Today should really be March 6th – St Andrew’s Day. However, I shall ask for blessings on the following Andrews, anyway*. My amazing son-in-law, Andrew. Then Andrew Symes, writing for the Anglican Mainstream blog with a review of a book: “Good Disagreement: Grace and Truth in a Divided Church”, edited jointly by Andrew Atherstone and Andrew Goddard.
Symes tells us that the editors maintain that “gospel truth matters… error is dangerous and needs to be strenuously resisted”, and he comments that this must be done with grace, and also by carefully distinguishing between primary and secondary issues. I take that to mean those things that are the absolute gospel truth and the other things where there is a bit of leeway for fudging. And he acknowledges that an attempt to pursue “unity in essentials, freedom in second issues, love in all things” is not easy.
In my own village church over the last 20 years we haven’t so much agreed to disagree; instead we talked about our grandchildren and our gardens and what more we could do to be helpful/useful in the village or with overseas aid. The issue of same-sex marriage in the Church in Wales however has caused a major disruption. I feel as though I have been deliberately frozen out of my church and many others have felt that the last thing the supporters of SSM wanted was any discussion. Sadly, the attitude seems to be “you are old and prejudiced and therefore homophobic.”
At that point something happened to change the whole course of this blog! You might want to leave now because I’m about to climb on my language hobbyhorse.
The word homophobia has always puzzled me. The word phobia means “a fear, horror or aversion, especially of a morbid character”. Attached to homo shouldn’t it therefore mean “a fear, horror or aversion of men”—all men. I looked up homophobia in my copy of the shorter Oxford English dictionary and it wasn’t there, although ‘homo’ appears in the Addenda as a short form of homosexual. In fact homophobia was first used in the 1960s. So now the word begins to make sense. Clearly “homosexualphobia’ would be too much of a mouthful.
Unfortunataely the word is now bandied about freely, indiscriminately and in the main inaccurately. Surely not many people have a genuine phobia, a real fear or horror of same-sex couples? They may not like the idea, they may have genuine theological worries, but that’s a long way from a phobia. I know. I suffer from Ophidiophobia, and my daughter was even worse. When her godmother gave her a subscription to National Geographic Magazine I had to go through each month’s copy and cut out all the pictures of snakes before she could open it. That little exercise actually helped my phobia enormously and I haven’t fainted at the sight of a snake since.
*Nor will I forget Simon and Jude, Apostles, whose day it really is.