It’s probably a good idea to start with a confession, as a good Anglo-Catholic! I’m not very good at being a proper gay man or a proper Christian. The issues and debates that I’m supposed to be passionate about I’m often not and my righteous indignation often goes AWOL. So the last few weeks have been something of an interesting time what with the Anglican Primates meeting in Canterbury and the fact that I attended one of the regional Shared Conversations on Human Sexuality that the Church of England is holding. Both have been testing times for the Church of England and in how the world outside has seen us. There are more than enough blogs, newspaper articles and analyses of the Primates’ meeting and its aftermath so I won’t bore you with the detail of it. Neither will I go into much detail about the events of this week, I think I have a fair amount of further processing and reflection to do. So here are just a few of my reflections loosely linked to these events.
If I’m honest much of the reaction to the leaked decision of the Primates regarding The Episcopal Church (TEC) prior to the full communiqué being released left me wondering why I wasn’t as angry as others clearly were. Was there something wrong with me? Am I too privileged or complacent? It took me a few days to process that maybe my reaction was just as valid as that of others, neither better nor worse. It’s a product of who I am, what my understanding of the purpose of the Primates’ meeting was, and my perception of the complexities within which the Church is trying to formulate and articulate its position on LGBTI relationships. In a sense my reaction is as unique as I am. There’s a great quote from one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems: “This is me, for this I came.”
Taking that sense of ‘this is me’ into the shared conversations was both liberating and terrifying. Liberating in that it allowed me to be authentic and act and speak with integrity; terrifying because the me that was being offered could easily be rejected. But it was also a reminder that in any and every encounter with another person, particularly any that are authentic and vulnerable, they are offering me the gift of their ‘me’. We hold the ‘me’ of the other in our hands when we speak to or about them, when we judge and criticise, when we react and respond and even when we don’t speak up and challenge them out of our own uniqueness and authenticity. Jumping on a bandwagon can be damaging, but equally can be staying silent and not offering the ‘me’ for which I came.
There was much talk following the Primates of the grace shown by the Presiding Bishop and Primate of TEC, Michael Curry. Archbishop Welby has written subsequently of moments of grace during the meetings. In the conversations over this week there have been moments of heart breaking grace between individuals. For me, this was a far cry from the media reports and the social media reaction. Yes of course decisions need to be analysed and held to account, yes of course there was anger, hurt and confusion. I was driving back from the conversations when Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars came on (which is a particular favourite as we had it at our Civil Partnership) with this line which stopped me in my tracks: “I need your grace to remind me to find my own.”
I think Bishop Curry’s grace reminded me that you can be both graceful and authentic. He remains committed to walking together with the Anglican Communion whilst not apologising for nor changing the decision the church he leads has made. It is a painful yet gracious decision to bring the ‘me, for this I came’ into a broken relationship in the hope that grace can be found in response.
Having to sit across from someone and look into their eyes while you offer the me that they may well reject was hard. It was also hard to look into their eyes and not judge them when they offered their ‘me’ in return. Much easier to do in 140 characters, or status update when it’s about a principle and not a person.
Gracious and authentic relationship is difficult, because we all bring our brokenness to the table. I was again reminded that during the Eucharistic prayers the wording is mainly ‘we’ or ‘us’ rarely ‘I’ or ‘me’; that in coming together to Christ’s broken body we represent the broken body of the Church. But brokenness doesn’t mean we can’t achieve anything. We can walk together in our brokenness, with the questions each of us have. For me that’s what Soho Gathering has taught me, we can be gracious in our differences over doctrine, ecclesiology and practice (even baby dunking) because we are sisters and brothers in Christ.
Perhaps I’ll leave my last quote to Archbishop Justin (especially as he may be my boss one day!), to round off my ramblings: “If Christ’s flock can more or less stay together, it’s hope for a world that tears itself apart – a signal of what can happen with the love and mercy of God through Jesus Christ.” For me these thoughts are being applied to my use of social media, to how I engage other people, to how I walk with other graciously and authentically. So, anyone fancy a walk?
Lee is an ordinand at The College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, in a Civil Partnership with Charlie (who isn’t an ordinand…) and buys too many books. He is a good friend of Soho Gathering, being one of our first Thursday evening attendees over 18 months ago!
You can follow his Anglican exploits via @brileetaylor.