A statement from St Martin-in-the-Fields
A Fresh Tone and Culture:
A Response to Marriage and Same Sex Relationships
after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops
At St Martin-in-the-Fields we value inclusivity. That means we particularly cherish those whose gifts the church has wastefully long neglected and whose identity it has shamefully often oppressed. We believe the reason the church so frequently experiences its life as scarcity is because it has failed to receive and honour those angels and blessings that God has consistently sent its way. Meanwhile we recognise that inclusivity requires us to find ways to listen with humility to those whose perspective, we fear, seems to shrink the wideness of God’s mercy. They dwell in God’s heart too.
We welcome the bishops’ commitment to listening, embodied in the Shared Conversations. We wonder in what respects the document shows evidence of having truly heard the experience of those whose lives and callings the church has so long suppressed and vilified. We look forward to the promised signs that the church has indeed had a change of heart.
We welcome the bishops’ reluctance to be drawn into sweeping ‘solutions’ or idle ‘resolutions.’ We wonder why one part of the body of Christ continues to be regarded as a problem rather than as a gift. We look forward to a genuine transformation of tone and culture away from one that rejects people simply for the way God has made them.
We welcome the bishops’ call for maximum freedom within the current legal constraints. We wonder if the bishops really want to endorse such an uncomfortable contrast between love and law, covenant fidelity and ecclesiastical disapproval, the manifest grace of God and a precise reading of select scriptural texts, the increasingly warm embrace of society and the apparently inexplicable inhibition of the church. We look forward to a time when pastoral care is not invoked to tend wounds the church has so often itself inflicted.
We welcome the call for a new teaching document on marriage and relationships. We wonder in what sense, if there is no conception of any alteration to the existing teaching on marriage, such a document could genuinely be described as ‘new.’ We look forward to a truly open, honest, fresh and gracious shared conversation in the church about God’s gifts of love, fidelity, relationship, family and marriage.
Seeking the healing of the church we love.
Sam Wells, Vicar
Gail Elkington and Adrian Harris, Churchwardens
St Martin-in-the-Fields, 8 February 2017
“We welcome the bishops’ reluctance to be drawn into sweeping ‘solutions’ or idle ‘resolutions.’ We wonder why one part of the body of Christ continues to be regarded as a problem rather than as a gift. We look forward to a genuine transformation of tone and culture away from one that rejects people simply for the way God has made them.” – Sam Wells –
The Vicar andChurchwardens of the historic Anglican Church of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, in the heart of the City of London in the U.K., are probably more aware than most Anglicans of the need for the Church of England to ‘welcome the stranger in the midst’. Having attended one of the weekly mid-day Concerts of classical music in that lovely church building, I was quickly aware of the eclectic audience of people who came in their lunch break – together with a few tourists like myself – to drink in the ambience of this beautiful inner-city sanctuary.
Descending into the crypt for a light lunch, one realised the breadth and depth of the types of people who frequent this place – not only as music lovers bur also as those who are looking for a place of refuge in the busy life of the London streets. There are always people on deck to deal with those looking for spiritual help or guidance, and the busy foyer is full of information about Church and other activities designed to inspire and encourage involvement in the local community
The city churches of London are places where ‘the rubber hits the road’ and St. Martin’s is one of those that attracts an eclectic congregation and the sort of people ‘on the edges of society’ – some of whom are LGBTI people, for whom the ministry of Saint Martin’s is both a place to pray and to reflect on their specific place in society. An openness to ‘all sorts and conditions’ of men, women and children is one of the distinguishing marks of mission here, and one which the Church, worldwide, could well emulate.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand