Welcome to the March 2014 newsletter from Inclusive Church.
From the Chair of Inclusive Church
As this Newsletter reaches you we are half-way through the season of Lent. These six weeks leading up to Easter are traditionally set aside for self-denial, or for taking up some kind of personal discipline which directs the heart and mind towards God. One of the facets of Lent which always strikes me is the way a distance develops between Jesus and his friends.
They each thought they knew each other but misunderstanding and disappointment marks the second half of Lent, culminating in both Judas and Peter, in different ways, denying their friendship with Jesus. Jesus, in his turn, disappointed his friends by speaking about death and not about triumph and ruling.
In the past weeks many of us have experienced deep sadness and what feels like betrayal following the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter. We had put great store in the work which Sir Joseph Pilling’s Commission had done over two years. Those of us who gave evidence to the Commission on behalf of Inclusive Church felt we had been listened to and our reflections valued. Yet, the affirmation of the importance of covenant and how human covenant can reflect the love of God didn’t come.
Instead gay clergy are told that it is better to live outside marriage-at variance with the discipline under which heterosexual clergy live-that it is unacceptable for them to live outside marriage. Does the church value marriage or not? We are both confused and disappointed and may feel all hope is dashed.
We share this with Jesus’ friends as we journey through Lent. They hoped for Messiah to be a great conqueror. Jesus washed his friend’s feet and said he must die. Yet, after God raised Jesus from death the first person he asked to see was Peter, not so that he could berate him for his cowardice, but so that he could forgive him.
Lent carries with it the promise of reconciliation. This cannot be won by calls for single-sided surrender but by all being willing to see the world through the lens of those they don’t understand. Eventually Peter and the rest of Jesus’ friends came to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. Jesus saw the world through the lens of those who had denied him. Forgiveness marked their way forward.
If Lent promises anything at all, it promises that love will win. God is love and God gave human beings the capacity to love as God does and all self-giving and covenantal relationships speak of God’s love for all people.
I rejoice with all those who celebrate their relationship by getting married and look forward to the church being a place where the blessing of those covenants are shared and celebrated.
As we remember again the sadness and disappointment of Jesus’ circle so may we gain strength and hope that we, too, in our generation may know the new life which resurrection brings and rejoice in our God who really can make all things new.
The Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams
Dean of Guildford
This month’s Newsletter from ‘Inclusive Church’, written by The Very Revd. Dianna Gwilliams, Dean of Guildford, reflecting on the disappointment felt by those of us in the Anglican Communion who had such high hopes for the outcome of the recent Pillling Report, draws us into the disappointment of Jesus and his disciples, at his gradual focussing on the reality of what he was to face in the way of rejection from his own people.
Jesus himself was the victim of a gross misunderstanding by the religious people of his own day. He would surely have understood the disappointment felt by those of us in the Church today, who have experienced a continuing ethos of misunderstanding of same-sex and gender issues in the world-wide Anglican Communion. Many hopes were being entertained for a more enlightened attitude on the part of the Bishops of the Church of England towards the LGBTI community – both clerical and lay – within its ranks.
At a time in the history of the world when civilised communities are aware of the ontological reality of gender and sexuality, where homosexuals are no longer regarded as either sick or morally corrupt; the attitude of the Church seems to be so completely lacking in empathy and compassion towards those whose sexual-orientation is not a matter of choice, but rather an instinctual – and natural to them – sexual affinity with their own gender.
Having turned its back on the blessing of same-sex relationships, the Church of England now seems caught in a bit of a bind. Faced with the legalisation of Same-Sex Marriage, the Church is challenged with the choice to either accept or reject such relationships within its own constituency. How the Church of England chooses to handle this tricky situation may well determine the future loyalty of its membership.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand