I am finding it hard to read all that is going on in the wider church community at this time. As somebody who is so involved in church life, for most of my life in one way or another, it is hard to see the church making decisions that I just can’t get my head around.
Most of you will assume, correctly, that I don’t agree with the Anglican Primates decision this week to sanction the Episcopal Church in the USA from various important aspects of the Anglican Communion. But it raises questions more than just related to my theological stance!
In 2016 it is legal for couples, opposite or same-sex, to marry in many countries around the world. It is legal in the States, where the Episcopal church in this discussion is based. It isn’t legal in many countries including some in Africa, where some representatives at the Primates meeting are from. The laws differ. The attitudes in the countries differ. The way marriage is seen differs. Yet I don’t see the politicans in the more politically-conservative countries no longer working with those in the USA because of their different views on legal marriage. They are agreeing to disagree, for now at least.
So why is it that the church can’t do the same; having different views yet agreeing to disagree and still work together?
As far as I was aware, Jesus asked us to love one another, to work together for good, to reach out to our neighbours.
The Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church stated: “Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.”
I am proud of the Episcopal Church, for standing up for what they believe and have worked hard to see change in their church. From 2003 with Gene Robinson being elected as bishop to now, they have come a long long way. Out of fear, Gene Robinson for his consecration was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Today that wouldn’t be the way in his beloved church. They have moved much further and faster than many other denominations, and that is more clear after this week than ever before. I am proud of them, and it makes me sad that they are being excluded for being inclusive and standing true to their word.
At church yesterday we were thinking about baptism and how important that is, for it reminds us of three very important things:
- we are loved
- we belong
- we are called
People in the church need to remember these points, but I believe more importantly we need to be, as Christians, living a life that shows people who are not involved in church that these things make a difference to our life. We need to show that we are loved, and that we love. We need to show that we belong here, and that they belong too. We need to show that we are called to live this life with God, and that they are too. We can only do that if we have open arms, open hearts and open minds.
I am saddened that church communities close their arms, hearts and minds at times. I am saddened that the wider world will see that, and they might see that clearer than the church communities who do have their arms, hearts and minds wide, wide open.
However, I am thankful for those who are open and for those who stand up for the rights of those who don’t have a voice. I am proud of the church communities that are open, and are not afraid to shout about it.
Well done to the Episcopal Church in the USA, and I pray that their courage encourages others.