Reflection for Holy Week and Easter from the Chair of Inclusive Church
A recent poll commissioned by the BBC has found that not all Christians believe in the resurrection of Christ and that 21% of people with no religion believe in life after death. When asked to respond to this I found myself reflecting that part of belief in life after death is something positive about love and hope – that the life-giving relationships we forge become part of our identity. Relationships are vital to our well-being. At the heart of Holy Week is relationships. Jesus and his mother; Jesus and his best friends, Peter, Judas, John, James, Mary; the relationships between the twelve disciples and their wider crowd- Jesus and Pilate – relationships are central to human existence and identity.
In the past few weeks, the Church of England has, again, found herself in the midst of strained relationships. The General Synod failed to take note of House of Bishops’ report following the two-year Shared Conversations, the Five Guiding Principles developed to ensure ‘mutual flourishing’ have been strained in Sheffield, and over the border, in Wales, a confidential process may have revealed a failure to act in accordance with agreed practice.
Where is the life after death, or resurrection, in these situations? It is not appropriate for any comment about either of these from those who haven’t been involved, but we are all affected by the issues. These are, at heart, about what it means to be human beings, together trying to serve God. Many know what it’s like to have their contribution to the mission of God questioned or to have some aspect of their creation or outlook deemed to be not acceptable. This is far from straightforward and no doubt Inclusive Church supporters will have differing views of what has happened at General Synod, Sheffield or Llandaff. But what we may all share has to do with new life or resurrection.
Holy Week is a continuum beginning with Jesus’ jubilant entry into Jerusalem, through his service of his friends by washing their feet, to his own doubt and agony in the garden of Gethsemane, then arrest, trial and crucifixion and the deafening silence of Holy Saturday when Jesus’ friends thought all was lost. And then, in the darkness, with no witnesses, God brought Jesus to life. Death and pain had been conquered because Jesus passed through death and into resurrection.
What might resurrection look like in our own situations of dark or confusing times? It is an encouragement to know that it was the same Jesus who was raised from the dead. He was the same person, with the same relationships. God used who he was. We can celebrate God’s call on our lives and God’s call to service, even when that is denied by some. It is encouraging to know that pain and difficulty are able to be redeemed and to be turned to the strengthening of others, it is encouraging to note that the resurrection happened in the dark, when it seemed as if all was lost. And so we are encouraged to offer all we are in the service of Christ knowing that it may not be acceptable to some, but that it is always acceptable to God.
The Archbishops have called for a way forward which is a ‘radical new Christian inclusion in the Church’ and Inclusive Church is ready to play our part. Our books and study resources continue to be a source of strength to individuals and groups, our Partnership Day contributed to consideration of vocations from among those who might ordinarily be overlooked and we are supporting our partner organisations in their activism and lobbying.
But what we are the keenest to do is to support each of you in your own mission and work for the kingdom. What you do is truly valued as is your courage and determination to be yourselves- in celebration of all which God has made. This is resurrection indeed, when the people of God refuse to be dismayed, when the silence of Holy Saturday can be endured because Easter Day is a promise. May you know God’s blessing as you experience new life and are part of new life for others.
Dianna Gwilliams. Chair Inclusive Church
‘Inclusive Church’ is a voluntary association of Anglican Churches in various parts of the world that have taken on board the need for our Church to become open to ALL people – especially, in this instance – of women and LGBTI people who are part and parcel of the life, work and mission of the Church, the Body of Christ.
Naturally, perhaps – as the U.K. was at the heart of the Anglican Communion and the scene of the refusal of the hierarchy to accept the episcopal election of a well-qualified priest and theologian (Fr. Jeffrey John, currently Dean of St.Albans) to head the Church of England Diocese of Reading, as Suffragan to the Diocese of Oxford – this message contains specific references to the situation of discrimination in the Church of England.
Dianna Gwilliams, Chair of Inclusive Church in the Church of England, in her Holy Week and Easter Reflection here, sets out the sort of background that was part of the genesis of the organisation which she now heads, and which provides extensive support to those in the Church of England (and elsewhere in the Anglican Communion) who are involved in the mission to encourage Anglicans to understand the inclusive nature of the Gospel.
It is this particular insight that has informed Dianna’s overview of the fruits of the Death and Resurrection of Christ – not just for the self-imagined ‘pure and holy’ but for all of us.
“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the Feast – not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” – Maundy Thursday antiphon
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand