We are not a race apart in that we live in the same world as everyone else, but we are people who take seriously the demands of walking with Christ in the details of our lives. That can, and often does, mean being counter-cultural - worshipping God, and not the gods of materialism, individualism, selfishness; valuing our lives as created beings in communion with each other and God, not an accident of nature living in isolation, and much, so much more. It means we ask questions about our values and we try to discern the answers based on God's word revealed in Scripture, God's word revealed in the history and traditions of the church, and God's word revealed today, afresh in each generation by the Holy Spirit. I won't repeat the arguments of the Second Report of the House of Bishops in 1988 about the ordination of women to the priesthood, but their conclusions apply equally to the debates today,
It is not easy to explore an issue about which people hold such firm views and which touches things at the centre of our faith. Moreover, it involves not only what we think but what we feel... ... Whatever the outcome, the effect on the life of the Church will be profound.
This morning I find myself wanting to shout from the rooftops that justice must be done- not only about gender but about sexuality, and silently assenting to Janet Street Porter's article, that puts a view from the edge of the church. She writes,
I want a church that reconnects with our population and offers support to the needy. A church that's open to all. A church that cares for the elderly and blesses all unions, including same-sex civil partnerships. I don't want a church that's run like a private members' club, with special rules and regulations and exclusions.
I would moderate her statement slightly (!) by saying that I personally want the kind of church that God wants, this is of course the crux of the issue; we all want the kind of church that God wants, and we all think it is something different - grant us discernment please Lord.
This whole issue of who we welcome and how is less of an issue 'on the ground' than in the media, but the press image of an exclusive church as challenged by Janet Street Porter is one that I find profoundly sad, and at the level of the two local congregations that I know best, largely unrecognisable.
With thanks to glorious things, for this pen-picture of people giggling as they worship.
How can we embolden people to step inside the door and experience the loving welcome and acceptance when our image in society is so damaged? Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.