So here we are at the 2016 Primates meetings. Which if you were not interested in the hierarchy of the Church of England, you could be excused for thinking it was a meeting of monkeys. Alas, it is not. Rather it is a meeting of 38 leaders representing the 165 countries within the Anglican Communion. The meeting has made it onto the news agenda this week as differences in views over the inclusion of the LGBT community in the church have threatened to cause a schism.
As threats of people walking out and the Communion splitting for good, get circulated, we in the Church have been forced to decide which side we’re on.
When the Church of England gets it right, they really get it right. I’m lucky enough to be part of a Church where my sexuality isn’t an issue. It’s not talked about, not because we’re sweeping it under the carpet, or because it’s uncomfortable to do so, but because there’s no need. I think a lot of us in the LGBT Community strive for that, and eventually that’s were we will want to be as a Church nationally.
The problem at the moment is, outside of my nice village Church bubble, I’m being discriminated against. I’m not asking for everyone to agree with me, or even agree that my sexuality is a God given gift, but what I am asking is that I am given the same opportunities as a heterosexual person.
It makes me smile, when in conversation about same sex marriage within the Church of England, a vicar will say: “Well I don’t want to conduct same sex marriages in my Church! I don’t believe it is God’s will!” It makes me smile because I’m thinking “Well guess what? I don’t want you to conduct my marriage either!”
Each vicar shouldn’t have to agree with one another. In an ideal world, I don’t want people to walk out, I’d like to stay together, as Archbishop Welby has said, I’d like to disagree well.
Of course, the other option, which has been widely reported on, is for the Anglican Communion to split. Break ups are never easy - they’re messy, people get upset and hurt, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. Is that what is happening here? Are we clinging onto a relationship that has run its course and it’d be better for all if we ended it here. Given time could we be friends again?
We’re never going to agree, it’s just not going to happen, hell we can’t even agree in the Church of England never mind across 165 countries. I wonder if breaking apart would mean we can carry on with our conversations in England in the confidence that it’s not going to have much, if any effect on the more conservative wing of the Communion.
However, I can’t stop thinking about LGBT Christians in countries like Uganda. Would a split be turning our back on them? Instead I hope that our actions would it be standing up for them and their rights. Showing them that as an LGBT community we need to stand up and be counted, and force people into action by holding our ground on the importance of inclusion in the church.
We can’t go on like this, we have people turning to suicide because they believe, and they have been taught, that who they are is fundamentally wrong. As a Church, all over the world, we need to say sorry for the damage we‘ve caused and we need to take steps to put those wrongs right. Maybe a split is the first step towards that.
The author is a member of General Synod in the York diocese and Chair of Changing Attitude England.