31 August 2007

Partners, spouses and friends welcome?

As part of IC's preparations for Lambeth 2008, our Patrons (the Archbishop of Mexico and the Primus of Scotland) are coming to England at the end of September for a series of seminars and events.

We're also having a party to thank those who've worked hard for an inclusive church over the past five years.

On the invitation I put "partners, spouses and friends are welcome". Then I started to reflect on that.

The Church of England still has a culture of secrecy and avoidance around lesbian and gay relationships. Although there a great many LGBT clergy in the C of E, and many have entered into civil partnerships, the official line seems to be that we (grudgingly acknowledging we exist!) are single and celibate. Civil partnerships receive hardly any official acknowledgement.

I was surprised recently to receive an informal invitation from one of my senior colleagues inviting "you and your partner or spouse." A chink of light.

We still have a long way to go, in the C of E, before the church will be able to be openly and fully inclusive. We have to reach a position, not yet reached by Synod and the House of Bishops, where same-sex relatioships are seen as part of God's blessing. But then we still have to reach a position where women are consecrated as bishops. And many other provinces have further to go before they are willing to recognise how many ways the Spirit moves within the Churches....But in spite of that thank God for the Communion with all its complexities - painful though it is

I can well understand the frustration in TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada about the slow pace of change. We're working hard on this side of the pond to bring about movement - we're trying to do it through welcoming people who aren't yet convinced about the legitimacy of both developments, through discussion, prayer, contact and fellowship. It's slow.

We're also trying to do it through showing that the church hasn't fallen apart - in fact it's flourishing - despite or even because of the presence of happy and integrated LGBT clergy. Through being there right at the heart of the church's life - across the hierarchy. And that's all happening too. Slowly because in many Dioceses there's a culture of fear.

But I'm hopeful about the future. Progressive means "moving forward...." I hope and pray, alongside all shades of Anglican praxis and theology.

Partners, spouses and friends are welcome - or will be!

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