07 June 2007

The view from London

Here in England we welcome the thoughts and reflections Scott has been blogging under the InclusiveChurch name since Tanzania. InclusiveChurch has been around in the UK for a little over three years now, and during that time we've learnt a great deal about the international situation and about the similarities and differences between Provinces around the Communion.

I'm Rector of a parish in inner city South London, which falls loosely under the category "liberal catholic". We have a thriving centre for learning, arts and community in our crypt - called InSpire - which is used by the widest imaginable range of people. The congregation of the church (which has quite healthy numbers in Church of England terms) is around 70% West African (mainly Nigerian) and around 15% gay/lesbian - and a small percentage fall into both categories. We have a great diversity of incomes from fairly high to very low; ages, ditto. Scott will vouch (I hope!) for the life and vibrancy of the church. I'm gay, with a partner. It feels as though here we're living out very graphically some of the charisms and some of the tensions which are affecting the Communion. It's working; it's taken trust and slowly growing understanding, and some conflict and tension in the past. But the most exciting thing is the way in which people of very, very different traditions and attitudes are able, now, to accept and acknowledge one another to the extent that issues of sexuality are non-issues. Sure, we've lost people; but we've gained people too. Many people.

Feels as though TEC and the Church of England are, truly, divided by a common language. Perhaps we assume more similarity than really exists. It may be something to do with the fact that the C of E is required by law to be there for all people. Or something to do with our history which has embraced great difference (and struggled over it) whereas TEC's history has, as I understand it, certainly recently been very much tied up with the struggle for justice and human rights.

I'm also Chair of InclusiveChurch UK. We strongly support closer links and greater understanding between UK and US Anglicans. As well as better understanding between ALL the Provinces in the Communion. That's why we hope that, in the end, all the duly elected Bishops will be invited to Lambeth, but even if they're not we hope that the urgent dialogue needed between left and right can begin to take place. It's beginning to happen in England, but we're a lot smaller.... We're pleased that the Archbishop of Mexico and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church have been willing to put their names to our aims. The strength of Anglicanism is, I think, absolutely rooted in its diversity, but the problems that brings are the problems we're presented with at the moment. The saddest thing, though, would be to walk away.

I'm planning to blog about the view from London regularly - and would like to know more about the view OF London! Hopelessly compromised or encouragingly undefined?


Scott Gunn said...

Giles, I love your first blog post! This is just what will make our little corner of blogland more interesting -- the English view and the American view, and perhaps more to come.

As for your parish, I fully agree that it's a vibrant place. After seeing an army of people completely clear the nave of pews in a few minutes, and then cause a labyrinth to magicaly appear -- all the while carrying on joyous conversation -- who could question vibrancy?!

I think there is probably a correlation between having large diversity, not making a "campaign" out of it all in the parish, and having a mission focus -- that leads to the feeling of a parish that's rooted in the Gospel and ready to engage the world.

Thanks for this posting, and I look forward to reading more.

Bill Locke said...

Fr. Goddard -
I'm late to your posting, but wanted to say that what you have said seems just right. Your description of your parish - from "liberal Catholic" on - sounds wonderful. My hope - and prayer - is that those who truly embody the inclusiveness of our Anglican tradition will more and more reassert (used advisedly) that in the midst of our current struggles.

Bill Locke