Angels

There is a story about a great holy war. There was a battle between the angels and a dragon, and the dragon was slain.

It is a glorious thing always when St Michael and all his angels come down to Great Western Road.

Today, we gathered people from all corners of the Anglican Communion, even Edinburgh, around one table. We welcomed three brand new small people into our community. We celebrated Nigerian Independence Day. Amid a great cloud of smoke and a blast of music, we ordained a young and faithful soul into the diaconate. There was a real live dragon too.

But the dragon was slain.

And when all the noise and joy and razzmatazz had died down, we looked back through the darkened church and there she still was.

A reminder that good is stronger than evil.

That love is more powerful than hate.

That light can never be defeated by darkness.

And that so long as there are people who have the courage to fight by their side, the angels will always win.

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On The Eve of General Synod, Some Thoughts on Love and Marriage

Tonight, I am preparing myself for the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church which begins tomorrow in Edinburgh.

This is the long awaited Synod in which we may well make equal marriage a reality for those in the Church who choose it, but it is also the Synod in which the Church may equally well choose not to do that. If we were to believe the headlines in the mainstream and Christian press over the last week, we would be forgiven for thinking that it is hardly even up for debate. This is not true. A two thirds majority is a high bar to clear, and the debate in our last two Synods has been robust and thorough, and I am certain that this Synod will be no exception.

But there are things that I am certain of.

There was a time — and it wasn’t that long ago — that to be a gay person in the Scottish Episcopal Church meant listening to other people talk about issues of LGBT equality as if there were no gay people in the room. There was a time when I struggled to believe that the wider Scottish Episcopal Church would ever wrap its head around equal personhood for LGBT people, let alone equal marriage. And the idea that I would ever hear straight people making speeches in favour of marriage equality in the Church did not exist even in my wildest dreams.

I am certain that those things are not true anymore.

This is a campaign that has changed the Scottish Episcopal Church for the better.

I will believe that, no matter what happens tomorrow.

The headlines are not saying that either. No doubt it doesn’t make such a good story as the one that says we’re on the point of schism, but the version that is being printed simply isn’t the case.

I have made no secret of where my allegiances lie. You know how I want this to go.

I’ve said a lot of things over the last five years, and I have mostly talked about the bigger issues. I’ve said a lot about why I believe this is important for the world and why it is important for the Church, and those things are all true and no doubt I’ll say them again before we’re done here.

Tonight, I want to put my cards on the table and talk about why it’s important to me.

The presumption is that if you are campaigning for marriage equality, you must have someone who you actually intend to marry once you are able to do so.

I have a job that lends itself to odd hours and strange dinner conversation, a cathedral that lends itself to more odd hours and even stranger dinner conversation, and a rather wonderful life that is no less wonderful simply because it does not happen to feature a partner.

And yet — this is something that is important to me anyway.

I already know that God loves me.

I know it because I happened to stumble into a cathedral that would become home, and a few weeks later I happened to hear a sermon that would change my life and change my faith. A sermon that told of the Gospel truth of a God who loves everyone.

That is the business of the Church. To proclaim that God loves everyone.

But here’s the thing:

You can’t just say it.

You have to live it.

My coming out story isn’t particularly unusual, nor did it go particularly badly, or, at least, not in the larger picture of what happens when people come out and it really does go badly, but I did grow up knowing that what I would come to understand was my sexuality was something that wasn’t quite okay, wasn’t quite normal, and put me on the outside.

This is why civil partnership and then equal marriage legislation has been so significant. The wave of equality and love that seemed to sweep across parts of the globe over the last decade. The day they passed equal marriage in England and Wales. The interns running across the steps of the Supreme Court. The day the parliament in New Zealand broke out into a Maori love song, a moment so profound that I still cry when I watch it. The day it passed in Holyrood and the man who was trying to sell me a car while I watched the vote on a cracked iPhone screen thought it was all wonderful but also utterly unremarkable, and that it was that, the fact that he thought it was unremarkable, that was absolutely astonishing to me and more than anything else made me realise how far we had come.

These things are important not only because they legitimise our relationships, but because they legitimise who we are.

Tomorrow, that’s what Synod will be saying to me if we pass this.

That you, and you, and you, and me, are exactly who God intended us to be.

That you, and you, and you, and me, are included in the circle of all that is holy.

That the Scottish Episcopal Church is open for business, and that that business is telling everyone that they are loved by God.

Blessed Are The Fabulous

The word came down the long parade of singing, dancing, cheering people, spreading amongst the crowd of rainbows: “There are religious protestors up ahead.”

We raised our eyebrows. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an honest-to-God protester at a pride march in Scotland.

I was walking in Glasgow Pride with a group of Scottish Episcopalians yesterday, our numbers and enthusiasm undampened despite the best efforts of the steely Scottish sky to drown us all. I was holding an enormous banner that proclaims, “The Scottish Episcopal Church Welcomes You.” I was standing with two priests, and behind us were a mass of Episcopalians, young and old, dogs and humans, men and women, bisexual and gay and straight, clergy and laity, veteran Pride attendees and Pride virgins, all wearing badges that say “Love Wins”, and, dashing about among the spectators lined along the pavements, a priest with a rainbow plait in her hair distributed invitations to come to church on Sunday morning.

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Photo: Vicky Gunn

I think there was a time when I’d have said we were a fringe group, in the Church. The first time I did Piskies at Pride, there were five of us. Yesterday, we were at least 25 of us and we were there with the blessing and the endorsement and the funding of my Diocesan Bishop. The world has changed. The church is changing. It has been slow and painful and bloody hard work, but it is happening and its truth is never more clear to me than when we all show up at Pride.

As we rounded the corner onto Saltmarket, the quality of the noise changed. The shouts which had been joyful became angrier, darker. The protestors we had been warned about came into view. A ragtag miserable looking crew, and a street preacher who was waving his bible in the air, and screaming about sodomy and sin and hellfire and damnation. None of it was about a God that I believe in or would have any time for if I did.

My experience of being a Christian who walks in gay pride marches as part of an identifiably Christian organisation is that people are generally quietly pleased to see us there. I’ve always felt welcome at Pride. As a group, we’re always kind of noteworthy — I walk beside someone who goes to Pride wearing a clerical collar and a badge identifying him as “Real Priest”, which is the sort of thing that still perks up most photographers. I’m not sure, though, that our presence has ever been actively cheered.

As we passed that ragtag bunch of protesters, we turned our banner on them.

The Scottish Episcopal Church Welcomes You.

And a roar went up from the crowd.

“Why do you do Pride? Aren’t we a bit past all that? Why is Pride even still necessary?” I’m asked sometimes. And then they remind me: “I mean, you’ve won.”

The truth is that we do Pride because of stuff like that, and because of what that kind of thing represents about the world in which we all live. Because when forty-nine people living at the epicentre of the land of the free and the home of the brave can be killed for being in a gay club, we haven’t won yet. Because when there are parts of the world where people are killed for being on a Pride march, we haven’t won yet. Because when being LGBT is still a criminal act in 72 countries and carries the death penalty in 13 countries, we have evidently not won yet. There are fights that still need fighting.

This weekend, I’ve been thinking about the day Gene Robinson came to Glasgow.

It was a summer day in Glasgow very much like yesterday — dark and dreich and very very wet. It was the year he had been barred from attending the Lambeth Conference and from celebrating Communion in England, and he came to Scotland instead. I remember that I was running very late for church that day, and that I was thoroughly taken aback when I opened my taxi door onto a bedraggled group of protesters and a couple of folk who pounced on me, trying to hand me bible tracts, as I stepped onto Great Western Road. And then from nowhere an arm descended around my shoulders and a voice told me to come inside. Inside, where there was warmth and light and joy and love.

A place where God is love.

The rain thundered down on us yesterday. The preacher ran alongside us with his megaphone, outraged and incoherent and drowned out by the sirens of the Scottish Ambulance Service doing it on purpose. A forest of rainbow umbrellas danced up the street. The people of Glasgow turned out onto the streets and hung out of their windows to cheer us on. Just over my left shoulder, a priest began walking backwards and conducting an impromptu rendition of Dancing Queen. And through the black clouds and pouring rain, the Holy Spirit shimmered and shimmied over our heads, boogeying ahead of us into that better world that we seek to create, where heaven has been built and truth that is Gospel has spread unto the ends of the earth.

God is love. God is love. God is love.

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Photo: Beth Routledge. Artwork: Audrey O’Brien Stewart.

Love, Marriage, Synod

I am travelling to Edinburgh tomorrow for the opening of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church. For three days, the laity and clergy and bishops of our Church will all gather together to do our year’s business.

In the last few weeks, headlines from a number of media outlets have suggested that what we are going to be doing in Edinburgh is legalising marriage equality within the Church. This is (a) not our only item of business, and (b) not true (yet).

When it met in 2015, a significant majority of General Synod asked our legislative committee to prepare material that would make room in our laws to recognise the already reality that in this Church we have different understandings of marriage. The material that has been produced would remove a doctrinal statement of marriage from Canon 31, the law that governs marriage within the Church, and replace it with the following:

“In light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. Any marriage which is to be conducted by a cleric shall be solemnised strictly in accordance with the civil law of Scotland for the time being in force and provided said cleric is satisfied, after appropriate enquiries, that the parties have complied with the necessary preliminaries as set forth in civil law. No cleric shall perform the Marriage Service, nor permit it to be performed in Church, for parties who are within the forbidden degrees as specified in Appendix 26. No cleric shall solemnise a marriage between persons of the same sex unless said cleric shall have been nominated on behalf of the Church to the Registrar General for Scotland.” 

General Synod will be asked to vote on this on Friday morning. If a majority of Synod agrees, the material will be presented to Diocesan Synods early next year for debate and discussion at a regional level and will then come to the General Synod of 2017 for a final vote.

I know, believe me, I know, that this seems like a slow process. There have been days and weeks and years when it has felt like pushing a lorry uphill in the snow barefoot — and every once in a while the lorry rolls backwards and squishes your toes.

But I also know that it is less than ten years since I thought that civil marriage equality was a nice daydream, maybe.

The world has come a long long way.

I will be very proud to vote for this amendment.

It says that this is a Church where we have a long and deep and faithful tradition of not always agreeing with each other. It says that the ability of this body of Christ to accept more than one idea is something that we are righteously proud of. It says that having different opinions is okay, and more than that: it is the thing that makes us fabulous.

If we remove our doctrinal understanding of marriage from canon law (and it is a legislative peculiarity that it has ever been there, to be honest), then it reverts to what we can find in the marriage liturgy. The marriage liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church is a beautiful thing, and there are many different understandings of marriage to be found within it; things that I agree with and identify with and want for myself, and things that I recoil from. I am sure that the same thing is true of those of my sisters and brothers who disagree with me. There is room here for all of us.

Love, Which Is Always Stronger Than Death

Of the many things I have learned over the last year, one that I consider the most important is that I can now say with authority that the pain of waking up on Easter Monday morning is every little bit as bad as the pain of waking up the day after running an actual marathon. 

The trade-off for both things is that they are worth every creak of every muscle that pulls in new and interesting ways.

In the middle of Holy Week, I had dinner with a friend who is not a Christian but who has been around for the last decade of me slipping further and further into Jerusalem and knows how that goes. She asked me what it is that we do in the Triduum, exactly, and, because she is a good and generous person, sat without interruption through what I am sure was a longer explanation than she had been counting on. The way I talk about this week in the Christian year and the length at which I talk about it is because even at the end of that explanation, I hadn’t done it justice — and the point is that you can’t, not by describing it, which clearly doesn’t mean I stop trying. And because there was a time, in the not too distant past, in a lifetime that included at least a couple of years when I was worshipping at my cathedral, when I was a Palm Sunday and Easter Day sort of Christian.

Not that I had failed to realise that there was a crucifixion, but that I just didn’t really see any need for me to dwell on that.

I mean, there was always going to be a resurrection. Right? It didn’t matter whether I sat through all the unpleasantness in the middle. Did it?

Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous.

In my own defence, I didn’t know. I didn’t know that without living the terrible reality of that crucifixion, the glory of the resurrection is no resurrection at all.

That there is more wonder in the lights rising during the singing of an Exsultet when I have sat by and wept as the light of the world went out.

That the moderately hysterical giggles around the reluctantly lighting Easter fire would be less joyful in a world where the Paschal candle never smashed to the ground.

The relief of the first communion after the pain of that last one.

That the voices crying Alleluia are more glorious when those same voices have wailed their lamentations.

That being asked, at half past six in the morning on Easter Day, to manufacture a confetti cannon is probably always funny, but funnier when it is part of misery and grief finally slipping away.

That the joy of the high holy razzmatazz of a church full of loveliness glitters less brightly in a place that was never seen to be stripped of all its loveliness. That the sound of a popping champagne cork and a clanging bell is less wonderful if you have never contemplated a dark, silent, empty place that you have loved and tried to remember what it was like before all the happiness went out of it.

And that the resurrection was never ever a sure thing.

Into this world, morning is breaking,
All of God’s people lift up your voice,
Sing out with joy, tell out the story,
All of the Earth rejoice.

My experience of the Triduum is a living Passion. A tragedy, and screams of grief that pierce the festivities of a Passover, the revelry of a Bank Holiday weekend, and the indifference of a world that seems as if it’s forgotten. A crucifixion that is real, as real for us today as it was for the people of Jerusalem two thousand years ago.

Late on Holy Saturday, I posted this video on my social media feeds. That’s how I feel on Holy Saturday. Is there going to be a resurrection? I have no idea. This is being posted two days after Easter Day because it feels too much like jinxing it to write anything about Easter in advance of it actually happening, because, well, what if it doesn’t? My experience of the Triduum is a resurrection that is an actual miracle, every time, and that kind of joy only comes from having first gone to the most appalling depths of grief. The darkness and the light. The joy and the sorrow. The sitting in a bare church where God is not, and the glory breaking from the tomb as the truth dawns that he whom we had loved and lost is with us now in every place and forever.

The reason I talk about it the way I do is because I was once promised that if I kept Holy Week and Easter the way I now do, it would change my life and it would change the way I lived my faith. It is six years ago since the first time I decided to test that promise, and it keeps being true. And therein lies that miracle.

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Photo: Stewart Macfarlane

Alleluia, Christ is risen.

The Columba Declaration

I have spent the afternoon watching the debate in the General Synod of the Church of England, on the Columba Declaration between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.

Those of us in the Scottish Episcopal Church have had concerns about the Columba Declaration ever since we were blindsided by its being reported in the media at the end of last year, and we have not been particularly reassured by reading the report in full. My general experience of the Scottish Episcopal Church is that we are not of one mind, we are not obliged to speak with one voice, and we consider one of our greatest strengths to lie in our respectful diversity of opinion and of action. And so it is not a matter of agreeing for agreeing’s sake that leads us on this subject to be absolutely united in our concerns about this agreement and our feeling that those concerns are well founded.

When the initial report of this agreement was released on Christmas Eve it was done in a manner that Synod have now acknowledged was “cack-handed”. It was disrespectful and has caused a great deal of hurt and anger in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Those communication errors have been profusely apologised for in this afternoon’s debate (although I note that it didn’t stop people continuing to get our name wrong while standing in front of microphones), but Justin Welby has missed the point completely if he thinks that our concerns are about style and not substance.

The Columba Declaration is being sold as a triumph of ecumenism between two churches that ought to develop a special relationship because of their identity as “national churches” within regions of the United Kingdom. The lightest scratch of the surface reveals that it is really about mission and ministry, and really mostly about the Church of England grievously overstepping its authority in a sister province of the Anglican Communion.

In the full text of the commitments within the agreement, it states that the Churches of England and Scotland will:

  1. contine to pray for and with one another;
  2. welcome one another’s members to each other’s worship as guests and receive one another’s members into the congregational life of each other’s churches where that is their desire;
  3. explore opportunities for congregational partnership, formal as well as informal, in those cases where there are churches in close geographical proximity;
  4. enable ordained ministers from one of our churches to exercise ministry in the other church, in accordance with the discipline of each church;
  5. identify theological issues that arise from growth towards fuller communion and be prepared to allocate resources to addressing them;
  6. work together on social, political, and ethical issues that arise from our participation in public life and be prepared to allocate resources to joint initiatives in addressing them.

Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, who was the co-chair of the Joint Study Group which proposed the Declaration, said in the Daily Telegraph that it was “catching up with the Queen”. I think that probably is its true intent, but I’m not sure he realises how discourteous that intent is — even after being told so in no uncertain terms by Mark Russell and Andrew Foreshew-Cain during debate today. Frankly, this is a border invasion by the Church of England into a realm where it has no jurisdiction.

The declaration is named for St Columba, the fourth century Irish missionary who brought Christianity to the pagan Scots. I am uncomfortable with that parallel.

I feel that this is a step in the Church of England trying to make the Scottish Episcopal Church substantively irrelevant to the Anglican Communion.

And doesn’t that sound sinister?

I was disappointed that the Synod approved the Columba Declaration, rejecting an amendment put forward that would have given all three Churches affected time for reflection and discussion before bringing it back to Synod. I note with gladness that the mood of the Synod was split and that the vote was by no means the overwhelming approval that had been called for. I believe there is a conversation to be had now by the Scottish Episcopal Church about what this means for our relationship with our sister province in England.

General Synod 2015: Sit Rep on Day 1

I am in Edinburgh, where the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church has reached the close of business for Day 1.

There is a significant amount of business to be conducted in this Synod, and a lot of it is about marriage and about Canon 31. The motions that came on Thursday were largely procedural in nature, relating to whether Synod wished to adopt the process that had been suggested by the Faith and Order Board. It required a two thirds majority of Synod voting in one House.

The motion passed with the following amendments as I understand them:

  • A procedural motion will be taken following the substantive debate as to whether Synod should move to a vote on it (and, by implication, whether Synod is of a mind to have any change to the Canon)
  • If so moved, the vote will be by what has been described as single transferable vote, rather than by the allocation of points as had been suggested originally by the Faith and Order Board.
  • If so moved, the vote will be on Options A / C / E as writ in the Synod Papers (1 / 3 / 5 in the linked blog post). There will then be a separate motion as to whether a conscience clause should be added.

A further amendment was proposed, suggesting a further option for the ballot that Canon 31, Section 1 should be maintained in its present form and that a conscience clause should be added allowing individual ministers to solemnise marriages between individuals of the same sex. That amendment did not achieve a majority of Synod and so that option has not been added to the ballot: it is my view that that was a right and proper decision by Synod, as it would not have been an option that could not possibly have resulted in a competent Canon but instead might have led to the Church having a Canon Law that contradicted itself.

Now, that is all procedure. It is all preamble. It is not yet the substance of the thing, but it seems to me that it has been significant nonetheless and that Synod has had important conversations amongst itself today and done work that it was necessary to do. It seems to me particularly important that Synod did not choose to merely follow along with the process presented to it or indeed merely to vote down the whole thing, but chose to do that hard work that it felt was needed to make that process better. I think — or hope, at least — that that represents a willingness to engage.

Tomorrow, we move to substance.

There is a vote before lunch on whether we go on to debate. If we do vote for that debate, that will take place after lunch on the canonical options as listed, and, if it is agreed to move to a vote, a vote on those options by ballot. If voted on, we will then be able to choose whether to ask the Faith and Order Board to instruct the Committee on Canons to prepare canonical material for first reading in 2016 in line with that vote. The final piece of business tomorrow will be to discuss whether the Committee on Canons should prepare a new Canon which if agreed to would enable the registration of civil partnerships in the Scottish Episcopal Church — it is worth noting that that piece of business is not contingent on anything that has gone before it.

There is a live audio stream available on the Provincial website for anyone who wishes to follow along at home, and the public gallery at St Paul’s and St George’s where we are meeting is open to the public for all debates.

Separate Is Not Equal

Today, members of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church were sent a paper on “the theology of marriage as currently articulated through the Canons and Liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and exploring whether there is a case for change based on tradition, scripture, and reason”.

This has been sent out in advance of the bulk of the Synod papers, and we have been asked to devote some time to reading and digesting it in preparation for what is suggested will be substantive debates at Synod in June. It clearly represents an enormous amount of work by the Doctrine Committee, and they are to be praised for their commitment to it. I believe it has the potential to be a very useful document, both in framing and informing such debate. The purpose of this document is not to take a position, but to outline all the positions and the arguments for and against them. It starts by suggesting cases for no change and for change to Canon 31 (which it calls Options A and B, and, recognising that those arguments tend to be in direct opposition to one another, lays them out as far as possible in parallel. At the end, it suggests a case for what it calls an Option C, which represents the argument to allow recognition and blessing of same-sex partnerships but not to allow them to be called marriage.

It is this last part that is my concern.

And let me be very clear: I am not criticising the Doctrine Committee for fulfilling their stated purpose and outlining all possible options. I do not think that this option was dreamed up by the Committee; I think that it represents a position that exists and has been thought of already by many people and was always going to be proposed in one form or another.

As an option that has now been articulated and put out there into the world, I think it is important that we talk about it.

Because let me also be very clear: Option C is not a real option.

In an effort to be clear about their meaning, the Doctrine Committee explain that what this suggests is ‘a rite equivalent to marriage for same-sex partnerships but called something else’. Again, this is not language peculiar to the Doctrine Committee; it is an explanation that I have heard in synods and committees and Cascade Conversations for the last three years from well-meaning people who have never read Animal Farm.

In the world before civil partnerships, Option C was something that we might have grabbed with both hands. In a world where I had never campaigned for marriage equality, I would have said that this was the best we would get and more than I had ever dared hope for. I know now that that is not true. The world has changed, and will keep on changing. I live now a country where marriage is just marriage, where equal means equal, and where I know that we can believe in and fight for better.

During the House of Commons debate on marriage equality in England and Wales, in a speech that will go down alongside Martin Luther King in the history of great human rights speeches, David Lammy said, “Separate but equal is a fraud. Separate but equal is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. […] It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists. It is the same statement, the same ideas, and the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote — but not until they were 30. […] It entrenched who we were, who our friends could be, and what our lives could become. This was not ‘separate but equal’ but separate and discriminated, separate and oppressed, separate and browbeaten, separate and subjugated. Separate is not equal, so let us be rid of it.”

If an Option C is passed by the Scottish Episcopal Church, it will achieve something that is not fair or just or right and that pleases no one. Option C will alienate couples who are married out there in the world and are… what, when they walk through the doors of a church? Option C will not guarantee an end to homophobic and separatist policies such as the ones enumerated in the Bishops’ Guidelines in December. Option C will stall the fight for real equality as we live through a decade or more where people like me will be expected to sit down and shut up because we will be thought to have won. Option C is something people will expect me to say thank you for.

No.

The lie of separate but equal is one that sustained apartheid in South Africa and segregation in America. It is a lie that today allows a political campaign to flourish in Britain through the language of hate, and that in the Church aims to make us all believe that the struggle for gender equality in Lambeth Palace has been won and is over when nothing could be further from the truth. It is the language used by those who believe that men are better than women, that black people are inferior to white people, and that gay people are deserving of less than straight people, but who do not have the guts to say any of it out loud in a world that knows how wrong they are. It is a lie that has no place in a civilised society, and it is one that I will never vote for.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

At the end of last week, the Most Reverend Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who is the Bishop of the Diocese of Kaduna in Nigeria, was appointed as the new secretary general of the Anglican Communion.

The announcement was made quietly on Maundy Thursday, on a day when most people who might usually be inclined to notice and comment on a significant appointment in the Church could quite properly be expected to be busy with all the furore of Holy Week. A day to bury bad news if ever there was one; and make no mistake, this has been bad news.

To be secretary general of the Anglican Communion is not a little thing. In effect, this man has been appointed as the executive officer of the Council which writes policy for the Anglican Communion and is charged with being one of the bodies that is meant to keep the member churches of the Communion together, and who is now expected to represent the Communion to ecumenical bodies, to worldwide churches, and to secular institutions including the United Nations. This is an appointment that it was important to get right, and that it was important to be seen to get right.

Ask yourself, at a time when issues of human sexuality are tense and prominent in the life of the Church, is it right of the Anglican Communion to appoint a man who has in the past been seen to be so vehemently anti-gay?

Bishop Josiah told the Dallas Morning News in 2007 that “[gay people] are wrong”, and just thirteen months ago at a high profile event in Nigeria he said that “the government has criminalised homosexuality, which is good”. It is not clear whether these are still his views. A private correspondence to the Episcopal Women’s Caucus which was made last week after they had made contact with him stated that his position has not changed and that he does not support the criminalisation of homosexuality — it seems to me that it is not possible for both of those things to be true. He has made no effort to publicly clarify his views; nor has either the Anglian Consultative Council or Lambeth Palace.

It is, perhaps more importantly, also not clear whether the Anglican Consultative Council believed these to be his views at the time that they made the appointment.

I am usually capable of allowing for difference of opinion. I usually take great joy in the fact that in the Anglican Communion we seek to love one another for our differences as well as for our similarities, and that we can make room for how each one of us sees theology and Scripture and God. I can recognise as an adult that not everyone shares my view of the world, and in all the things I have ever said about the theology of human sexuality I have never considered people who believe differently to me to be less than I am or to belong in this Church less than I do. I wish everyone did believe the same as I do, but they don’t and that’s okay.

But it is a different thing to hold and express divisive views as an individual than it is to hold those views when you are supposed to be a visionary bridge builder for reconciliation in a worldwide Church. I am paraphrasing from the person criteria now.

And if you believe that consensual sexual activity between two people who are of the same sex ought to be a criminal act, you are just plain wrong.

That’s not my opinion. That’s just the way it is.

The views of Bishop Josiah need to be clarified publicly. If the Anglican Consultative Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury and my own Primus believe that it is a good and holy thing that someone who holds these views becomes the face which we as Anglicans show to the world, then we need to consider whether we, as individuals and as member Churches, remain in communion with the Anglican Communion.

EDIT: A statement has now been made by Bishop Josiah that he does not and has never supported the criminalisation of homosexuality. He continues to express some very troubling anti-gay sentiments in that statement. There also needs to be clarification on this statement that he “has never” supported criminalisation, which is a direct contradiction to a statement he made in March 2014.

The Unknown

We believe that Christ died and that Christ rises and that Christ will come again.

Right?

I don’t, not today. I believe that he died — except, no, I don’t; I know that he died, because I sat there and I watched it. I sat at the foot of the cross with hundreds of people, all people who had loved him and who had come back to be with him at the end. It happened. The man who travelled and worked and ate with us is dead and buried. Today, I do not believe priest or prophet or any power in heaven or on Earth who tells me that they know what will happen tomorrow.

I keep hearing the unholy screams that you sometimes hear at the news of a sudden death. It is a sound that rips through you like a knife, and once heard it is never forgotten.

Our grief is very very real.

And I wonder: if Christ does not rise, will we still gather here?

After all, he’s dead and yet here we all still are cleaning up his church and setting things to rights. That means something.

He was the speaker of justice and truth and love, the Son of God, teacher and friend and redeemer, who in the end loved all of us so much that he died for us. If tomorrow there is no resurrection, will any of that stop being true? I don’t think it will. I think we might be here anyway, a people whose faith in who this man was and what he did for the world is strong enough to surpass even death.

In our religion the whole symbol of the religion ended in crucifixion and condemnation, but that wasn’t the measure of the experience. That was just the way it ended.