On Sunday morning I decided to give up blogging. The night before I had seen the former Bishop of Worcester using the word betrayed about people who are Gay or Lesbian Christians. He and 13 other retired bishops had responded to a report by current bishops to Synod on the subject of, of course, Same Sex Marriage.
Everything I read seems to point to a terrible lack of truth and honesty at the very core of the Anglican church. Why should I bother to blog? Who needs that amount of grief at my age?
Then several things happened.
First of all, I woke up to a church service on my husband’s ancient, distorted clock radio, droning out a hymn. At which point I burst into tears. It was a hymn I used to love, ‘I cannot tell,’ to the tune Danny Boy—a tear jerker at the best of times—and reminded me of how much I miss the hymns in church along with so much else.
So I found it on YouTube! And while I listened, these words, in particular, struck me.
‘I cannot tell how he will win the nations, how he will claim his earthly heritage, how satisfy the needs and aspirations of east and west, of sinner and of sage.’
But this I know, His will will be done.
So I dried my eyes, read the service of Matins and then I listened to a sermon. http://www.transformingminds.im
And what a sermon. Reverend Jules Gomes preaching, for 25 minutes, on, believe it not, Discipline and Punishment. Honestly! In the 21st century! No wonder his Bishop bullied him out of the church! He’s the bishop that cut the Devil out of baptismal services. If only the Devil could be got rid of so easily.
The next thing was an e mail from my son in Dubai sending me a link to the retired bishops’ letter. He thought it bizarre and was looking forward to my blog on the subject. This was followed by another similar e mail from a clerical friend in Cardiff. He is always encouraging although he attends one of the churches which is sticking to Anglican truths—and thriving, needless-to-say—despite all that Llandaff has thrown at it.
Finally, the one and only husband spoke up. What he would really like is for all supporters of SSM to be totally ignored, on the grounds that the noise they make is out of all proportion to their size and importance.
Since his life’s work was involved with noise – anything from bumblebees and snoring to submarines and Concorde – he is very aware of the damage noise can do. His other complaint was that there is too much dodgy data around the subject. I may not be an academic scientist but even I can spot dodgy data when I see it. Take this, Oasis report, “In the Name of Love”, which claims to prove that churches cause Gays to commit suicide. It cites two bits of evidence but omits a third which proves the opposite.
The letter from the 14 ex-bishops doesn’t contain any data at all, or if it does I haven’t found it among all its verbiage. Take these sentences.
‘‘Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes, but you might not have had to spend as much time explaining why if those other voices had been allowed to come through more clearly.’
Authentic seems to be the important word here and although I thought I knew what it meant I looked it up to check. Genuine. Real. True. Honest. Faithful. Trustworthy.
So what exactly are the bishops saying? That the genuine, honest voices of lesbian and gay people have not been allowed to be heard? Does that mean that all we’ve heard so far is not true or faithful. Is all the evidence of gay power already in churches in some way not authentic?
In December, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, attended the premiere of a film called All One in Christ. He said then, that the film was powerful because it was a film of personal testimony, with people bold enough to speak of their complicated, sometimes rejecting, experience of the Church. “It’s a film which demands attention,” he assured us. Well it’s certainly getting attention at the moment. It’s on the big screen at Cineworld, Llandudno Junction tomorrow night, Thursday 16 February 2017, at 8.00 pm. Tickets cost £6.50.
One of the original 14 signatories of that letter is The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme, and now a local Mission Area Leader. He should certainly know whether the film is authentic or not, since he has a starring role in it, along with +Gregory’s Chaplain to LGBT people. Surely they can’t believe this film is unreal or dishonest or untrustworthy nor that their views are not being sufficiently broadcast. This is one of the cinemas that wouldn’t screen the Church’s Christmas message in 2015 because it involved people reciting the Lord’s Prayer, so showing All One in Christ is, presumably, a real breakthrough.
As I write, the lunch time news is showing the scene outside Church House, where late this afternoon Synod will debate, yet again, Same Sex Marriage in church. Protestors are gathered outside with placards, some of which show the word Hate. Christians, which is what Anglicans try to be, can’t hate. It’s against our religion.