for you, I’m possibly a version of the criminal child who never should be mentioned) I’d rather not do that. I’d like to believe in the wideness of God’s mercy and the generosity of God’s parental love. I might wish you’d change your position, but I’m not going to dare pronounce you anathema just because your position is entrenched. If I am inclined to code you as ‘enemy’ (as you would me), that is an invitation to redouble the work of grace.
Having said that, I know that I speak from a position of privilege. Your words are not, for me, especially wounding. However, insofar as your position is a springboard for the diminishment of the weakest and most vulnerable and the victimization of LGBTI people, may God call you to account.
As you might be aware, the list you’ve come up with has rather been claimed as a list of honour by many. I’ve had various people from all traditions getting in touch asking to be added to the list. I suspect your action only indicates how far the Church – evangelical as well as Catholic and liberal – has moved on from your particular vision of holiness.
But – despite it being hard for me to say – I don’t want to lose you. Please don’t cut yourself off. I hope that all of us – people who want to be faithful to the hope that lies within us – can turn towards the one who is all in all and whose peace exceeds our understanding.
May God be gracious to us all and bless us.