Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Before the Sexuality Debate: A Final Thought

Ahead of today’s Take Note debate on the Bishops’ Report on Sexuality (GS2055) I’m reminded of something a colleague and friend said to me in the wake of the Jeffrey John debacle in 2003. It concerned the then archbishop Rowan Williams.

My friend said that Rowan – as Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC), as institutional self – would, on balance, say of his decision not to back Jeffrey, ‘I did the right thing.’

However, as Jeffrey’s friend, Rowan would have heard the cock-crow.

(I suspect Rowan wouldn’t be that simple, but you get the force of my friend’s point.)

Today, I think a whole load of people who are minded to take note of the Report are in danger of hearing the cock-crow. Yes, after the vote, they may feel they’ve done the right thing as ‘institution people’, as bishops, as ‘people loyal to their bishops and to Anglicanism’.

But let’s be clear. The anger and shock of LGBTI people about this Report isn’t us doing a Trump. It isn’t us wanting to throw the toys out of the pram. It’s not childish. It emerges from the marrow in all of us who want grace and celebration and love.

It’s an acknowledgement of just how bad we think this paper is. I’m as emotional as anyone else. But I’m also, at heart, moderate and eirenic. If someone like me has had enough, that signals something.

Another story...When Rowan went to see the then ABC George Carey in the ‘90s to speak about justice and the gays, the rumour was that he asked Carey, ‘Who pays the price?’

This story might be apocryphal, but the force of it holds good.

LGBTI people are bone-sick of paying the price.

I know none of us are people of clean hands. We are all compromised. But today I think the decision is clear: do not take note of this report. We are better and can do better than this report, even if it is to signal the fact of our disagreement. God is in the facts and sometimes those facts are unkind. But God is there.

And if the Report is ‘accepted’? Well, the cost comes back to humans. To my friends and colleagues who are already feeling either on the edge of church or – as priests – worn down by institutional double-think and dishonesty.

The cost is to people. And so many will hear the cock-crow.


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